This is the real Donald Trump, loud and clear

Anne Kingston: Trump’s messaging is now so brazen that dog whistles are redundant. The signals are increasingly plain for all to see.


In a combative, unprecedented, off-the-hook  press conference held Tuesday afternoon in the gilded lobby of Trump Tower in New York City, President Donald Trump alluded plaintively to the “massive, self-inflicted wound on our country,” one he termed “disgraceful.” Following the weekend of horrific violence at a “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, one that showcased newly emboldened hatred in the U.S. and left one woman, Heather Heyer, dead and 19 injured, one might reasonably assume the president was referring to the scourge of racism. But no. In Trump’s America, this “self-inflicted wound” involved the amount of red-tape required to get a permit to build “infrastructure.”

When Trump finally responded to reporters’ questions about racism and Charlottesville, he did so in a way that won him a thank you from former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, and left no doubt that a white-supremacist sympathizer sits in the White House.

During the presser, Trump actually conflated George Washington with Robert E. Lee. He doubled down on blaming the “alt-left,” i.e., antiracism activists, for violence and hatred equivalent to that of neo-Nazis: “What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging…at the alt-right?” Trump asked. “Do they have any semblance of guilt?” His comment, “You had a group on one side that was bad, you a group on the other side that was very violent,” left it unclear which was which, though he was very clear the “alt-left”, as he termed it, didn’t have an assembly permit. Trump also referred to his white supremacist chief of staff Steve Bannon as “a good man” who is “not a racist” and himself a victim who’s “treated unfairly.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump is hurtling the world towards crisis. He needs to go.

Racism could be solved with “job creation” and fixing “inner cities,” Trump posited, as if making more money solved all problems. Clearly it hasn’t fixed his bottomless need for approbation, a maw so big he heartlessly boasted that Heyer’s grieving mother thanked him for his remarks on Twitter (Trump admitted he hasn’t yet reached out to Heyer’s family).

He ended the presser boasting about the size of his property in Charlottesville, a city besieged by tragedy: “I own one of the largest wineries in the United States,” the president bragged. Needless to say, it’s not true.

All of it was odious. None of it should come as a surprise. Just as white supremacist marchers boldly showed their faces while brandishing swastikas and Confederate flags in Charlottesville, Trump’s response over the days that followed revealed tacit endorsement of neo-Nazis and their tactics. It revealed a presidency so brazen that dog whistles are redundant. As we’ve seen over the past few days, Trump is now doling out dog biscuits intended to feed and fuel.

Seven months into the Trump presidency, some still naively expect the commander-in-chief to communicate in familiar patterns of public oratory, employing language in eloquent, mutually shared communication. This we saw with the barrage of “what Trump should have said” columnizing on the weekend, as if these were remotely normal times.

RELATED: It wasn’t a lone, unusual flare-up. Charlottesville really is America.

Instead, Trump communicates via a sort of semaphore signalling, a verbal and non-verbal system comprising coded tells, oblique references, incoherent digressions and revealing omissions. It’s a theatre of now-normalized doublespeak, requiring little translation. The first glimpse was evident early this year when Japan’s prime minister was quoted by Reuters saying Trump’s team told him not to take the president-elect’s campaign remarks “literally.” When language can’t be taken literally, of course, it’s denuded of meaning, ready to be weaponized to obscure, deflect, incite, confuse, connect, and, as George Orwell warned, to “corrupt thought.”

Trump’s failure to denounce white supremacists, a.k.a. part of his base, specifically by name on Saturday sent as clear a message as his administration’s grievous failure to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement. The president’s comments were generic, far less impassioned than those uttered after Nordstrom dropped his daughter Ivanka’s clothing line.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides,” Trump said. The statement was milquetoast, the moral equivalence false; the deadly violence in Charlottesville was not the product of “many sides,” but one. But “on many sides” serves two tasks: it gives cover to white supremacists and highlights mounting national frictions Trump’s administration would benefit from igniting. A potentially  polarizing cultural civil war would nicely distract the public from the Russia probe, and allow the government to enact its “law and order” promise.

Monday brought louder signalling. Two days after a deadly stand-off between white supremacists and counter-protesters, Trump began his day trying to discredit a powerful black man. This is old territory for Trump, whose arrival on the national stage—and once-improbable presidential run—was paved by “birtherism,” the lie that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S., and was thus an illegitimate president. This obsession foreshadowed Trump’s focus on his German bloodlines, “the winning gene” and innate superiority,” hallmarks of the white supremacy movements.

READ MORE: Democracy can’t be taken for granted. Charlottesville proves that.

On Twitter, Trump lashed out at Ken Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck, who would be the first CEO to resign from the President’s Manufacturing Council in an act of “conscience.” Frazier earlier had denounced Trump in a statement: “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”

Trump’s fallback was to impugn him professionally, as he had Obama, clearly hoping to win points as a consumer crusader: “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”

Trump’s delay in specifically naming hate groups—the KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists—undermined his words on Monday. After self-aggrandizing talk about jobs, the economy and trade, Trump spent a mere four minutes on an “update on horrific attack and violence.” “Racism is evil,” proclaimed a president whose administration is planning to deploy civil rights funds to investigate if affirmative action on college campuses discriminates against whites and Asians. (Just who Trump sees as racist is another question: the Washington Post‘s recent deep dive into Trump’s tweets found him three times more likely to accuse a black person of being racist than a white person.)

Again, omissions spoke volumes. No mention of domestic terrorism. (On Tuesday, Trump said: “You can call it terrorism, you can call it murder, you can call it whatever you want,” allowing that the driver is “a murderer” and “disgrace to himself, his family and his country.”) Trump made no attempt to disassociate himself from neo-Nazis chanting “Heil Trump” attired in his golf-course uniform of white polo, khakis and MAGA baseball hats. He did name 32-year-old Heyer, but referred to her only as “a young American woman.” Notably absent was the sort of fetishistic detail the president likes to employ when talking about the spectre of young women being viciously killed by immigrants.

State troopers Jay Cullen and Burke Bates, killed in a chopper accident, on the other hand, were said to “exemplify the very best of America.” Trump used the opportunity to promise to spend more on policing: “We will spare no resource in fighting so that every American child can grow up free from violence and fear,” he said.

Some Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, chose to be buoyed by Trump’s hollow statements. (“Well done, Mr. President,” Graham tweeted.) White supremacist leader Richard Spencer, the homophobic, misogynistic organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally, mocked it as “kumbaya nonsense”. Spencer understands Trumpspeak: “only a dumb person would take those lines seriously,” he said.

Trump’s signalling wasn’t over. Lest xenophobes fear he’d abandoned them, Trump floated the promise of a pardon for Joe Arpaio, the ex-Arizona sheriff found guilty two weeks ago of criminal contempt for defying a state judge’s order to stop traffic patrols targeting suspected undocumented immigrants. Anybody schooled in the bizarre semiotics of Trump would also see circular linkage between his first tweet of the day targeting Frazier, that birtherism lie and his last: “Feels good to be home after seven months, but the White House is very special, there is no place like it… and the U.S. is really my home!”

In between, the president turned to Twitter to complain that his delayed repudiation of hate groups hadn’t met with more acclaim by the media, or, as he described them, “truly bad people,” a harsher descriptor than used to describe KKK or neo-Nazis: “Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied…truly bad people!”

On Tuesday morning, Trump retweeted, then deleted, a cartoon of a train mowing down a person with a CNN logo placed over their face, under the line: “Nothing can stop the Trump train!!” Three days after a car believed to be driven by a neo-Nazi, Trump supporter killed one and injured more than a dozen counter-protestors, the message was crystal clear: the president of the United States condoned the prospect of a CNN journalist trammelled by the “Trump train.”

By the time Trump stood to defend the “fine people on both sides” on Tuesday afternoon, we couldn’t pretend we hadn’t been warned.


This is the real Donald Trump, loud and clear

  1. If I read this right Donald Trump is using a speech/presser to promote his winery (or that of his son). Does this not violate some ethical standard? Of course it is minor compared to his lack of understanding of basic history and conflation of White Supremacists and Leftist protesters as being equally ‘bad’. Sad, very sad.

  2. I did not read this article because I already know what you are going to say.

    • “I did not read this article because I already know what you are going to say.”

      You have discovered the secret of the Internet. It’s still important to leave a comment, of course.

  3. What is the alt- left in the US doing, with their constant demonstrations, where they smash and grab, set fires?. Now they are trying to obliterate history by smashing and removing statues. What is next…burning books…what else? This is starting to look like “1984”.

    • what the ”alt left” is doing is trying to keep knuckle dragging nutjobs of the alt right from twisting the truth about things and taking us back 30 yrs.

      jimmy kimmel nailed it last night in his monologue: truly truly just nailed it.

      • That is great that “you know what is going to say”!!
        Why are you commenting then if you know everything without reading article?
        You must a very smart man to know what article said without you reading it or ….you are simply ignorant?

    • “Trump’s messaging is now so brazen that dog whistles are redundant. The signals are increasingly plain for all to see.”

      And Canada’s Reform Haters have been doing the same thing here in our own country. This is the battle of this generation. Stop pretending it does not exist.

    • There is no such thing as an alt-left. That is a fabrication of the far right to create the illusion of parity.

      There is only one side that is preaching, bigotry, hateful divisiveness and fear mongering.

      • 90% of violent demonstrations in the U.S. have been led and funded by the left. “Alt left” would seem to be very appropriate. Or maybe it’s “all left”.
        I saw one of the leaders of the statue removing lefty interviewed today. She pointed out that 80% of those who signed the U.S. Constitution were old white men who owned slaves. So it should be torn up or burned. It was next on her list of priorities!!
        I’m sure Kingston would be right in there if she lived in the U.S.

        • So are you defending the neo-Nazis?

          • Absolutely not. Trump was right-there were very vile and violent people on both sides.

      • Ctrl+Left, due to their Fascist tendencies.

  4. Another fake news, alt-left rant, by Kingston (Canada’s alt-left queen) where it is only necessary to read, quickly, the first sentence of each queasy paragraph in order to see the narrow-minded focus of her Party’s death-writhing journey from government.

  5. The American political equivalent of the “Gong Show”.

  6. More Anne Kingston drivel-looking for extreme nuances to make her obscure points.
    There were 4 groups at that mess-two were protesting peacefully. One had a permit, and they were protesting the removal of historical statues. The other with no permit was protesting peacefully to remove the statues because of the linkage to slavery. Both of those were quite fine. Then there was a radical group composed of Black Lives Matter (tied with white supremacists for racism), and the radical Antifi Group. This group was armed with clubs and shields and were the first to attack. And there was the equally vile White Nationalists/KKK who responded in kind. So when Trump said there were bad people on both sides, he was absolutely right. The leftist MSM, and that includes Kingston apparently, are just fine with the radical BLM/Antifi group who have been responsible for 90% of the violent demonstrations in the U.S. A sad state of affairs.

    • Well said.

    • Her point is pretty simple. The KKK and the neo-Nazis claim to be racists and antisemitic. That is their philosophy. The MSM, as you call them, and Black Lives Matter do not claim to be racists. Quite the opposite. Their philosophy is one of tolerance and inclusion.

      • You are racist if you defile another race. Black Lives Matters has chosen Caucasians to defile.
        And they are VERY open about it!!

        • So Jerome, just to clarify…when those who are persecuted “defile” the actions of their persecutors, that is a type of racism? Your conclusions would seem to suggest that a Jewish victim of the holocaust who calls out a Nazi sympathizer is a racist.

          • Not my point at all. Nazi sympathizers openly and wrongly view themselves as superior to Jews. Black Lives Matter members openly and wrongly view themselves as superior to Caucasians. And both are violent.

          • The white man has defiled African Americans for centuries. The white man not only enslaved them but lynched them into the 21st century. The white man used them for experimental research. The white man is harassing and carding them and treating them to disrespect on a regular basis. Their children are not getting equal educations. Yet through all of this they have survived to join together and become active in fighting back. Were we to compare characteristics such as bravery, perseverance and coping skills, we might find that they are superior to us.

    • Oh come on. Where are the statutes of Hitler, Goring, and the other Nazi’s who were killed at Nuremberg for war crimes? Answer: they don’t exist. Therefore, why would removing statutes that were erected to celebrate traitors to the United States of America (most of which were put up in the 1920’s when segregation of races was the law) even be a question in a modern democracy such as the US? Championing these statutes which represent oppression, bigotry and traitorous behavior is the equivalent of championing the raising of monuments to the leaders of Al Quaida and ISIS. Championing the rights of modern day bigots who arrive with torches reminiscent of lynchings by the KKK is just foolish. If you were going to meet up with a group that lynched your ancestors, you would be carrying a stick as well. There is no “equality of vile” when it comes to the KKK and white supremacists. These groups openly state they want to sustain their supremacy. The groups who protested against them don’t demand supremacy but rather seek equality. If seeking equality makes a group radical, then count the women who marched against Trump as radical.

      • You are in the minority Gage (IF you could poll as an American). Even the leftist CNN today released the results of an American poll exploring whether the Confederate statues should remain. 68% said yes; 21% said no; and 11% had no opinion. Black Lives Matter sure don’t seek equality. The BLM leaders have declared that their members are superior to Caucasians. The Anti-fa group consider all on the right to be fascists-that means they are against half of the population of the U.S.-or anyone who isn’t a socialist or liberal. These two groups have led 90% of the violent protests in the U.S. Most times they had no opposition other than riot police.

        • It seems to me CNN often splits their polls in accordance with the attitudes of different political parties. Do you not find it odd, that Lincoln was a Republican while Robert E. Lee and Jeff Davis were Democrats. Yet here are so called conservatives wanting to keep statues of the losers of a civil war, traitors to the USA, in city parks not only in the south but in the northern US as well. I am all for them moving the confederate statutes to graveyards for confederate soldiers. They aren’t that important that they belong in a city park. As for people from other ethnicities believing they are superior to whites, if this is true, it is not entirely suprising. We whites have been in charge for centuries and we have royally screwed things up. If my ancestors were put on a reservation (First Nations), used as slaves (African Americans) or had a head tax placed on them (Chinese coming to Canada) or were removed from the coast of Canada and put into internment camps (Japanese), I myself would have doubts about the reason white privilege is endowed on Caucasian males. As a woman, I certainly wonder why women were treated as chattel for so long and why white men did not see if to give them the vote until the suffrage movement. Is it any wonder that the actions of white men have made their decision making and intelligence a bit suspect? One last comment – Donald Trump and the other isolationists have the same views as the alt-left….protectionism. That isn’t a conservative view. A conservative view is pro free enterprise and pro free market. Further, if you want to concentrate on violence from the left, please don’t discount provocation from the extreme right. Torches, Nazi salutes and sayings are not an invitation to tea.

        • A couple of things, I notice you are happy to believe CNN when they release something you like otherwise, they are a tool of the left. An incompetent tool in this case, eh? Second, you are engaged here in vilifying Black Lives Matter and antifacists groups in exactly the same way that you say they vilify Conservatives. You make claims about them that they do not make about themselves. You are using their methods. You are using your own sources of information to back up your views. Just as you claim the MSM backs up leftists. Everything you do is a mirror image of the folks you criticise. And it is all perfectly circular and self-contained.

          • All major media published the results of that poll. I was just very surprised that CNN even mentioned it since it flew in the face of their stated opinion. And they didn’t even twist it around like they normally do. 93% of CNN’s coverage of Trump is negative and frequently a result of their distortions. No other news source demonstrates this degree of bias.
            I read a MacLean’s interview of the leader of BLM in Canada. She clearly stated that blacks were superior to whites. She did their cause no good at all with a declaration like that.

          • By all major media you mean all leftist MSM. So they were all doing an incompetent job of keeping to the script. It doesn’t help. You have already tarred the MSM with a certain brush it is no use going back now and saying well its CNN but those other guys are nearly as bad. I mean, the MSM are either leftists who are bent on misrepresenting the truth or they are not. I don’t doubt you believe what you say about Black Lives Matter. Just saying, not everyone believes that and not everyone thinks they are all about the natural superiority of Blacks. On the other hand, no-one is in any doubt what White Supremacy and Neo Nazis are about – they were chanting it a few nights ago in Charlottesville.

  7. It is almost impossible to find any news media which isn’t left. That includes CNN, MSNBC, ABC. I only know of one which isn’t left and that’s FOX. That’s why FOX’s viewership is larger than those three together. It’s the only station which doesn’t give everything a left spin and you can hear the other side of an issue.

    • Yes, sure, I know you believe that. Doesn’t make it true. There is no absolute thing called Right anymore than there is Left – they are relative terms. Not everyone on the right believes the same things. Ditto the left. How favourable were those organisations to Bernie Sanders versus Hilary? How many news outlets are for higher taxes and bigger government? And right now Trump is in all kinds of trouble with his fellow Republicans. Are the Washington elites left or right? Or is Trump the thing that separates the sheep form the goats?
      What about the idea that we figure these things out on a case by case basis for ourselves and leave the labels at home?