Finley: Furor raises risks for Trump White House

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

Donald Trump is right. There are many sides to blame for the unrest in America. Including Donald Trump.

The president’s bizarre equivocation in assigning fault for the bloodshed in Charlottesville over the weekend leaves the country again angry, frustrated and worried about where we are headed.

Had Trump not waited so long to do what he harangued Barack Obama for not doing and called out evil by its name, we’d be talking about infrastructure investment this week. Instead, he played the “yeah, but” game, struggling to box the white supremacists who organized the rally with violent elements on the far left who happily joined them in the violence.

Certainly, the anarchists have earned denunciation for the mayhem they’ve brought to America’s streets and campuses. But Saturday was about a virulent strain of racism that must be addressed specifically, not lumped into a grab bag of deplorable groups. The moment demanded that Trump look and behave presidential; to calm the nation. But that is beyond Trump’s capacity.

His primary mission after the divisive election was to bring the country together. Instead, he is pushing it further apart.

Many conservatives who didn’t support Trump, myself included, were resigned to the reality of his presidency and committed, for the good of the country, to his success.

We had hoped his outrageous behavior and unseemly comments during the campaign were simply part of his schtick, and that he would pivot toward normal upon arrival at the Oval Office. He hasn’t.

He’s become even more erratic, more combative, more paranoid and more offensive. What charm he exhibited on the campaign trail has disappeared. He comes across now as an angry, humorless man at war with everybody except his narrow base. Those hard-core supporters are the only ones he speaks to. He will not do one thing to broaden his appeal.

Now, you have to wonder whether after barely seven months this presidency is salvageable.

We keep waiting for the moment when Trump recognizes the damage he’s doing to himself, to the conservative movement and to the country. The moment does not seem to be coming.

Despite the serial reshuffling of advisers and handlers, no one has emerged who can tame Trump’s worst instincts. At Tuesday’s disastrous press conference, Gen. John Kelly, the new chief of staff who was expected to bring order to the White House, stood with his eyes downcast, often shaking his head. Look for his departure soon.

Those who bargained that Trump was worth tolerating because he’d work with a Republican Congress to adopt a conservative agenda must now see that it’s not going to happen.

Trump has turned brutally on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom he needs to push his priorities through the Senate, dashing hopes that through rule changes and other gimmicks, significant legislation still might be passed.

And his two business advisory councils disbanded Wednesday after several CEOs bailed out to protest Trump’s Charlottesville response.

No administration has disintegrated this rapidly. And there are still three-and-a-half years left.

That’s too much time left to give up hope that Donald Trump can rise to the obligations to the American people.

Twitter: @NolanFinleyDN