Throughout Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, critics argued that the New York real estate magnate was revving up the nation's bigots with his fiery speeches railing against immigrants, liberals, the media and anyone who dared to publicly criticize him. The president’s backers, especially Republican lawmakers, accepted Trump’s rhetoric because it was garnering key support from disillusioned whites, including white supremacists and supporters of Southern Confederate heritage.
But after the president’s reaction to the white supremacists that marched on Charlottesville last weekend in a demonstration that turned deadly, it has become difficult for Republicans, or even members of the president’s own team, to continue to support him.
On Wednesday the New York Times – one of the president’s favorite targets of his “fake new” tirades – reported that the president’s inner circle is exasperated following Trump’s tirade during a wild press conference on Tuesday.
The Times writes:
[M]embers of the president’s staff, stunned and disheartened, said they never expected to hear such a voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private. The National Economic Council chairman, Gary D. Cohn, and the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who are Jewish, stood by uncomfortably as the president exacerbated a controversy that has once again engulfed a White House in disarray.
As the Times pointed out, Trump has broken from a bipartisan tradition of resound opposition to the Republicans’ “racist, nativist and anti-Semitic fringe.”
On Tuesday, the president asserted during a shouting match with the press that the so-called “alt-left” was just as responsible for Saturday’s violence as the marchers waving Nazi flags and shouting anti-Semitic slogans. Instead of outright condemning a universally despised group, the president said there were “very fine people on both sides” of the clashes that left three people dead and dozens injured on Saturday.
Trump was widely panned for his initial reaction to the protests in which he blamed “many sides” for the violence.
For Republicans hoping to push forward on their agenda, Trump’s coddling of white supremacists has become a major distraction.
“[It’s] very frustrating for those of us who want to start focusing on the issues ahead -- tax reform, infrastructure, the debt ceiling,” Republican Rep. Dennis A. Ross of Florida, told Bloomberg. “I wished we would start focusing on those issues, and we need to start healing and bringing people together -- instead of peeling back the scabs.”
Meanwhile Axios reported Wednesday morning that Trump may pay a huge price for coddling bigots: “It puts Trump's tortured staff in a bigger jam: How do they look their African American friends in the eye, and rationalize their support of Trump?”