In September, as the presidential election neared, USA Today’s editorial board made the unprecedented move to effectively un-endorse Donald Trump, the first time in its history it had weighed in on a candidate in such a way.
And during the past few days, as editorial pages from various newspapers weighed in on President Trump’s both-sides argument redux, USA Today’s editorial board had a message for Congressional Republicans: censure the president.
Expressing disapproval in 140 characters or fewer is insufficient when the president angrily asserts that there were some “very fine people” among the bigots waving Confederate battle flags and swastika banners; when torch-bearing marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us”; and when police said one Nazi sympathizer rammed a sports car into a crowd, killing an innocent counterprotester. The victim, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was remembered Wednesday at a heartbreaking memorial service.
When these things happen in the United States, and the president blames “both sides,” more formal condemnation is necessary. This is a moment of reckoning for members of the Party of Lincoln: Do they want to stand up for American values, or do they want to keep enabling a president whose understanding of right and wrong has slipped dangerously off the rails?
If congressional Republicans choose the former — and history will be watching — they should join together with Democrats to censure Trump.
The editorial was written after House Democrats presented their resolution yesterday to censure the president, for the following reasons.
His inadequate response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on August 12, 2017, his failure to immediately and specifically name and condemn the white supremacist groups responsible for actions of domestic terrorism, for reasserting that “both sides” were to blame and excusing the violent behavior of participants in the ‘Unite the Right’ rally, and for employing people with ties to white supremacist movements in the White House, such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka.
Censure, which was used just once against a president, Andrew Jackson in 1834, is basically a formal reprimand. While symbolic, the power of its symbolism could have an effect. “Censure would constitute a forceful way of rebuking the White House and condemning the vile views of a bigoted fringe, even as those people’s right to free speech and peaceful protest is protected under the First Amendment,” writes the board.