During the final stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign, a county Republican Party office in North Carolina was firebombed by means of a bottle filled with flammable liquid that had been tossed through a window. The entire office was charred and burned, and the message “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else” was spraypainted on the side of an adjacent building, along with a swastika.
The act was condemned by a number of prominent political leaders, including Hillary Clinton, who took to Twitter to say the following:
The attack on the Orange County HQ @NCGOP office is horrific and unacceptable. Very grateful that everyone is safe.
Consider, then, an alternative universe, in which Clinton’s message was not that this attack was “horrific and unacceptable,” but that it was important that everyone condemn “violence from many sides.”
This would have enraged Donald Trump, who also tweeted in the wake of the firebombing that those who had perpetrated this crime were “Animals representing Hillary Clinton and Dems.” Imagine his rage if Hillary had somehow used weasel words to equate the firebombers with the firebombees.
Trump has no problem labeling his political opponents as animals, but he curiously can’t bring himself to say anything nasty about the Nazis who killed one protestor and injured nineteen others when one of them plowed a car into the crowd.
The most indignation he could muster was a warped moral equivalence between the Nazi who killed someone and the people who were unhappy about this particular turn of events.
Trump defenders are quck to point out that the White House later released an unsigned statement that specifically mentioned the fact that Nazis are bad, but nobody is ever convinced that the president meant the opposite of what he actually said.
Trump was also given two opportunities by the press to revise and expand his remarks and offer a sterner rebuke than one condemning violence as bad.
It’s also important to note that “violence on many sides” isn’t necessarily bad.
Indeed, there were a number of years when international violence specifically directed at Nazis was very, very good. In moral terms, there is a diametric distinction between the violence perpetrated by those running concentration camps and the violence perpetrated by those who liberated them.
It’s safe to say that there would be no more morally bankrupt assessment of World War II than to blandly describe it as “violence on many sides.”
That Trump is unwilling or unable to vigorously condemn Nazis is deeply disturbing, especially since the Nazis recognize it for what it truly is.
“Trump comments were good,” wrote a blogger at the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer. “No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
And God help the rest of us.
(Photo of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the “alt-right” exchange insluts with counter-protesters as they attempt to guard the entrance to Emancipation Park during the “Unite the Right” rally on August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.)