In the wake of the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) condemned white nationalism as a “completely evil ideology.” As the Cap Times reports today, however, the Republican senator is less firm when it comes to Donald Trump’s defense of racist activists.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson grew visibly annoyed with questions about President Donald Trump’s perceived tolerance of white nationalism, telling reporters on Wednesday he would like to move beyond the issue to focus on things like tax reform and regulatory relief.
“You tell me what he needs to say so we can move beyond this,” the Republican senator said when asked by reporters in Madison what the president should say about the violent white nationalist rally that took place in Virginia last weekend.
Asked if he’s comfortable with what the president said yesterday, the conservative senator said, “Not entirely, no.”
But Johnson’s concerns were apparently limited. Talking to reporters this morning, the Republican added, “We can continue to harp on President Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville, but from my standpoint, I’m concentrating on finding areas of agreement and doing everything I can under my committee’s jurisdiction and what I can do to improve the situation.”
Let me see if I have this straight. On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump, using rhetoric unlike anything Americans have heard from any modern president, publicly praised some racist activists as “very fine people” who’ve been treated “unfairly” by journalists. Trump, reflecting on Saturday’s violence, went on to say he wants blame to be shared by white supremacists and opponents of white supremacists.
The president’s defense of racist radicals has touched off a national firestorm and the controversy has renewed the debate about whether Trump is fit for office.
And yet, literally the next morning – less than 24 hours after the worst presidential press conference that anyone can remember – there’s Ron Johnson, ready to “move beyond this,” and hoping Americans will no longer “harp on” what Trump told the nation.
In other words, we’re all supposed to stop talking about Trump’s scandalous rhetoric because, well, the senior senator from Wisconsin just thinks that’d be nice.
I have a hunch Johnson is going to continue to be disappointed by the direction of the public discourse. When a sitting president appears to offer a defense of white supremacists, the American mainstream probably isn’t going to get over it after a few hours.