Trump comments unite Democrats, GOP in denunciation

The former Bush presidents, along with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, rarely agree with anything that Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have to say.

But in the wake of President Trump’s press conference on Tuesday, during which he described white supremacists as “fine people,” here is where we are at: David Axelrod, President Obama’s former political strategist and constant GOP attack dog, is retweeting Republicans including John McCain, the man he helped defeat in 2008.

On the Republican side, McConnell issued a statement Wednesday morning that echoed the same sharp language as many Democrats, rebuking the president’s remarks and unequivocally condemning white supremacy groups, even if it did not call Trump out by name.


“We can have no tolerance for an ideology of racial hatred. There are no good neo-Nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head,” the statement read.

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Minutes later, former president George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, jointly released similar remarks rejecting racial biogtry and “hatred in all forms.”

It didn’t end there.

A day earlier, within hours of Trump’s press conference Tuesday, Romney typed out his own blistering tweet, pushing back on Trump’s notion that “both sides” were to blame for violence at the Charlottesville rally.

“No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes,” Romney wrote. The message was retweeted more than 73,000 times, many by known Democrats.


The same went for a series of tweets by Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who did address the president directly.

Even on cable networks, the usual sparring between Democratic and GOP strategists was replaced by an unusual consensus — whatever your politics, Trump was wrong.

For well over a decade, academics and politicians themselves have discussed how American politics is broken. Democrats and Republicans just can’t find a way to agree. Nearly every issue in Washington is viewed not just through a partisan lens, but one in which demands ideological purity within each party. Democrats are as much to blame on this point as Republicans.

But, at least for a moment yesterday, Trump united the political class under a common belief: The president should not have blamed both sides for the bloodshed in Charlottesville that led to the death of a young woman. Any support of neo-Nazis or white supremacists — perceived or otherwise — is abhorrent.

This type of unified response is not unheard of. We’ve seen it before in the wake of terrorist attacks or natural disasters. But rarely, if ever, does it surface in the face of political statements by one of our own.


It is unclear where we go from here. Uniting against something is quite different that than uniting for something. And while high-profile Republican senators like McConnell, Rubio, Cory Gardner of Colorado or Jerry Moran of Kansas may speak out against Trump, polls show that roughly 80 percent of Republicans still believe the president is doing a good job — at least they did in polls taken before last weekend.

This could be a turning point that the polls have yet to capture in terms of how Americans — and especially Republicans — feel about the president. We now know that a number of Republicans have broken from the president, at least temporarily. How many rank and file Republicans have joined them is less clear, but also critical to understanding how much of a political crisis this is for Trump.

Then again, the Republican establishment has found shared outrage with Democrats before over Trump’s comments. Remember the campaign announcement that he would implement a Muslim ban, or the Access Hollywood incident weeks before the election? He won anyway.

James Pindell can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his Ground Game newsletter on politics: