The power of the president has been greatly overstated in the public imagination. There is little the president can do without the blessing of Congress. Instead, the president is most powerful as the moral leader of our nation. When hysteria sets in, it is the president’s job to keep our head on straight.
In the aftermath of the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, President Trump was forced into the unenviable position of defending monuments to Confederate soldiers. He correctly explained that we ought to learn from our history instead of attempting to erase it, and he warned that the latest moral panic could lead to the destruction of monuments to George Washington or Thomas Jefferson. As The New York Times recently confirmed.
It would have been easier for President Trump to denounce the Confederacy, and let the fate of our history rest in the hands of local jurisdictions.
Instead, he acted presidential and took a moral stand against the destruction of Confederate monuments. President Trump knew that he would take a hit for defending these monuments, but it was the right thing to do.
“So this week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson’s coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you all — you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?” Asked President Trump during a press conference two days after the violence in Charlottesville, as transcribed by the Los Angeles Times.
President Trump was immediately condemned for suggesting that even the negative parts of our history are worthy of being remembered. The mainstream media immediately accused President Trump of hyperbole for suggesting that other monuments would follow in the wake of General Robert E. Lee.
“No, in fact, removing the statue of Robert E. Lee doesn’t put us on a slippery slope,” argued the headline from The Chicago Tribune. “Historians: No, Mr. President, Washington and Jefferson are not the same as Confederate generals.” Decried the headline from The Washington Post, willfully misrepresenting President Trump’s statement. It appears that journalist and historians are just as susceptible to a moral panic as radical left wing protesters.
Despite the claims from the mainstream media that President Trump was exaggerating, The New York Times was forced to admit that President Trump has a point.
In a recent article, the Times explains that the outrage around Confederate statues is expanding, and now monuments to Christopher Columbus, Frank Rizzo, and others.
In fact, a Chicago pastor is already calling for parks named after President George Washington and President Andrew Jackson to be renamed. “Therefore, I call on the immediate removal of President George Washington and President Andrew Jackson names from the parks located on the southeast side of Chicago.” The pastor wrote in a letter to Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel. “They should not have the distinct honor of being held as heroes when they actively participated in the slave trade.”
Ultimately, President Trump’s concerns were not hyperbole, and were almost immediately proven accurate. President Trump took the highroad during the height of mass hysteria and moral panic.
President Trump will have to bear the brunt of his decision, but future generations will praise President Trump for preserving national monuments into the 21st century and beyond.