This week I have seen frustration from friends who are Trump supporters regarding the stir his answer to the debate question about white supremacists, and specifically the Proud Boys, caused. Why, they ask, does he keep having to answer the same question. Asked and answered they say (see meme below).
I understand the frustration. I get frustrated when my kids ask me the same question over and over. But here’s why we need to keep asking and we need the President to keep answering, and answering clearly (like the President, thankfully, did in a Thursday interview).
First, We The People need reassurance that these groups will remain fringe. When my kids would step into the batters box while I would pitch to them, they needed some reassurance I wouldn’t hit them. When we dropped our son off at college, his mom needed extra reassurance he’d call if he needed anything. By definition, reassurance is being assured again. We (the press represents us) ask more than once because we need reassurance from our leader that he will not let, certainly not assist, these groups spread hate and violence. We see things in the news and on the streets of our towns we never thought we’d see. We hear the FBI director and other law enforcement agencies telling us that these groups are on the rise and poised to reek havoc. Tell us again and again that you condemn them (like I told my kid again and again I’d be there to catch him when he jumped into the deep end).
Second, he does seem to give us mixed signals. Imagine I am walking in the grocery with my wife she thinks she sees me wink at another woman. She asks, “do you know her” and I deny I do. She assumes it wasn’t a wink, just a twitch or a blink, or her imagination. Then, in line, I go up the same woman and put my arm around her, whisper something in her ear. She asks again, “who is that woman,” and I reply, “not sure.” “Well then,” she says, “don’t go up and whisper in her ear.” I reply, “Sure. Fine.” That certainly wouldn’t put my wife’s mind at ease. If she saw me for a third time helping the woman put groceries in her car, a casual dismissal that I knew her would not be enough. When President Trump was asked on Tuesday’s debate stage, “Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia group and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” he responded, “Sure. I’ll do that.” That’s not quite the full-throated condemnation the issue calls for. It’s casual, like “do you want cheese on your burger?” “Sure, I’ll do that.” And then specifically regarding the Proud Boys, “stand back and stand by.” If he had stopped at “stand back,” we’re okay. But “stand by” casts the whole thing in a different light. Stand by for what? For my call? For the next civil war? To watch the polls? Who knows. Not clear enough. So yes, people will push, should push, for clarity.
Yes, President Trump has answered unequivocally now. I am happy he did. My advice, be ready to do it again and again without hesitation, without waffling, without ‘yeah, but the left…” (my tenth grade social studies teacher would kick us out of the classroom if we answered ‘yes, but’ or ‘no, but’). When my wife asks me for the ten thousandth time if I love her, I say, “Yes baby, absolutely.” Not, “sure”.