With a rousing Independence Day speech at Mount Rushmore, President Trump certainly laid down the principles on which he will now go to the hustings. His choice of a setting put him before the famed monument to four presidents — each of which is a target of the movement that has been seeking to besmirch or destroy statues of our national leaders. Mr. Trump left no doubt in respect of which side he is on.
Had the President left any such doubt, the morning papers cleared them up. The Times led with a long geschrei about how Mr. Trump had sent a “discordant” message. The Washington Post complained that Mount Rushmore is “painfully complex.” Our guess, though, is that tens of millions of Americans managed to figure it out — that Mr. Trump intends to stand against the attacks on our national heroes.
We’ve no doubt that tens of millions of Americans have been, and will be, as we have been, waiting to see which of our candidates will lead that defense. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, essayist Lance Morrow estimates that “there is quietly building a powerful backlash,” one that will “express itself” on November 3, if not before. That is clearly the bet that the President is making, and eloquently, at Mt. Rushmore.
Mr. Trump reprised the logic of American liberty — rights given by God, and therefore inalienable. Then he warned of “a growing danger” that threatens the blessings “our ancestors fought so hard for.” He called it a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children . . . ” Here the audience started to boo such defamation.
“Angry mobs,” the president continued, “are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.” He reckoned that many of them “have no idea why they are doing this, but some know exactly what they are doing.” They think, Mr Trump said, that the American people are “weak and soft and submissive.”
His vow was that the American people “will not allow our country, and all of its values, history, and culture, to be taken from them.” At this point the audience was chanting “USA!” Mr. Trump then laced into “cancel culture,” which he called “driving people from their jobs, shaming dissenters, and demanding total submission from anyone who disagrees.” He called it “completely alien to our culture and our values.”
It would be one thing were any of the major Democrats saying such things. The cat, though, has got their tongues. Not a peep of support from, say, Vice President Biden or Speaker Pelosi or even Governor Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio, nor such vice presidential contenders as Senators Harris and Warren. Five weeks into this uprising, and Mr. Trump has scooped them all — and marked that the Democrats are part of the problem.
Not that Mr. Trump was indifferent at Mount Rushmore to the glory of the American mosaic. He was full of praise for the Rushmore presidents, of course, even touching on Jefferson’s Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the fact that Teddy Roosevelt, whose statue in New York is being ousted by the Museum of Natural History, holds both the Nobel Prize in peace and the Medal of Honor.
In the speech, Mr. Trump managed to extol everyone from Muhammad Ali to Harriet Tubman, Irving Berlin, the Tuskegee Airmen, the Wright Brothers, Jesse Owens, Frederick Douglass and Wild Bill Hickok. He declared for “equal opportunity, equal justice, and equal treatment for citizens of every race, background, religion, and creed,” adding: “Every child, of every color — born and unborn — is made in the holy image of God.”
It’s not our intention here to predict that Mr. Trump’s Rushmore strategy will work. We get that the President is behind in the polls. It’s hard to recall, though, a moment in this campaign in which the lines have been more clearly articulated by any Republican. Why Mr. Biden failed to get in ahead of him in defense of the Rushmore presidents is as much of a mystery as Mrs. Clinton’s failure to campaign in Wisconsin.