Will the real Donald Trump—or perhaps the @realDonaldTrump—please stand up?
It’s been several days of mixed messages from the president. Monday afternoon, he delivered a statement that condemned neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and white supremacists. It came two days too late for many observers, but it was still welcomed. But by Monday evening and Tuesday morning, Trump had reverted to his normal form on Twitter, retweeting a conspiracy-theorist alt-right figure, complaining about how the media received his statement, and retweeting an anti-CNN meme, though that retweet was later deleted.
Which is the real Trump? Is it the one who delivered the carefully calibrated remarks Monday declaring that “racism is evil?” Or is it the one who on Saturday blamed “all sides” for the violence in Charlottesville, on Sunday released an ad referring to the media as his “enemies,” and then lashed out on Twitter?
Determining which of these personas is genuine is difficult—who can know a man’s mind from afar?—but there’s enough evidence to make an inference. As I noted on Monday, the statement that the president delivered at the White House was uncharacteristically stiff and formal. He read carefully from prepared remarks, never diverging even to include the ad libs he tends to favor when working from a teleprompter. This was not the freewheeling, improvisatory Trump whom the nation has come to know and either love or detest. The substance of Trump’s words was peculiar too. He has in the past been slow or simply refused to denounce support from white supremacists and white nationalists, and has retweeted memes and tweets steeped in the movement.