Today in Conservative Media: The Confederate Monument Debate Is a Trap

Slate 14 months ago

A daily roundup of the biggest stories in right-wing media.

Conservatives continued sounding off about the debate over Confederate monuments on Thursday.  At the Daily Wire, Ben Shapiro wrote that the controversy is really an opportunity for various factions to wield power. “Here is the truth: Confederate statue removal is a local issue, not a national one,” he wrote. “Broad national movements to get rid of local pieces of history are generally driven by politically convenient impulses. If we’re going to have a real debate about Confederate statue removal, let’s do it. But let’s not lump all statue supporters or opposers into the realm of the saints or the devils.”

At National Review, Kevin Williamson agreed, arguing that the best course of action on the monuments for conservatives is to do nothing.

The war on statuary serves two purposes: The first is to humiliate Southerners in retribution for their support of Republican politicians and conservative causes, particularly religious and social causes. The second is to help Democrats win elections without white men. If only whites voted, the last Democratic president would have been Lyndon Johnson. If only white men voted, Mitt Romney would have won 45 states and 501 electoral votes in 2012. Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 showed Democrats that political math behind the Obama coalition — assembling enough groups of aggrieved minorities to create a majority — is no guarantee of victory in the Electoral College, especially when the charismatic young black man is replaced by a degenerate little old lady from Park Ridge. ...
What ought conservatives to do? They should listen to the oldest and most widely applicable of all the councils of conservatism and do — exactly — nothing. The ancient conservative bias in favor of inertia here points toward the wiser course. There is no need to join in with the vandals and the iconoclasts, even if we sympathize with some of their good-faith reservations about Confederate memorials. But to the extent that the iconoclasm here mainly consists of local authorities making democratic decisions about the disposition of public property, there is a case for political quietism in this matter.

On Fox & Friends, Newt Gingrich argued that removing Confederate monuments “doesn’t fix a single one of the underlying key problems that trap people in poverty and violence in America.”

“What’s truly tragic is there is a huge wave of murder in Baltimore. There’s a huge wave of shooting in Chicago,” he said. “If you really look at the hard left, they would eliminate Washington. I don’t know what they would do with the Washington monument. But they would eliminate Washington. They would eliminate Jefferson. They both owned slaves.”

Multiple outlets reported on a poll finding most Americans—62 percent—want Confederate monuments to stay.  “The results are eye-opening, as mainstream media commentators and Democratic pundits—particularly those on CNN—have suggested it was unsavory and ill-advised for Trump to suggest, on Tuesday, that the statues and monuments should remain,” LifeZette’s Jim Stinson wrote. "But the poll finds even Democrats are torn on the issue. The poll found 44 percent of Democrats favor letting the Confederate monuments be; 47 percent oppose them.” “A plurality of African-American respondents—44 percent—said the statues should stay, while 40 percent said they should be removed,” the Federalist’s Bre Payton noted.

Multiple outlets also ran posts on Robert E. Lee’s disapproval of Confederate monuments. “According to Jonathan Horn, a Lee biographer, Lee opposed proposed Confederate memorials as president of Washington College because he thought that they would only open wounds in a country that was in the process of healing after the bloody Civil War,” the Daily Wire’s Aaron Bandler wrote.

“So strong were Lee’s feelings,” RedState’s Teri Christoph added, “that he refused to have Confederate flags at his funeral and was not buried in his Confederate uniforms; his soldiers also didn’t don their uniforms at the funeral. Lee’s daughter said that having those symbols present would almost be ‘treasonous,’ as her father had take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution the day he took office as president of Washington College (now knows as Washington and Lee University).”

In other news:

Conservatives debated a reference to an alleged war crime Trump tweeted in response to the terrorist attack in Barcelona.

From Fox News:

President Trump on Thursday again cited a story about the late U.S. Army Gen. John J. Pershing dipping bullets in pigs’ blood to deter Islamic attacks that has been dismissed by historians as apocryphal. ...
During the campaign, the fact-checking website Politifact referred to the story as a “dubious legend.” "This story is a fabrication and has long been discredited," Brian McAllister Linn, a Texas A&M University, told Politifact. "I am amazed it is still making the rounds."

The Federalist’s Sean Davis defended Trump by suggesting he hadn’t been referring again to the Pershing story:

Conservative writer Jay Caruso, on the other hand, admonished Trump:

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