Everywhere you look in the media and on Twitter, people are condemning President Donald Trump for going off-track during a statement on infrastructure initiatives yesterday to defend the white supremacist protesters in Charlottesville, VA. Well, here is my message for all these quick-to-judge critics: You can slam Trump all you want, but I’d like to see any of you make it through an entire statement on infrastructure without veering off to condone white supremacy at least once or twice.
While it’s obvious now that Trump would’ve been much better off sticking to the statement as it was prepared, you can’t really blame the guy for getting sidetracked a couple times to give his tacit approval to white supremacists and their violent public demonstrations of racial hatred. After all, consider the circumstances: Trump had dozens of cameras and lights in his face, reporters were shouting at him from every which way, and he was bearing the weight of the most powerful office in the world on his shoulders. This wasn’t like presenting a middle school book report; this was a high-pressure scenario. If you were in his shoes, do you honestly think you could’ve stayed laser-focused on the teleprompter for the entirety of the presser without at least once switching lanes to expound on the moral justifications for right-wing extremist violence?
I highly doubt it.
The fact is, no matter how poised and prepared you might be for a speech like yesterday’s, there are inevitably going to be hiccups. When you’re going on and on for 20 minutes about tedious things like building permits and highway renovation, chances are you’re going to go off-message a bit and speculate about how people who protest against bigotry might actually be just as responsible for the murderous actions of white supremacists as the white supremacists themselves. I mean, think about how things are at your own job. During long days, in the middle of your daily grind, can you honestly say you’ve never once lost focus and gone on lengthy tirades about how the real victims of racism are historically powerful white slave owners like Thomas Jefferson and Robert E. Lee whose statues are threatened by liberal overreaction to racism?
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
So give the guy a break. Trump’s not perfect, but neither are any of us, and you can’t hold it against him for swerving a bit from his prepared remarks to bulldoze through decades of painstakingly achieved institutional progress toward U.S. racial equality. If that were you instead of him standing behind the podium, you would’ve done the exact same thing.