July 6, 2020

Trump at Mount Rushmore

Last Friday, President Donald Trump gave a speech at Mount Rushmore. White House

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From the Left

The left criticizes Trump’s speech.

“Trump's 40-minute speech was a master class in rhetorical deception. He lumped together the racists of the Confederacy with the figures on Mt. Rushmore, insisting they are all being reconsidered in the same way. Several elected officials have ordered the removal of Confederate monuments in an effort to recognize the painful legacy of slavery, while the debate over monuments of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt is more nuanced, given their positive contributions to the nation. No sweeping effort is being made to remove all of these monuments

“In the simpleton's view of history offered by Trump, there is no room for the slaves owned by Washington and Jefferson or for Roosevelt's white supremacy. According to this perspective, sins and flaws must be denied; otherwise the greats of history cannot be honored. This is, of course, what a child might think upon learning that his or her parents are not quite perfect. But with maturity, children, like citizens, can both revere their heroes for their strengths and criticize them for their failings -- and judge who, in the end, deserves to be on a pedestal.”
Michael D'Antonio, CNN

“The dangers that Trump conjures up are not, to be sure, entirely imaginary. He just inflates them to cartoonish, unrecognizable proportions… There really are illegal immigrants and Muslim terrorists, but they were not on the verge of destroying America in 2016. Likewise, ‘cancel culture’ really exists, on both left and right, but it is not nearly the threat that Trump says it is

“Though there have been a few scattered attacks on statues of [the Founders], the bulk of the protests have been about Confederate memorials. Trump made no mention of Confederates on Friday night, even though he is currently holding the $740 billion defense authorization bill hostage to prevent the renaming of Army bases named after Confederate generals… everyone knows that what he is really defending is not ‘our freedom’ or ‘our history,’ as he said on Friday, but, rather, ‘white power’ — the words uttered by a Trump supporter in a video that the president himself posted on Twitter and later deleted.”
Max Boot, Washington Post

Trump decries ‘cancel culture’ — but no one embraces it more… Trump repeatedly ordered subordinates to block the merger of AT&T and Time Warner, which owns CNN… Trump’s presidential campaign also issued a news release in 2016 pledging that he’d block the merger: ‘AT&T… is now trying to buy Time Warner and thus the wildly anti-Trump CNN. Donald Trump would never approve such a deal’… He has threatened to ‘revoke’ licenses of media organizations whose coverage he dislikes…

“According to an October 2019 memoir by a senior aide to former defense secretary Jim Mattis, Trump in 2018 ‘called and directed Mattis to ‘screw Amazon’ by locking them out of a chance to bid’ on a lucrative contract to build the Pentagon’s cloud architecture… He has repeatedly accused a TV host he dislikes of murder, with zero evidence… He has encouraged or tacitly condoned violence against protesters, journalists and dissidents… He gassed peaceful protesters outside the White House so he could stage a photo op with a Bible. Quite literally — and forcibly — canceling dissent.”
Catherine Rampell, Washington Post

“Although [it] proved a successful strategy during [the 2016] election, there are reasons to be doubtful that his tack of fomenting a culture war will in fact galvanize his base in the way he hopes… Polling indicates that the public — including many Republicans — is broadly sympathetic to the protests and doesn’t buy into the picture of anti-American chaos that Trump has been trying to paint…

“And Trump is losing the support of crucial parts of his political base, like older voters and white voters, as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on people’s health, mobility, income, and wealth… Voter approval of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic has steadily declined since April, and a Reuters/Ipsos poll in late June found that just 37 percent of Americans approved of the way he has responded to the pandemic… The world has changed swiftly and dramatically [since 2016] — political strategy must too.”
Zeeshan Aleem, Vox

Regarding Mount Rushmore, “The trip to [the monument] is a near religious experience for some. George H.W. Bush quoted an unnamed person saying that making the pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore offered ‘a moment of communion with the very soul of America.’ But this idea of Mount Rushmore as a goosebump-inducing holy site to these liberal and patriotic ideals ignores that the land was stolen from the Sioux Nation…

“Congress in 1877 unilaterally removed the Black Hills from the boundaries of the Fort Laramie Treaty. This expropriation enabled boom towns, mining camps and settlers to proliferate. The infamous mining town Deadwood put a $50 bounty on Indians captured dead or alive… In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled the acquisition of Mount Rushmore unconstitutional. In the Court’s opinion, Justice Harry Blackmun described the United States’ procurement of the Black Hills as unconscionable, stating it ‘a more ripe and rank case of dishonest dealings [that] may never be found in our history’…

“As the protests prompted by the killing of George Floyd force us to reckon with our history, Americans face two choices: We can acknowledge the sordid chapters in our history, which sit alongside our more noble values and actions, and attempt to right wrongs, or we can continue to ignore the real story of our past, further fracturing our country.”
Stetson Kastengren, Washington Post

From the Right

The right applauds Trump’s speech.

The right applauds Trump’s speech.

“There were some strong partisan jabs (e.g., the thing about the violence-stricken cities being run by ‘liberal Democrats’ was true but inappropriate in a Fourth of July speech), but most of this speech was an entirely appropriate defense of the Founding and the Founders. If an American president — not just Trump, but any American president — cannot or will not give a speech like that on the occasion of Independence Day, this country is in deep trouble…

“One gets the strong feeling from our national media that there can be no legitimate criticism of the racial justice movement, that to object to anything they say or do is racist… most of what Trump said was true, and an important defense of America and its heritage by an American president, on the eve of the American national holiday… Had, say, 90 percent of that speech been delivered by any previous American president, it would have been received and reported as a vigorous and uncompromising endorsement of American history and the American founding.”
Rod Dreher, The American Conservative

“Mr. Trump had the temerity to point out that the last few weeks have seen an explosion of ‘cancel culture—driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.’…

“Newspaper editors are being fired over headlines and op-eds after millennial staff revolts. Boeing CEO David Calhoun last week welcomed the resignation of a communications executive for opposing—33 years ago when he was in the military—women in combat. The Washington Post ran an op-ed this weekend urging that the name of America’s first President be struck from Washington and Lee University…

“Any one of these events would be remarkable, but together with literally thousands of others around the country they represent precisely what Mr. Trump describes—a left-wing cultural revolution against traditional American values of free speech and political tolerance.”
Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“What Trump, unlike some other Republicans, appears to have understood is that the Black Lives Matter movement is not just a campaign to stop African Americans being persecuted and killed by the police. It is a political campaign with sweeping ambitions; revolutionary goals that would never have the support of the general public. The Democrats, and quite a few Republicans, have bended their knees to a movement which, in its manifesto, vows to ‘disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure’…

“Compare and contrast with what Trump said last night: ‘We are proud of the fact that our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and we understand that these values have dramatically advanced the cause of peace and justice throughout the world. We know that the American family is the bedrock of American life.’ ‘We want free and open debate,’ said Trump, ‘not speech codes and cancel culture. We embrace tolerance, not prejudice.’ Which worldview do you think has more appeal?
Freddy Gray, Spectator USA

“In the speech, Mr. Trump managed to extol everyone from Muhammad Ali to Harriet Tubman, Irving Berlin, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Wright Brothers, Jesse Owens, Frederick Douglass and Wild Bill Hickok. He declared for ‘equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment for citizens of every race, background, religion, and creed,’ adding: ‘Every child, of every color — born and unborn — is made in the holy image of God.’… We get that the President is behind in the polls. It’s hard to recall, though, a moment in this campaign in which the lines have been more clearly articulated by any Republican.”
Editorial Board, New York Sun

Regarding Mount Rushmore, South Dakota’s Attorney General writes, “Mount Rushmore is a gateway to American exceptionalism. It is a larger-than-life reminder that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln – legends of leadership and democracy – were, despite any personal shortcomings, indeed larger than life and graced with a vision of what America can be

“The reality is that vandalism, looting and toppling of statues and monuments of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Grant, Christopher Columbus, Francis Scott Key and others have nothing to do with ensuring equality or domestic tranquility today… it is time to put an end to this chaos. It is time to stand together this Independence Day to keep South Dakota safe, keep America safe and remember all that makes America great.”
Jason Ravnsborg, Fox News

“Among the thousands gathered in the small tourist town of Keystone in the hours before his evening speech, three different Americas converged. By my informal poll, around 40% were there to cheer at a Trump campaign event and 10% to rage against what they called Mr. Trump’s fascism and racism. The other 50% brought their families for a chance to see an American president in person

“For the nonpolitical outsiders, the big takeaway seemed to be Mr. Trump’s announcement of plans for a new national park to be filled with statues of American heroes. They liked it when he poured out a list of figures who would be honored, from Wild Bill Hickock to Muhammad Ali, claiming ‘only America could have produced them all.’ These family folk didn’t come to Mount Rushmore for an analysis of America’s problems, and they didn’t come for a campaign rally. They came for an old-fashioned presidential oration on the American founding, with fireworks afterward—the way, they thought, a Fourth of July celebration should be.”
Faith Bottum, Wall Street Journal

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