Columbus Day is one reminder that Christopher Columbus was among those iconic figures whose statues were toppled over the summer of unrest. It’s also another example of where President Donald Trump was correct, despite establishment mockery.
Trump politically bungled his 2017 response to the Charlottesville chaos—providing an opening for his enemies. But, where he was undeniably spot on was his prediction that tearing down monuments wouldn’t stop with Robert E. Lee or even Confederates. As I write in “Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump,” much of the media scoffed when Trump said this destruction would extend to Founding Fathers for their sins.
If anything, Trump greatly underestimated how far beyond Confederate statues the left would go.
As Vice President Mike Pence noted during the Wednesday debate, Democrats and much of the media pounced and mischaracterized the president’s 2017 “very fine people” line.
In fact, in lying about the comments, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., called for impeachment, and five other House Democrats joined his resolution. By the end of 2017, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, pushed a Charlottesville impeachment resolution to a House floor vote, and got 58 Democrats on board, as detailed in “Abuse of Power.”
But during that same 2017 press gaggle Trump appalled the media saying, “This week it’s Robert E. Lee. I noticed that Stonewall Jackson is coming down. I wonder, is it George Washington next week? And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after? You know, you really do have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
One reporter later responded, “George Washington and Robert E. Lee are not the same.”
Trump shot back: “George Washington was a slave owner. Was George Washington a slave owner? So, will George Washington now lose his statues? … How about Thomas Jefferson? What do you think of Thomas Jefferson? You like him?”
The reporter responded, “I do love Thomas Jefferson.”
Trump responded: “OK, good. Are we going to take down the statue? … You’re changing history. You’re changing culture.”
Indignant headlines popped up, “Trump is Wrong to Equate George Washington with Robert E. Lee,” which he didn’t actually do. Others inaccurately said, “Trump Compares Washington, Jefferson to Robert E. Lee,” “Trump’s Immoral Comparison Between George Washington and Robert E. Lee,” “Historians: Robert E. Lee and George Washington Are Not Equivalent,” and “The Huge Problem With Trump Comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington.”
However by 2020, it was the mob that found nothing wrong or immoral about comparing Washington and Lee.
A George Washington statue and separately a Thomas Jefferson statue were torn down in June of this year during Portland riots. Additional Jefferson statues were removed by the city of Decatur, Georgia; and officials of Hofstra University in Hampstead, New York.
Washington and Jefferson, were as Trump said, indeed slave owners. That wasn’t a prerequisite to have your statue removed.
But, for some reason, protesters knocked down a statue of Union General and President Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco. Looters vandalized the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, yes, the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln. Theodore Roosevelt was removed by the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.
A statue of Frederick Douglass was even torn down by protesters in July in Rochester, New York. That same month, a statue of Jesus was knocked down in Miami and another statue of Mary was ripped down in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Trump’s executive order at the end of June seems to have effectively stopped most of the toppling of federal monuments even as large scale protests and in some areas rioting continues. Even the most ardent social justice warriors don’t want to risk 10-years behind bars.
To be clear, if local elected officials, or university administrators make a decision to remove a monument it’s a matter of public policy debate for that community.
Lawlessly tearing down statues and monuments is an attack on American history and culture and the far left showed what it really thinks of the country. Trump’s biggest gaffe may have been not realizing how far they would go.
Fred Lucas is the author of “Abuse of Power: Inside the Three-Year Campaign to Impeach Donald Trump,” and a veteran White House correspondent who has reported for The Daily Signal, Fox News, Newsmax, The National Interest, American History Magazine Quarterly and other outlets.