This was all last week. All of it. Asked about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Donald Trump provided a critique rather than a condemnation: “They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly. … The process was no good. the execution was no good. And the cover-up, if you want to call it that, was certainly no good.”
Faced with more than a dozen pipe-bombs mailed to those he views as opponents, Trump chose to blame the free press for reporting his own words, repeatedly making statements such as “A very big part of the Anger we see today in our society is caused by the purposely false and inaccurate reporting of the Mainstream Media that I refer to as Fake News. It has gotten so bad and hateful that it is beyond description. Mainstream Media must clean up its act, FAST!”
Confronting reporters as the news rolled in about the mass murder of congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Trump immediately blamed the victims for not having armed guards watch over a shabbat service and a bris by declaring that “If they had protection inside, the results would have been far better. This is a dispute that will always exist, I suspect. But if they had some kind of a protection inside the temple, ahhh, maybe it could have been a very much different situation. They didn't.”
And if the impact of these other statements didn’t drive it home, in the same week made it precisely clear where he was coming from. “You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I am a nationalist. Use that word.”
It’s fair to say that the shooter at the Tree of Life also used that word. Because he did—though he complained that Trump was not enough of a nationalist for him. Instead the shooter, Robert Bowers, actually expressed scorn for Trump nationalism. He called Trump “not a nationalist” but “a globalist,” by which Bowers meant that Trump wasn’t stopping what was—in those old-fashioned days Trump was talking of when he wrapped himself in the word “nationalist”—known as “the conspiracy of the international Jew.” That’s exactly how nationalists use the term globalist today.
But Bowers was not being fair to Trump. Because Trump made it very clear that he is a real nationalist. He underlined it with the words he used last week, especially those he used right before he embraced that “old-fashioned” term. Trump’s claim to the word nationalist was so shocking that it’s easy to lose the context in which it was said. And that context makes it worse.
Here is what Donald Trump said immediately before he declared himself a nationalist. Here is the full quote, in context.
Trump: We’re putting America first. It hasn’t happened in a lot of decades. We’re putting them first. We’re taking care of ourselves for a change, folks… But radical Democrats want to turn back the clock… for the rule of corrupt, power-hungry, globalists. You know what a globalist is? You know what a globalist is? A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much.
And you know what, we can’t have that. You know they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist, and I say really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, okay? I’m a nationalist. Nationalist. Nothing wrong. Use that word. Use that word."
Synagogue shooter Robert Bower’s complaint about Donald Trump was that he was a globalist, not a nationalist. But Trump made it clear. What Trump said directly to his audience was that Democrats were the ones dancing to the conspiracy of the international Jew, while Trump wanted them put down. It didn’t take a special decoder ring to interpret the statement. Just history.
The concerns of Bowers and other anti-Semitic white supremacist murders was clearly important to Trump. Because he made it extraordinarily clear. Went out of his way to make it clear. Drove it home with the heel of a jackboot.
He is a nationalist. Just as that term was used then. Just as that term is used now.