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Trump At Rushmore: One Speech, Two Nations

Trump at Mount Rushmore on July 3 (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)

Here is a link to a transcript Donald Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech. I thought it was a good speech, poorly delivered (the president seemed weary). Excerpts:

Our founders launched not only a revolution in government, but a revolution in the pursuit of justice, equality, liberty, and prosperity. No nation has done more to advance the human condition than the United States of America and no people have done more to promote human progress than the citizens of our great nation. It was all made possible by the courage of 56 patriots who gathered in Philadelphia 244 years ago and signed the Declaration of Independence. They enshrined a divine truth that changed the world forever when they said, “All men are created equal.” These immortal words set in motion the unstoppable march of freedom. Our founders boldly declared that we are all endowed with the same divine rights, given us by our Creator in Heaven, and that which God has given us, we will allow no one ever to take away ever.

1776 represented the culmination of thousands of years of Western civilization and the triumph of not only spirit, but of wisdom, philosophy, and reason. And yet, as we meet here tonight, there is a growing danger that threatens every blessing our ancestors fought so hard for, struggled, they bled to secure. Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities. Many of these people have no idea why they’re doing this, but some know what they are doing. They think the American people are weak and soft and submissive, but no, the American people are strong and proud and they will not allow our country and all of its values, history, and culture to be taken from them.

More:

Our people have a great memory. They will never forget the destruction of statues and monuments to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, abolitionists and many others. The violent mayhem we have seen in the streets and cities that are run by liberal Democrats in every case is the predictable result of years of extreme indoctrination and bias in education, journalism, and other cultural institutions. Against every law of society and nature, our children are taught in school to hate their own country and to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes but that were villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies, all perspective is removed, every virtue is obscured, every motive is twisted, every fact is distorted and every flaw is magnified until the history is purged and the record is disfigured beyond all recognition. This movement is openly attacking the legacies of every person on Mount Rushmore. They defiled the memory of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt. Today we will set history and history’s record straight.

Before these figures were immortalized in stone, they were American giants in full flesh and blood, gallant men, whose intrepid deeds unleashed the greatest leap of human advancement the world has ever known. Tonight I will tell you and most importantly the youth of our nation the true stories of these great, great men. From head to toe George Washington represented the strength, grace, and dignity of the American people. From a small volunteer force of citizen farmers, he created the Continental Army out of nothing and rallied them to stand against the most powerful military on earth. Through eight long years, through the brutal winter at Valley Forge, through setback after setback on the field of battle, he led those patriots to ultimate triumph. When the army had dwindled to a few thousand men at Christmas of 1776, when defeat seemed absolutely certain, he took what remained of his forces on a daring nighttime crossing of the Delaware River. They marched through nine miles of frigid darkness, many without boots on their feet, leaving a trail of blood in the snow. In the morning, they seized victory at Trenton after forcing the surrender of the most powerful empire on the planet at Yorktown, General Washington did not claim power but simply returned to Mount Vernon as a private citizen.

When called upon again, he presided over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia and was unanimously elected our first president. When he stepped down after two terms, his former adversary, King George called him the greatest man of the age. He remains first in our hearts to this day, for as long as Americans love this land, we will honor and cherish the father of our country, George Washington. He will never be removed, abolished, and most of all, he will never be forgotten. Thomas Jefferson, the great Thomas Jefferson, was 33 years old when he traveled north to Pennsylvania and brilliantly authored one of the greatest treasures of human history, the Declaration of Independence. He also drafted Virginia’s constitution and conceived and wrote the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, a model for our cherished First Amendment. After serving as the first Secretary of State, and then Vice President, he was elected to the presidency. He ordered American warriors to crush Barbary pirates. He doubled the size of our nation with the Louisiana Purchase and he sent the famous explorers Lewis and Clark into the west on a daring expedition to the Pacific Ocean. He was an architect, an inventor, a diplomat, a scholar, the founder of one of the world’s great universities and an ardent defender of liberty. Americans will forever admire the author of American freedom, Thomas Jefferson, and he too will never, ever be abandoned by us.

Abraham Lincoln, the savior of our union, was a self-taught country lawyer who grew up in a log cabin on the American frontier. The first Republican president, he rose to high office from obscurity based on a force and clarity of his anti-slavery convictions. Very, very strong convictions. He signed the law that built the Trans-Continental Railroad. He signed the Homestead Act given to some incredible scholars as simply defined ordinary citizens free land to settle anywhere in the American West, and he led the country through the darkest hours of American history, giving every ounce of strength that he had to ensure that government of the people, by the people and for the people did not perish from this earth. He served as commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces during our bloodiest war, the struggle that saved our union and extinguished the evil of slavery. Over 600,000 died in that war, more than 20, 000 were killed or wounded in a single day in Antietam. At Gettysburg 157 years ago, the Union bravely withstood an assault of nearly 15,000 men and threw back Pickett’s Charge. Lincoln won the Civil War. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation. He led the passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery for all-time and ultimately his determination to preserve our nation and our union cost him his life. For as long as we live, Americans will uphold and revere the immortal memory of President Abraham Lincoln.

Theodore Roosevelt exemplified the unbridled confidence of our national culture and identity. He saw the towering grandeur of America’s mission in the world and he pursued it with –

– In the world and he pursued it with overwhelming energy and zeal. As a Lieutenant Colonel during the Spanish-American War, he led the famous Rough Riders to defeat the enemy at San Juan Hill. He cleaned up corruption as police commissioner of New York City, then served as the Governor of New York, Vice President, and at 42 years old, became the youngest ever President of the United States.

He sent our great new naval fleet around the globe to announce America’s arrival as a world power. He gave us many of our national parks, including the Grand Canyon. He oversaw the construction of the awe-inspiring Panama Canal and he is the only person ever awarded both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was American freedom personified in full. The American people will never relinquish the bold, beautiful and untamed spirit of Theodore Roosevelt.

No movement that seeks to dismantle these treasured American legacies can possibly have a love of America at its heart. Can’t happen. No person who remains quiet at the destruction of this resplendent heritage can possibly lead us to a better future. The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice, but in truth, it would demolish both justice and society. It would transform justice into an instrument of division and vengeance and it would turn our free and inclusive society into a place of a repression, domination, and exclusion. They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced.

One more passage:

Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny. In toppling the heroes of 1776, they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country and that we feel for each other. Their goal is not a better America, their goal is to end America.

In its place, they want power for themselves, but just as patriots did in centuries past, the American people will stand in their way and we will win and win quickly and with great dignity. We will never let them rip America’s heroes from our monuments or from our hearts. By tearing down Washington and Jefferson, these radicals would tear down the very heritage for which men gave their lives to win the Civil War, they would erase the memory that inspired those soldiers to go to their deaths, singing these words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, “As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, while God is marching on.” They would tear down the principles that propelled the abolition of slavery and ultimately around the world ending an evil institution that had plagued humanity for thousands and thousands of years. Our opponents would tear apart the very documents that Martin Luther King used to express his dream and the ideas that were the foundation of the righteous movement for Civil Rights. They would tear down the beliefs, culture and identity, that have made America the most vibrant and tolerant society in the history of the earth. My fellow Americans, it is time to speak up loudly and strongly and powerfully and defend the integrity of our country.

Read the whole thing.

There were some strong partisan jabs (e.g., the thing about the violence-stricken cities being run by “liberal Democrats” was true but inappropriate in a Fourth of July speech), but most of this speech was an entirely appropriate defense of the Founding and the Founders. If an American president — not just Trump, but any American president — cannot or will not give a speech like that on the occasion of Independence Day, this country is in deep trouble.

Well, you should read how the mainstream national media covered the speech. Here is a link to The New York Times‘s story. Excerpts:

The text of the report reads:

With the coronavirus pandemic raging and his campaign faltering in the polls, his appearance amounted to a fiery reboot of his re-election effort, using the holiday and an official presidential address to mount a full-on culture war against a straw-man version of the left that he portrayed as inciting mayhem and moving the country toward totalitarianism.

“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children,” Mr. Trump said, addressing a packed crowd of sign-waving supporters, few of whom wore masks. “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”

A “straw-man version of the left”?! There is no “straw-man” to it! Trump is 100 percent telling the truth there. The New York Times, as a matter of fact, is leading the charge to defame and destroy the American founding in the imagination of the nation. As you know, the Times said when it launched its 1619 Project that its aim is to “reframe history” to put slavery at foundation of America, as opposed to the Declaration of Independence from Britain. Thus would the entire American project be conceived in terrible sin. If you believe that America was founded intentionally as a slaveocracy, as the 1619 Project claims, then of course you despise all the Founders and their monuments. You must therefore despise America. This is not a “straw-man” version of the left. This is what many on the left actually claim — and the Times is their tribune.

More from the Times:

Mr. Trump barely mentioned the frightening resurgence of the pandemic, even as the country surpassed 53,000 new cases Friday and health officials across the nation urged Americans to scale back their Fourth of July plans.

So now they’re criticizing him in a news story for what he didn’t say?

Yes, Trump laced his speech with some partisan barbs, but if you depended on the Times to give you the substance of what the president said, you were misled.

What about the Washington Post? Here’s how it headlined its story:

From the text:

At the foot of Mount Rushmore’s granite monument to his presidential forebears, President Trump on Friday delivered a dark speech ahead of Independence Day in which he sought to exploit the nation’s racial and social divisions and rally supporters around a law-and-order message that has become a cornerstone of his reelection campaign.

“Sought to exploit”? Editorializing much? How about “acknowledged,” or some other neutral word?

More:

Trump focused most of his address before a crowd of several thousand in South Dakota on what he described as a grave threat to the nation from liberals and angry mobs — a “left-wing cultural revolution” that aims to rewrite U.S. history and erase its heritage amid the racial justice protests that have roiled cities for weeks.

Praising presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, the men carved into the cliffs behind him, Trump declared that their legacies are under assault from protesters who have defaced and torn down statues. As he has done with increasing fervor in recent weeks, the 45th president denounced not just rioters and vandals but also much of the social movement that propelled the mass demonstrations in response to the killings of black men at the hands of police.

“The radical ideology attacking our country advances under the banner of social justice. But in truth, it would demolish both justice and society,” Trump said. “It would transform justice into an instrument of division and vengeance and turn our free society into a place of repression, domination and exclusion. They want to silence us, but we will not be silenced.”

That story is no longer the main Post account of the Rushmore rally. The Post‘s top-billed story now wraps the Rushmore speech into a story under this headline:

The Post characterized the Rushmore speech as one more example of Trump’s “race-baiting” — as if criticizing Black Lives Matter and its affiliates is in itself a racist act. Look, Trump does not speak of race and ethnic issues with sensitivity, and I have at times cringed at some of the things he has said (e.g., his equivocation over Charlottesville). But it is not at all clear from the Post story where the Post’s reporters would draw the line between legitimate criticism of the racial justice movement and racist criticism of same.

One gets the strong feeling from our national media that there can be no legitimate criticism of the racial justice movement, that to object to anything they say or do is racist.

Trump was also right to point out that a “new far-left fascism” is rising. I document a lot of it in my forthcoming book Live Not By Lies. The mainstream media deny it — but too many people are seeing it happen right in front of them, with their own eyes, to be gaslit.

Again: most of what Trump said was true, and an important defense of America and its heritage by an American president, on the eve of the American national holiday. The problem is that even truths, when they come out of Trump’s mouth, sound hollow and discordant. Had, say, 90 percent of that speech been delivered by any previous American president, it would have been received and reported as a vigorous and uncompromising endorsement of American history and the American founding.

Anyway, look, if Trump leaves a bad taste in your mouth, or even if you cheer him without reservation, I have a recommendation for you. If you want to read a staggeringly powerful Fourth of July address by one of the greatest Americans who ever lived, a man who knew America’s greatness, but also called her with prophetic thunder and lightning to repent of the evil of slavery, read Frederick Douglass’s 1852 Independence Day address, which asks, “What is the Fourth of July to a slave?”

UPDATE: Wow, I just found this: Douglass’s descendants read that address!

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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