Monday, August 06, 2018


Under the headline "The Real Lesson Trump Learned from Charlottesville, Politco's Annie Karni asserts that President Trump was emboldened a year ago by the fact that he got away with failing to fully condemn violent white nationalists:
That moment temporarily left Trump on an island, abandoned by Republicans on the Hill and corporate executives who had previously played nice with the president on his business councils, and was a low-water mark of his presidency...

[But] a year out from Charlottesville tells a different story and is less clear cut....

“The big picture is the fizzle,” said Bill Kristol, editor-at-large of the Weekly Standard and a prominent Never Trump conservative. “He’s not in good shape politically, but he’s not in worse shape. Charlottesville didn’t change his numbers. Everything has just become more the way it was.”

Indeed, the Republicans in Congress who distanced themselves from Trump during the height of the controversy last summer have since embraced the president on tax reform and his Supreme Court selection, Brett Kavanaugh. Many of the executives who walked away from Trump’s business councils have simply taken their hobnobbing behind closed doors: Now they quietly dine with the president at the White House, or with his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner at their Kalorama mansion.

Trump’s poll numbers, while still hitting a ceiling below 50 percent, in the year since Charlottesville have climbed up to a high of 44 percent, according to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Trump is in high demand as a campaign surrogate among Republican candidates. His supportive gang of Fox News hosts have become more ethno-nationalist in their rhetoric than they were a year ago.

Meanwhile, Trump himself is less constrained than he was after Charlottesville.... the president has continued to inflame racial tensions....
But he didn't learn anything from the outrage "fizzle" that he didn't already know. What happened when the Access Hollywood tape was released? He got away with it -- just about every Republican who denounced him returned to the fold shortly afterward. What happened when he attacked John McCain? Or Judge Curiel? Or Megyn Kelly? Or Alicia Machado? Or Khizr and Ghazala Khan? Or Serge Kovaleski? He escaped serious consequences every time.

He didn't learn from Charlottesville that he could do or say anything and not lose his voter base or the elected officials in his party -- he'd already learned a long time ago that they won't leave him over hate speech or crude slanders.

Charlottesville didn't embolden him -- if he's unbound now, it's because he learned how to avoid being restrained by aides, especially those who aren't as politically extreme as he is. My guess is that he doesn't even register the Charlottesville moment as particularly significant. For him it was barely a speed bump. If he did register it, it was as a moment that confirmed what was already obvious to him.

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