Quora: Why Does Trump Blame 'Both Sides'?

Quora Questions are part of a partnership between Newsweek and Quora, through which we'll be posting relevant and interesting answers from Quora contributors throughout the week. Read more about the partnership here. Answer from Ross Cohen:

There are a couple reasons why Trump is blaming both sides for the violence in Virginia.

First, Donald Trump does not have as many strong supporters as he’d like. His approval rating fell to 34% before his epic post-Charlottesville implosion. In fact, prior to this latest outrage, his disapproval rating had already reached 61%. This is simply astounding by historical standards. To reach 61% at any point in the first term would be record time, but just six months into a presidency is orders of magnitude worse than any other president since polling began. To put that in perspective, Nixon and W. Bush didn’t get there until their second terms, while Obama, Clinton, Bush 41, Reagan, Carter… never reached that level of disapproval.

Donald Trump press conference President Donald Trump talks about the violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in the lobby of Manhattan's Trump Tower on August 15. Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

So, when something happens where he has to take sides, and on one side there’s a lot of people who don’t support him, and on the other there’s a lot of people who love him (white supremacists, neo-Nazis, other elements of the alt-right), he’s going to be really tempted to find a way to side with them, or at least muddy the waters so he doesn’t have to unequivocally denounce them. Sure, any other president would have no trouble denouncing Nazis, but he’s not any other president. Sure, any other president would hesitate to blame the victims of a terrorist attack, but he’s not any other president.

Second, these are his people. They’re doing exactly the kinds of things he encouraged. At his rallies he longed for the days certain people would “leave on stretchers.” Combine the long list of racist statements, actions, hires, dog whistles, and other nods to the white supremacist crowd, and it’s time to accept that this is just who he is. These are his people. For someone who lies daily, egregiously, flagrantly, and without a moment’s hesitation, it’s a no brainer that he’ll lie for them as well, for all those reasons above.

He said it would be so easy to be presidential. We certainly could’ve used some of that after Charlottesville, but that’s not who he is. Instead, he’s the guy who parrots white supremacist talking points, who accepts gushing thank yous and approbation from said white supremacists (like former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke), who defends them and muddies the waters through whataboutism, false equivalency, and victim blaming.

To make what he said perfectly clear, I’ve made it into an easy visual.

There were “very fine people on both sides.”

Just so you know, there are no “very fine people” marching side-by-side with Neo-Nazis and white supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us!”

Unless he was referring to the VICE News journalists there covering the racists (check out their outstanding piece from the weekend, 22 minutes).

“There’s blame on both sides”

Kind of like that battered wife who kept getting in the way of her husband’s fists, right?

I forget, which Islamic terrorist attack was it that Trump said this about?

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