President Trump has come under fire for portraying the stature of Confederate icon Robert E. Lee in a positive light during his latest campaign-style rally in Lebanon, Ohio on Friday night, October 12.
In his push to continue driving a red wave of support for Republicans to the polls in November, the President kicked off his speech before a packed Warren County Fairgrounds crowd by extolling his administration’s most recent successes. But ever the populist, he also had it in the cards to shore up a bit of home state pride on what the New York Times notes to have once been the site of an old rural barn – that organizers spruced up with the blue-collar symbolism of Caterpillar excavators.
Per usual, Trump made sure to take a victory lap with allusions to a bustling economy, Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s promotion to the Supreme Court bench, the securing of pastor Andrew Brunson’s release from a Turkish prison, and a bevy of other events that took place in that the Washington Post quotes him as touting a “really historic week for America.” However, by the end of the hour-long address, supporters on hand were being wooed by their charismatic POTUS’ recounting of Ohio history.
In the vein of his “Make America Great Again” mantra, Trump invoked the names of everyone from 25th President William McKinley to Neil Armstrong and the Wright Brothers. Along the way, he’d invoke the legacy of Ulysses S. Grant by delving into the story of why President Abraham Lincoln appointed the Civil War hero Lt. General to head the army of the Potomac. The President noted how Lincoln entrusted a somewhat uncouth Grant to take on Robert E. Lee and his Confederate soldiers – more than he trusted the line of West Point graduates who had assumed leadership before him – because he knew he’d get the job done. Only, as Politico notes, he didn’t shy from acknowledging the Confederate Lee as “great” in the process.
“So Robert E. Lee was a great general and Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia; he couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee. He was going crazy […] but Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle and Abraham Lincoln came home and he said ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee,” said Trump.
Due to skepticism over remarks that he’s made and far-right figures he’s courted in the past, President Trump has toed a slippery slope whenever approaching the topic of the Confederacy. Nevertheless, while up until this point he hadn’t gone so far as White House chief of staff John Kelly did when he openly deemed Lee an “honorable man” last year, Trump has certainly exuded a certain tolerance for Lee’s legacy.
Many will recall such being the case when just days after the tragic events of 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, he objected to the removal of monuments honoring Lee, stating: Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”
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