Excerpted from a longer piece by Neil Baron for The Hill
Alexander Pope coined the expression “damning with faint praise.” A new expression, “praising with faint damnation,” can be used to describe the Republicans’ tepid responses to Donald Trump’s remarks about the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and his recent pardon of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who housed Latino prisoners in 110 degree “tent cities”and boasted that they were “concentration camps.”
Sure, Republicans criticized Trump’s Charlottesville remarks and his pardon of Arpaio. But they studiously avoided confronting a much more serious problem: the consequences of our president’s character.
Republican criticisms have been laboriously faint. Paul Ryan said Trump’s remarks on Charlottesville were “morally ambiguous,” that he “messed up in his comments” and “could have done better.” Rep. Will Hurd said he was “absolutely not” proud of Trump’s handling of the situation. Gary Cohn, the president’s chief economic adviser said the administration “can and must do better.” Rex Tillerson vaguely said “Trump speaks for himself.”
These comments implied that Trump is capable of doing better. But, as The Economist opined, “he does not have the character to change.” No Republican acknowledged that the seminal problem is our president’s contempt for our government institutions and the core value that motivated America’s Declaration of Independence, “that all men are created equal…” In other words, the real problem is his character.
Republicans claimed Trump was clear in his denouncements of the white supremacists, the KKK and neo-Nazis. But, his belated condemnations would not prevent those groups from basking in his support because his pivot was made under pressure from Republicans, business leaders and demonstrators.
White supremacist Richard Spencer, who attended the Charlottesville rally, said of Trump’s belated condemnation, “I don’t take him seriously … It sounded so hollow.” Peter Brimelow, founder of vdare.com, dismissedTrump’s condemnations as “boring boilerplate.”
The Economist summed it up this way: “Donald Trump has no grasp of what it means to be president.” If Trump had a strong character, he would care enough about his country to admit that he’s not qualified to be its leader and would step down. But he seems to care mostly about himself.
Still, the Republicans have not acknowledged this problem. Sadly, they are complicit because they fear losing votes from Trump’s base. One must ask, “is it really worth the votes?” Or is it that our values just don’t matter anymore? Have we become that jaded?