Each of our presidents has faced difficult events at home and each of them rose to the challenge of helping the nation understand the context around such tragedies. They helped us find healing and hope after innocent people lost their lives. Their first instincts were to unite, pray, and offer words of encouragement to the victims, the families, and the rest of us just watching from the sidelines, trying to make sense of it all.
President Reagan didn't point fingers at the NASA engineers when the Challenger space shuttle exploded in flight. President Clinton didn't attack his political enemies when Timothy McVeigh's bomb blew up an Oklahoma City federal building. But, on Tuesday, Donald Trump managed to create more division, more anger and cast blame on secondary players.
Over the course of Trump's news conference, which was supposed to be about infrastructure, he 1) said there were bad people on "both sides," 2) compared counter protesters to activists chanting racial epithets, 3) equated hateful racists to anyone who disagreed with them, 4) suggested the events were tied to statues coming down, failing to fully recognize the deep seeded hate expressed by the white supremacists and, 5) he conflated the events of the Civil War to the Revolutionary War. He even debated a journalist on what "alt-right" means.
To be fair, the president did, on several occasions, denounce white supremacy, neo-Nazism, and he said, "There is no place for hate in America." His very first statement, in the form of a tweet, on Saturday morning, said, "We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!" He should have just stopped there. But, he didn't.