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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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Editorial: Trump must clearly condemn white supremacists

When neo-Nazis marched in Coeur d’Alene, people of all political stripes denounced their immoral ideology. Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler may have thought North Idaho would be a comfortable redoubt for his vile band of bigots, but he learned otherwise.

During that era, the courageous Kootenai County Human Rights Task Force arose to counteract the racists and send a clear message that their way of thinking was not welcomed.

So what are Americans to believe when President Donald Trump will turn his sights on the Senate majority leader, his own attorney general and myriad others, but won’t single out white supremacists … ever? Not even after their horrific acts in Charlottesville, Virginia.

It was as if the president were condemning rival gangs when he stepped to the podium Saturday to utter his condemnation of “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

Many sides?

What bigotry was displayed by anyone other than the racists chanting Nazi slogans and carrying symbolic torches through the University of Virginia on Friday night? What side was bearing symbols of the Ku Klux Klan and Nazi Germany during Saturday’s clashes? What side was chanting “blood and soil” (origin: Nazi Germany) and “Jews will not replace us”?

But rather than elaborate, the president awkwardly pivoted to positive employment news, as if the clash were about jobs. Condemning this specific strain of hate isn’t difficult, as one Republican after another displayed on Saturday.

“Let’s unite in standing against white supremacy and bigoted violence – it’s repulsive and has no place here,” tweeted U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

“Nothing patriotic about Nazis, the KKK or White Supremacists. It’s the direct opposite of what America seeks to be,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

“Mr. President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism,” tweeted U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.

“ ‘White supremacy’ crap is the worst kind of racism – it’s EVIL and perversion of God’s truth to ever think our Creator values some above others.” – tweeted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Even if there were “many sides,” the president could choose one. He did not, but he really should.

Many white supremacists believe they have support in the White House. True or false, Trump hasn’t done much to dissuade that belief. When mosques are attacked, the president says nothing. When a Muslim attacks, he is quick to comment. White supremacists liked it when Trump promoted “birtherism” against President Barack Obama, and when he highlighted the Mexican heritage of a judge who ruled against him in an immigration case. White nationalists believe they have allies in the White House in Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka.

If racists are getting the wrong idea, then the president should set them straight. Some rhetorical fire and fury against white supremacy would be a good start.