When national tragedies hit the United States, we have always looked to the President to offer words of consolation and healing to salve the collective wounds of our pain.
No political party, ideology, race, ethnicity, gender or religion has kept us from mourning as one nation.
We have witnessed this time and time again, whether it was President Reagan after the loss of seven astronauts in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger explosion; President George W. Bush’s rallying cry standing on top of the ruins of the World Trade Center in 2001; or President Obama’s sermon-like speech after the 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Arizona.
Yet when shock, pain and tragedy befell America on Saturday afternoon in Charlottesville, Va., the President of the United States was missing in action, sheltered at his golf course in New Jersey, oblivious to the pain and agony we all witnessed on television screens across the country.
After a woman was killed when an avowed racist slammed into a crowd of people protesting white supremacists, and two state troopers died in a helicopter crash flying over the protests, it wasn’t Donald Trump tweeting a denouncement of the racist attacks; it was his wife, Melania Trump.
When similar tragedies committed by Muslims hit Paris and London, Trump’s fingers were quick to invoke Islamic terrorism. Yet when white, domestic terrorists inflicted pain 115 miles from the White House, he was as silent as a sinner in church.
Trump had an opportunity to redeem himself when he finally went before the television cameras to issue a statement condemning the actions of the white supremacists. Yet in a nearly five-minute statement, he further embarrassed himself, his administration and the nation with one of the most soulless, gutless, shameful, and despicable statements ever uttered by an American President after a tragedy.
Trump couldn’t bring himself to call out the white supremacists. He literally didn’t use the words. Then his infatuation with President Obama took over by invoking him in his comments as a way of absolving his own fermenting of bigotry and hatred by playing footsie with the white supremacist crowd the last six years.
Instead, he condemned protesters on “many sides,” which left white supremacists sites shouting with joy that he didn’t single them out. This is no shock considering his courting of the white supremacist vote throughout the election, and further cemented by allowing Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka, Sam Clovis and a host of other race baiters to set policy in his administration.
We expect our presidents to be moral leaders. But Trump has shown he is an immoral leader. His childish, shameful antics on Twitter have done nothing to show that he understands the power he wields, and is more concerned with feeding his massive ego. At no times has he delivered a speech to the nation that we can all applaud. His dark and dangerous inauguration speech revealed exactly who he is. And so did his actions on Saturday.
Every time Trump does something outlandish, I use the hash tag #WeTriedToTellYa. Over and over, he has proven that he is grossly unqualified to be our President, and the people who voted for him should be ashamed they made this possible. They, too, are culpable.
And he must own the tragedy in Virginia. Blood is on Trump’s hands. He courted the bigoted vote. He pushed their racial resentment buttons, from his racist birtherism against President Obama and since the inauguration through his racially-charged policies. They now openly and willingly attack other Americans.
Folks, there is no hope or redemption for Donald Trump ever acting like a President of the United States. His presidency, no matter what happens from this point forward, is a total disaster. When a man can’t even bring himself to call out white supremacists, there is no hope he will ever get it.
Any normal President would be telling his staff to prepare to travel to Charlottesville to deliver a speech denouncing hate, racism and white supremacy on the campus of the University of Virginia, where angry white racists the night before Saturday’s terrorist attack, marched across campus with tiki torches, an ode to their KKK forefathers.
But his past actions prove he will do nothing of the sort. I simply don’t think he possesses the moral clarity to do it. He’ll just stay in his bubble, protected by purveyors of hate like Bannon and Miller, watching Fox News and tweeting nonsense.
If a man supposedly representing all of us doesn’t have the guts to forcefully call out white supremacy, then he isn’t deserving of our respect. That is pure cowardice. And no matter how his staff tries to clean it up, Trump’s initial statement will forever be etched in our minds.
He’s done. His presidency is done. And I’m done ever expecting him to respect the office of the President.
Roland S. Martin is host and managing editor of TV One Cable Network’s daily news show, NewsOneNow. He is also senior analyst for the Tom Joyner Morning Show.