JOHN DICKERSON, CBS HOST: Today on FACE THE NATION, President Trump face the biggest test of his moral instincts since taking office and sees another senior administration official to the exit door.
DICKERSON: Protesters in cities across the country, an estimated 40,000 in Boston alone, took to the streets this weekend to drown out the messages of hate and violence seen last Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The protesters also decried President Trump`s insistence that white nationalists protesters and counterprotesters were equally to blame for the violence.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think there`s blame on both sides. And I have no doubt about it and you don`t have any doubt about it either.
DICKERSON: The president`s response led CEOs of the nation`s top companies to abandon the White House Manufacturing Council. Five of the seven joint chiefs issued tweets denouncing racism and bigotry. Former presidents George Herbert Walker Bush and George W. Bush put out a statement doing the same. But former KKK leader David Duke thanked the president for his honesty and courage.
That prompted South Carolina`s Lindsey Graham to plead with the president, you are now receiving praise from some of the most racists and hate-filled individuals and groups in our country. For the sake of our nation as our president, please fix this.
How will he fix it? We`ll ask South Carolina`s other Republican senator Tim Scott, who said this week the president`s moral authority is now compromised.
Virginia Democratic senator Tim Kaine will also join us to discuss the debate over Confederate monuments that has mushroomed since playing a role in the protests last week.
Plus, just days after defending his chief strategist Steve Bannon --
TRUMP: He is not a racist, I can tell you that. He`s a good person. He actually gets a very unfair press in that regard.
DICKERSON: -- the president said goodbye to the self-described nationalist.
Bannon is the latest senior White House official from the president`s original team to leave the administration. Will his departure lead to the stability the president`s advisors and family crave or open up new fault lines?
We`ll talk about that and more with our politics panel.
It`s all coming up on FACE THE NATION.
DICKERSON: Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. I`m John Dickerson.
It`s been more than a week since the president`s outrage by blaming all sides for the violence in Charlottesville. On Monday, President Trump gave in to pressure from his staff to respond more specifically against the hate groups involved.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: The page had been turned, or so the president`s advisors had hoped. Tuesday, at a press conference scheduled to be about infrastructure, the president went rogue. His priority once again seemed to be equating the two sides in Charlottesville.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. And nobody wants to say that. But I`ll say it right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: By Thursday the president had moved on to yet another argument, taking sides against those who support removing or relocating Confederate monuments.
By the end of the week, more than just the president`s opinions were being questioned. Tennessee Republican senator Bob Corker said the president`s behavior was part of a larger lack of stability in office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Nebraska Republican Ben Sasse predicted more violence in the future and questioned the president`s ability to calm and comfort the nation.
To talk about the week and address these issues, these larger issues of presidential leadership, we`re joined by Republican senator Tim Scott. He joins us from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Welcome, Senator. I want to start with your remarks about the president and idea that his moral authority is compromised. What does that mean?
SEN. TIM SCOTT (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, it means that as we look into -- look to the future, it`s going to be very difficult for this president to lead if, in fact, that moral authority remains compromised.
He went into office -- sometimes you have positional authority, and that is very hopeful. But the reality of it is this nation responds to moral authority, when we believe that our president has the entire nation`s best interests at heart. His comments on Tuesday that erased his positive comments on Monday started to compromise that moral authority that we need the president to have for this nation to be the beacon of light to all mankind.
DICKERSON: What should the president have said?
SCOTT: Well, I think what he said on Monday was fantastic. It would have been even better had he said it on Saturday.
What he said on Tuesday was just really challenging. What the president should do before he says something is to sit down and become better acquainted, have a personal connection to the painful history of racism and bigotry of this country. It would be fantastic if he sat down with a group of folks who have endured the pain of the `60s, who`ve had humiliation of the `50s and `60s.
This would be an opportunity for him to become better educated and acquainted with the living history of so many folks, from John Lewis to my mother and so many others, who have gone through a very painful part of the history of this country. So that when he acts, when he responds, and when he speaks, he`s not reading the words that are so positive, that he`s breathing the very air that brings him to a different conclusion, a conclusion that comes from the wells of his heart.
That`s what America wants to see. That`s what we`re seeing in so many of the counterprotests. We`re seeing America rise in a way that it did not in the `60s, which I think is powerful and symbolic to the rest of the world, that we reject the darkness and we embrace the light.
These are good times for those who believe that darkness must be put out and light must shine even brighter.
DICKERSON: Another thing that the president could have said, and might say, is to those white supremacists, I don`t want your support. And I raise this because two Republican senators have suggested perhaps a reason he hasn`t. The first is Ben Sasse who wrote quote, there are some whispering in the president`s ear that racial division could be good politics for them. Senator Corker from Tennessee said helping inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base is not formula for causing our nation to advance.
Do you believe that that`s part of what at play here? And should the president say I don`t want these votes in any form?
SCOTT: Well, I assume that`s the automatically obvious answer, that we do not want the support of those folks who want to divide or to conquer this nation.
The fact of the matter is that the Republican Party is party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. We believe that all men and women are created in the image of God. We believe that we are all equally created. So the fact of the matter is that we should assume by default that we reject the support of those who do not support the theory, the notion, the fact, that all men are created equally.
That to me seems like the starting point, and should not be a leap.
DICKERSON: Should the president, though, be a little bit more clear about this? Because can the leader of the party of Lincoln, the president, also be the person who`s being praised by former imperial wizard of the KKK, David Duke?
SCOTT: Yes, we should bask in the criticism of our enemies. We want those who believe that this country is better with a superior race and thoughts of inferiority pervasive through this nation that has been rejected. It should be rejected by the president and every single person.
I`ve said several times that, from my house to the White House, we all must reject hatred, racism, and bigotry, and do it in such a clear and unambiguous way that there leaves no doubt, period.
DICKERSON: You`ve worked on these issues for a long time. Charleston had its, of course, the horrible shooting more than two years ago.
What can the president do beyond sort of fixing the remarks from last week? What more would you expect him to do to reach and deal with some of these larger issues?
SCOTT: At this point it`s not what the president says next. It`s what he does. We are in a very critical and sensitive time in this nation. We need our president to sit down with folks who have a personal experience, a deep connection to the horror and the pain of this country`s provocative racial history. If the president wants to have a better understanding and appreciation for what he should do next, he needs to hear something from folks who have gone through this painful history. Without that personal connection to the painful past, it will be hard for him to regain that moral authority from my perspective.
DICKERSON: When you and I talked about this before, you had suggested that this was something president could do at the start of his administration, spend more times in communities of color. Why do you think he hasn`t?
SCOTT: It`s hard to say why he has not. I can tell you that I stand by those comments back in January that if in fact our president is going to regain that moral authority, if he`s going to remain on the high ground, if we`re going to make progress in this nation, it`s not simply the issues that we fight for. It`s understanding that people that we are fighting for, and those issues that best represent a better future for those folks.
That`s one of the reasons why I have suggested that coming in to some of the most challenging economic communities in this nation is in his best interests, is in the nation`s best interests, that we fight for the issues that encourage and improves the outcome for those folks that are economically most disadvantaged, and frankly socially feel like they`re left out.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about your relationship in South Carolina when the Confederate flag came down. You supported that.
The president has said these Confederate monuments are beautiful, and that it`s foolish to take them down. Do you think it`s foolish to take the Confederate monuments down?
SCOTT: I think that`s definitely a local issue. But I am certainly wanting to be clear -- one of the most powerful pictures I`ve ever been a part of, from a racial progress standpoint, was seeing President Obama standing in front of the Pettus Bridge. Not the Selma Bridge, but the Pettus Bridge. Someone stood for hatred, bigotry, and oppression -- having an African-American president stand in front of that bridge said so much about the darkness of the human soul in the past, and how much progress that has been mad in this country.
Here at home in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun was a United States senator, famously a part of the notion of oppression and bigotry in this country.
DICKERSON: But do you --
SCOTT: For the voters of South Carolina to evolve to the place where they elect someone like myself to be in the same seat of John C. Calhoun says what is possible in America, and has started in South Carolina. I think we are on the right path overall.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator Scott, we`re going to have to leave it there. We`re out of time. We`re so grateful for you being with us.
SCOTT: Yes, sir, thank you.
DICKERSON: We`re joined now by Virginia Democratic senator Tim Kaine. He`s in Richmond.
Senator, you were also governor of Virginia and mayor of Richmond, a majority African-American city that was also the capital of the Confederacy. From those perspectives, how do you see this debate now over removing Confederate monuments?
SEN. TIM KAINE (D), VIRGINIA: Well, John, first, you know, I wouldn`t even be a guest on the show this week if it were just about monuments. The reason that we`re doing this today is because I went to three funerals this week. I`m not here this morning because of statues; I`m here because people brought violence and hatred and bigotry and murder to my state. And I think I`m also here because we have a president who wasn`t able to stand up and condemn the indefensible.
DICKERSON: And yet we have, in the wake of everything you just described, there is a conversation now about these monuments, about how you take all of the things that have been roiled up by this, and try to lower the pressure and work through these issues.
And so given that, and given that this has moved into a conversation about symbols and history, where do you -- what guidance do you have, given the moment and your history as a governor and a mayor?
KAINE: When I was mayor and governor, we worked on some of these issues, John, in Virginia, because we have some painful scar tissue, obviously. We took down two bridges in Richmond that had been named for Confederate generals and renamed them for civil rights heroes. We put up new statues in our city, one of Abraham Lincoln who visited Richmond after the fall of the city. And one of Arthur Ashe on Monument Avenue, which had heretofore just been for Confederate generals.
The way we sort of looked at this issue, and I think it`s important that we look at it this way -- it`s not just about subtraction. It also has to be about addition. So our mayor, Levar Stoney, has convened a commission in Richmond to look at all of those statues and decide whether they should stay or be removed or be reinterpreted.
But a point that I would also make is, let`s also talk about whose stories haven`t been told and what buildings or monuments we might think about erecting in the future. You went to UVA; you know Virginia well. It`s interesting, we`re a history-obsessed commonwealth, but why do the four years of the Civil War merit so much more attention in Virginia than 250 years of blood sacrifice by hundreds of thousands of slaves who lived here, who built up our state, who were sold to our state?
DICKERSON: When you were mayor, you said about a (INAUDIBLE) mural, you said much of our history is not pleasant. You can`t white wash it.
Do you feel that same way about the Confederate statues in the Capitol?
KAINE: You know, in the Capitol in DC, it`s an interesting one, John, you and I know the story. There`s -- every state gets two statues to put in statuary hall or throughout the Capitol. And just using Virginia as an example. The state gets to choose two people to represent the entire scope of the state`s history. Virginia obviously chose George Washington, the father of the country. But the second choice that was made in 1909 and has never been changed is Robert E. Lee.
I think, as you look at the scope of Virginia history, here in 2017, and if you want there to be two people to really stand for who Virginia is, why wouldn`t you think about Pocahontas, who, had she not saved John Smith`s life, we wouldn`t even be here, possibly? Why wouldn`t you think about a Barbara Johns who led a school walkout in Prince Edward County that ultimately became part of the Brown versus Board desegregation decision? Why wouldn`t you think about Governor Wilder, the grandson of a slave, a decorated Korean war combat veteran, who became the first elected African-American governor in the history of the country?
I think, from 2017 looking backward, I think Virginia could probably do better in the two people that we choose to stand for us in statuary hall. And I think a number of the other states can do better as well.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you about a point the president raised about violence on the left that has been a part of some of these rallies.
Does the Democratic Party have any responsibility to call out violence? While it may be separate from the issue in Charlottesville is also part of the issue in Charlottesville. What is the Democratic Party`s responsibility?
KAINE: We should call out violence of any kind. Peacefully protesting is a constitutional right.
But what the president did this week was suggesting there were some moral equivalence in Charlottesville. And that is outrageous. The president didn`t have a hard time when a Somali young man drove a car into that crowd at Ohio State in December. He called it an act of terrorism, which it was. When somebody drove car into a crowd in Barcelona this week, he jumped on it immediately; it was an act of terrorism.
But when this white supremacist drives a car into a crowd of people, killing Heather Heyer and injuring scores more, and the president says there`s fine people on both sides, or there`s violence on both sides, why is he so confused and unclear and unwilling to call out the violent white supremacy that was on such gruesome display in my home state?
DICKERSON: Let me ask you a quick question about the criticisms of -- during the campaign, Hillary Clinton used the word deplorable to describe the kind of people that you started your remarks by talking about -- the white supremacist. It overshot the mark, it painted with a broad brush. People felt that she was talking about them.
How does the Democratic Party not paint with that broad brush in these conversations that are going to happen coming up now?
KAINE: John, this is really important question. We ought to throw away all the broad brushes, you know, and we need to be very precise.
First, it`s really important, you have to condemn the intolerable. When there are people marching through the streets of Charlottesville chanting "blood and soil" from Hitler rallies, or "Jews will not replace us", you can`t be polite and kind about that behavior or certainly about murder and violence. You have to condemn it.
But you have to be very specific about what you`re condemning. And it is very important to be absolutely clear and condemn what`s indefensible, but you have to do it in a way that suggests that you`re open to dialogue with people who have different points of view than you do.
DICKERSON: And, very briefly, here at the end, you`re on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The president appears to be making a decision about troops to Afghanistan. Should more troops going there and what is U.S. -- what are the U.S. interests in Afghanistan?
KAINE: John, I have a high degree of regard for the president`s national security team, especially Secretary Mattis, General Dunford, General McMaster. But I will say this. The troop strength question is sort of the cart before the horse. The real question is what is our strategy? And then when you lay out the strategy, then the troop strength question can kind of answer itself.
DICKERSON: Thank you, Senator Kaine.
We`ll be back in one minute with deeper analysis on the events in Charlottesville and what they mean for the country.
DICKERSON: To talk about the violence in Charlottesville and the rise of white nationalist groups, we`re joined by Sherrilyn Ifill. She`s president and director counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education fund. Elle Reeve is correspondent for Vice News Tonight. Elle was embedded with a group of white supremacists during the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. And Christian Picciolini is a former self-identified skinhead and cofounder of the group, Life After Hate.
Welcome to all of you. Elle, start with you. The documentary you were in has been watched by 46 million people. And I want to show a little bit of that footage from the Friday night and then get to you talk about it. This is from Vice News Tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (chanting): Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!
Blood and soil! Blood and soil!
Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!
White lives matter! White lives matter! White lives matter! White lives matter!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: So, Elle, you weren`t just on the periphery of this; you were embedded. The president said that, on this Friday night where those images were from, that there were good people quietly protesting.
What was your sense of what you saw?
ELLE REEVE, VICE NEWS TONIGHT: So this was an unannounced event, but a very well-organized one.
When we arrived, there were vans dropping off white nationalists at the field. On the field, there were organizers doing crowd control, security, handing out tiki torches. They picked tiki torches as -- to be menacing. Sometimes they call it torch-lit vigil because it`s supposed to be offensive spin on a candlelight vigil.
And once they started marching, they didn`t talk about Robert E. Lee being a brilliant military tactician. They chanted about Jews. Like, they wanted to be menacing. It`s not an accident.
DICKERSON: Sherrilyn, all of the president`s remarks this week, there are -- his supporters would say but he did call out the racists on Monday. And when he identified violence, there was violence from the counterprotesters in Charlottesville.
What are they missing in their defense of the president?
SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE AND EDUCATION FUND: I think what we saw this week was the president scripted and unscripted. When the president was unscripted, when the president spoke from his heart, we heard him. He was combative, he was defensive of those who were white supremacists, and those who were Nazis. He put on an equivalent moral plane those who were white supremacists and Nazis with those who came out understandably outraged by seeing flags with swastikas and Confederate flags and hearing the kind of homophobic, anti-Semitic, and racial slurs that Elle talked about -- he put them on the same moral plane. And whenever he was pushed, what came out of him was such tremendous anger that we would even dare to expect him to call out what we think any president, any modern president in this country, should call out, which is Nazism and white supremacism and anti- Semitism. He just wasn`t able to do it.
And so what he did this week is not only did he abdicate his role as a leader, as a leader of this entire country, not as a man speaking for himself. Not as a man speaking for his political party. Not as a man speaking on behalf of his voters or his base. But as president of the this entire country, he abdicated that responsibility.
And then, even worse, he gave aid and comfort to those white supremacists and neo-Nazis who were out in full force in Charlottesville on Friday night and Saturday.
DICKERSON: All right, Christian, quickly, why had this rise come in white nationalism now?
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI, CO-FOUNDER, LIFE AFTER HATE: There`s been a rise over the last 30 decades. And what`s happened, it was with concerted strategy to move away from the skinhead or the Klan look, to grow your hair out. Because even back when I was involved 30 years ago, there was a stigma to that even amongst racist white Americans.
So the idea was to blend in, to grow the hair out, trade in the boots for suits. And here we are now.
DICKERSON: All right, excellent. We`re going to take a quick break and to go commercial. We`ll have a lot more of this discussion in a moment.
DICKERSON: And we`ll have lot more analysis with our Charlottesville panel coming up. And my thoughts on the importance of speaking up. Stay with us.
DICKERSON: We`ll be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. Stay with us.
DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION.
We continue our discussion on the national rise of white supremacist groups.
We`re joined by Sherrilyn Ifill of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Elle Reeve of "Vice News Tonight," and co-founder of the group Life After Hate, Christian Picciolini.
Elle, I want to go back to you on a point that Christian was making. One of the things in the documentary I thought was interesting was the explicit way in which some of the members of these groups said, we`re launching kind of a new phase to get publicity. Can you describe that a little bit what they were trying to do?
ELLE REEVE, "VICE NEWS TONIGHT": Yes, this has been largely an Internet movement. These guys didn`t live together, hang out together. They just swarmed together online. And so this is a movement to hold physical space. They`ve taken tactics from left wing organizers and show that they`re strong and they have camaraderie. And they also are focusing on what they call aesthetics. They want to look middle class, successful, good looking. They don`t want to look like the old, as they called it, white trash racist of the old times.
DICKERSON: Christian, let me ask you about the work that you do, trying to help stop this from your own history. You have lost a federal grant now. Tell us about that. And tell us about your work and how that fits into what Elle was just talking about.
CHRISTIAN PICCIOLINI, LIFE AFTER HATE: Well, how it fits into what Elle does is -- and, first of all, I think what she showed was stunning because it not only showed what we see as the public face of white supremacy, but also behind the scenes how the language changes and becomes more extreme. And it is a marketing tactic to do that.
Under President Obama, my organization, Life After Hate was awarded a $400,000 grant to come combat far right extremism. And when President Trump took office, immediately that grant was rescinded. We were the only organization of the pool of grantees that was focused on white supremacist, extremists and disengaging people from that movement. And we do that in a nonaggressive way. Everybody at Life After Hate is a former extremist. So we understand the motivates of why people join. But, more importantly, we understand what it takes to get out of these groups.
DICKERSON: And, quickly, what are the motivations? I mean there are the obvious ones, but what`s the key?
PICCIOLINI: You know, ideology is not the driver for radicalization. It`s a search for identity, community and purpose. A broken one. And if it`s -- if there`s a brokenness underneath that person, they tend to search for those in really negative pathways.
DICKERSON: Sherrilyn, let`s talk about the -- about Congress, about the response to this. There`s been a lot of commentary, but what -- what do you look for next in terms of matching public action with the sentiment that has come out in response to Charlottesville?
SHERRILYN IFILL, NAACP: Well, I think this is really important and I hope it doesn`t get lost because I think there`s a powerful role for journalists, like Elle, and the extraordinary film that she made and the extraordinary work of Christian.
But there are also policy decisions that we should be expecting our leader to make to deal with white supremacy. The United States Congress, just a few weeks ago, by vote of 51-42, approved a judge for Federal Appellate Court of Appeals who ran a right wing blog and regularly linked to birther articles and articles from white nationalists websites. I mean Congress knew this. They`re supposed to be looking at these judicial nominees and making sure that these judicial nominees are in the mainstream and are not extremists.
The grant that Christian just talked about, the cabinet of the president and the coterie surrounding him, Sebastian Gorka and others, this is -- this is Congress` job to vigorously look during the confirmation process at each and every one of these individuals and to make sure that they don`t have these kinds of connections.
And, finally, here`s the tough part, Congress has to deal with and state legislatures have to deal with the reality of white supremacy in their own policies. Sebastian Gorka said two weeks ago that there is no real white supremacy. White supremacy is individuals denying the civil rights of others. Well, we`ve had two federal judges just in the last year -- two federal courts in the last year identified two state legislatures, Texas and North Carolina, that those federal courts said deliberately created voter I.D. laws for the purpose of discriminating against African-American and Latino voters. When we see that, when we see state legislatures convening to pass voter suppression laws, that is white supremacy. That is an effort to try and deny the civil rights of African-Americans and Latinos.
So if this is a moment for honesty, if this is a moment where America is prepared to confront itself, it has to confront the reality of violent white extremists who are out and who are broken and who are marching in the streets. But we also have to recognize the role that we play and that elected leaders play in setting policies that further white supremacism for the purpose of their own political gain. And my hope is that Congress and that governors and that state legislatures will be prepared in this moment to take on the responsibility themselves of demonstrating that they want no traffic with white supremacy.
DICKERSON: Elle, what`s been the reaction? Forty-six million people have watched. We know a lot of people have watched it. But what -- this is pretty tough territory, any of us who have reported or talked about it. What`s the reaction been for you?
REEVE: Well, walking through Charlottesville, I got stopped on the street by people in tears because they were happy that I showed what really happened. I think it`s important to let these white nationalists talk and explain their arguments so that we know what they are, so that we can counter them. It`s just critical, I think, to expose what they believe because they are drawing in very young adherence and we have to be able to fight that.
DICKERSON: Christian, give me a little bit of your personal story if you`re talking about converting people who are broken. Attach that to your own story.
PICCIOLINI: I was recruited into the white supremacist movement in 1987 when I was 14 years old. I joined America`s first neo-Nazi skinhead group. And I was recruited by America`s first neo-Nazi skinhead.
My parents were Italian immigrants, so I shouldn`t have been a racist because they were the victims of prejudice. But because they were immigrants, they also had to work very hard. And I didn`t see them very much. They worked seven days a week, 14 hours a day. And I felt this sense of abandonment by my family.
So I went searching for that acceptance and that family elsewhere. And the recruiter was very savvy at identifying my vulnerability and promising me paradise. And that`s a common theme among extremist groups is they bring you in, they feed your pride, and then they take that pride and they turn it so that that pride turns into hate of the enemy.
DICKERSON: Sherrilyn, on -- at the end here, let me ask you about the debate over monuments. Condoleezza Rice, among others, has said -- and she was talking about names on buildings, not monuments, but she`s basically said, I want to -- this is a quote from her. I want us to have to look at those names and recognize what they did to be able to tell our kids that they -- what they did. And for those kids to have a sense of their own history. When you start wiping out your history, sanitizing your history to make you feel better, it`s a bad thing.
This was not in relation to this weekend, but previous remarks she said. Put -- give me your sense of that and this debate that`s happening.
IFILL: What we put on monuments and what names we put on buildings demonstrates what we revere. We honor those people when we make monuments to them. That is not about whether you`re erasing history. You`re still going to learn about the Civil War. You`re still going to learn about Robert E. Lee in school.
The question is, do you revere him? Do you lift him up in the town square for children to see and to recognize as a hero? So that`s just inaccurate. No one`s trying to erase history. The question is in this country, are we prepared to face that these people were not heroes, that these people were traitors, that these people led us into some of the darkest days in our history. And what should be lifting up are those people who made America better, those people who stitched us together, those people who sacrificed to make us one nation. Those other individuals, they can be in the history books, just like they are in Germany. You don`t see monuments to Hitler in Germany. They learn about their history, but they don`t revere in the public space those people who represent their darkest days.
PICCIOLINI: And to go on to Sherrilyn`s point, I don`t think that this was about statutes at all. I think it was an excuse, just like they corrupt the idea of free speech to have an excuse to have to have a rally with a bit platform. This was absolutely not about a statue.
DICKERSON: All right, we`re going to have to end it there. Thanks to all of you.
And we`ll be right back with our politics panel.
DICKERSON: And we turn now to our politics panel. Julie Pace is the Washington bureau chief for "The Associated Press, Jamelle Bouie is a CBS News analyst and "Slate`s" chief political correspondent. We`re also joined by the editor in chief of "The Atlantic," Jeffrey Goldberg, and "The National Review`s" executive editor, Reihan Salam.
Jeffrey, I want to start with you.
The president`s been involved in a lot of controversies. He`s been criticized by his party at times. Is this a vast difference? Is this just the latest in controversial things this president has done (ph)?
JEFFREY GOLDBERG, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "THE ATLANTIC": It`s a break, but it`s not the decisive break because the Republicans in the main are still with him. Even elected Republicans who are privately disgusted.
But, on the other hand, it does represent a kind of a break, especially his equivocation on Nazism. Nazism is literally the easiest thing for an American president to condemn. His instinct was to equivocate, to play a game where both sides have a point. And I think that probably disgusted many Republicans in a way that previous behaviors have not. But people are still with him.
DICKERSON: Reihan, in terms of those people that are still with him in the CBS poll, about 67 percent thought the president had -- Republicans had said the right thing in terms of Charlottesville. And I certainly, in my own reporting, have talked to people who said, look, he denounced the KKK and white supremacists on Monday and he pointed out accurately that there was violence.
Give me your sense of -- and then finally they say, this is just another pile on by the media. Sure, the president may not have been perfect in this but now it`s gotten into this kind of obsessive overreach by the media. How do you sort through all of this?
REIHAN SALAM, THE NATIONAL REVIEW: This weekend the president praised counter-protesters in Boston for protesting against various neo-Nazi, white supremacist groups, et cetera. And that`s something that lots of folks who wanted him to condemn neo-Nazis earlier on more strongly, they hear and they think, well, this is just a throw away. This doesn`t mean anything. It doesn`t actually confirm their preexisting story about him.
When he turns around and equivocates, as Jeffrey just said, then it confirms a very powerful narrative for people. So this means that there`s an asymmetry at work. And that asymmetry is there for a good reason, by the way. People have very deep suspicions `doubt Donald Trump for a good reason. But if he`s going to counter those suspicions, he has to take very strong and clear action to convey that, no, I am, in fact, very sincere when I say that I`m on the side of those who are protesting against white nationalists, neo-Nazi, the Ku Klux Klan and all the rest.
So the problem is that he does these things -- he does enough to make people who are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt the opportunity to say, hey, he`s actually trying to be reasonable here. People are not being fair to him. And I think that that`s the tension, that`s why you see this difference between the two constituencies. And the other danger for Republicans is that we could be at the beginning of a moral cascade. If you look at opinion on let`s say same-sex marriage, circa 2006, 2007 it was one thing. It became something very different, in part because people who are opposed to same-sex marriage they frankly weren`t always very disciplined in how they communicated. They weren`t always actually making their argument in the most persuasive possible way to people who are inclined to believe that they weren`t motivated by bigotry. So you could be something -- seeing something very similar here. If you believe that the confederate monuments are about heritage and what have you, you actually have to be a lot more careful than a lot of folks, the president included, have been.
DICKERSON: Jamelle, it seems like the president, in linking what happened in Charlottesville to the monuments, has actually created a challenge for anybody who might have the heritage. And I`ve got e- mails from them this week who said, you know, they do feel support for the history of Robert E. Lee, but they feel like now, because of this linkage, they can`t make the case. Is it possible, as Reihan says, for the president to say, to get on the other side of this?
JAMELLE BOUIE, CBS NEWS ANALYST: I think -- I really think last Saturday was decisive here. Last Saturday and this past Tuesday were such -- through violations of what people think presidents should do, were such -- so, frankly, shocking to a lot of people that I`m not sure it`s possible for him to recover back like, you know, regroup and make an argument here that actually makes the heritage case but doesn`t sort of apologize or bigots, doesn`t sort of gesture in that direction. I really think it`s too late there.
I want to add, though, on the politics of this, that it often seems like Trump is not losing any support from his voters. But a recent poll, a new Marist poll came out today that shows him basically in the mid-30s with his voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. And when asked if they were embarrassed by him, two-thirds of voters, registered voters in that state, said that they were.
And so I do think -- and this poll was taken over the last week, so I do think that we are seeing -- this is harming him politically in ways that may not yet trickle up to Republican elected officials, but definitely matter on the ground.
DICKERSON: Julie, another thing that happened this week, to Jamelle`s point about the -- how it may affect Republican elected officials, we did see Senator Corker, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, make a different kind of argument. This wasn`t just saying that the remarks about Charlottesville were off, but he said the president lacked the stability for the job. That did seem different.
JULIE PACE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: It was different. And I think it`s an open secret in Washington that Republicans, for months, have questioned the president`s temperament, they have questioned his competence, whether he can actually fulfill some of the basic functions of the job. What we saw this week is Corker expressing that publicly. And we, at AP, fanned out around the country. We talked to Republicans in place like Wisconsin, in South Carolina, Kentucky, a Republican stronghold, and over and over again we heard Republicans saying things publicly that they had only been saying privately.
I think it`s important to note, though, that those Republicans did not have an action plan. There is no sense of a way forward here in terms of separating from President Trump. And that`s -- that`s where the -- where this really gets down to, will Republicans do something in terms of action that puts them at odds with the president or are they still going to fall in line when we get into the tax reform debate in the fall.
DICKERSON: Well, and let`s go do that, Jeffrey. The -- I mean what are Republicans -- spoke out in various different ways about the president this week, but do they -- all kinds of -- other kinds of actions are being talked about. People are saying, you know, that certain White House advisors should leave. People are saying that Republicans should be more specific or stay constant in their attacks on the presidency. What`s realistic?
GOLDBERG: Right. Well, what`s realistic is that nothing really is going to change. I don`t think there`s any appetite on the part of the Republican Party to engage in, let`s say, an impeachment process. Certainly zero desire. A lot of people on the left, among Democrats, assume that this presidency can`t go on because of what they see as the absurd quality of it. But this moves toward more and more paralysis, I think.
2018 is decisive. And I think they`re sitting there, going to Julie`s point, they don`t have a plan. They pray every night that he doesn`t tweet the following morning. That`s their plan.
DICKERSON: And -- go ahead, Reihan.
SALAM: Well, the role of the president in our system is to be both the head of state and the head of government. There`s some presidents who have been great heads of state and not great heads of government. You know, you could put Ronald Reagan in that category. JFK is another. And there are others who were very good heads of government.
Donald Trump is not especially good at either one of those jobs right now. And that creates an opportunity potentially. If you`re in Congress, you literally have lost the ability-- the ability to legislate and be the leading institution in our government has atrophied. So, theoretically, this could be an opportunity for Congress to step up.
The problem is that the ability to do that, the resource they need to do that, intellectual and otherwise, are just not there. So, you know, maybe they can step up. Who knows? But that`s kind of a long shot we`re depending on to get an agenda moved forward.
DICKERSON: And, Jamelle, they would also need willing Democrats who -- who this week have given even more reason not to give the president`s party a win because they are both offended but they also see political (INAUDIBLE).
BOUIE: And it was infrastructure week, which is something Democrats could actually get behind.
DICKERSON: Right. Right.
BOUIE: The mere fact that working with Republicans would deliver a bipartisan win for the president and Trump kind of foregoes the -- forgoes that path for Democrats who might even be interested in some sort of infrastructure bill, but recognize they (INAUDIBLE). That harms their immediate short-term political prospects.
And I -- I don`t think necessarily that that`s a bad decision to make for them, in part because President Trump has shown himself to be so transgressive on issues like racism, has shown himself to not be looking towards a United American (ph) (INAUDIBLE) but focusing on very specific base and not offending that base, even as that -- those people are offending many other people. So Democrats choosing to say, we`re going to not work with Trump for a variety of moral and political reasons I think makes a lot of sense.
PACE: I do think, though, it`s important on the Democratic front, you know, a lot of Democratic activists that I talked to this were very energized, but a lot of Democrats I talked to who are working on 2018 House and Senate race were a little more nervous because they recognize that in 2016 they ran on an anti-Trump message, they focused on these questions of morality, in some cases they focused on these questions of race and they lost. And they really feel like the party needs to get an economic message, that this -- focusing on this is not going to be enough next year.
DICKERSON: Well, Reihan, Steve Bannon, as he departed the White House, made this an -- explicit, this argument that Julie just articulated, which is, as long -- he said, as long as the Democrats are talking about race, that`s great for us because they`re not talking about bread and butter economic issues.
SALAM: The argument for Trump on the right has always been, we are not looking to this man for moral leadership. Rather, we are looking to him because we see ourselves as being in a crisis situation and the alternative as being much worse. And, you know, will Trump be able to make that case? I wouldn`t rule it out.
GOLDBERG: The irony here, though, it`s interesting for Trump`s cultural supporters, is that -- is that the man has no noteworthy achievements. His most noteworthy achievement to date is accelerating the demise of confederate statues. He`s accelerating the end of southern romanticism. And so maybe -- maybe some people who support him because of those things will understand over time that he`s actually counterproductive.
BOUIE: And on the -- on the economic side, the fact that the president and the Republican Congress have yet to have any significant accomplishments on that score, I mean that come 2018, if you`re trying to make the argument that, you know, if you`re a Republican (INAUDIBLE) your tough against Democrats, hey, listen, you know, you agree -- you (INAUDIBLE) in race and we`re going to do something for you economically. That -- that hasn`t shaken out yet. And that, I think, actually will make an impact next year. It was during last year`s election, Trump, because he had no record, could make these claims about the kind of economic stuff he was going to do. But now that he has a record, he has to run on it and Republicans have to run on it in a clear (ph) disadvantage.
SALAM: The question -- the question is, do people pay attention to policy debates in so granular a fashion, or do they pay attention to headline numbers. What`s happening to job growth.
SALAM: Exactly. And I think -- even just unemployment and wage gains and what have you, you know, it`s -- we can separate the question of whether or not he`s -- he deserves the credit for it. I mean he`s barely been in office, right? But the thing is, that is a very powerful factor. If you look at 2010, you know, look, unemployment wend up. If you look between the next two years, when Barack Obama got elected, it -- unemployment levels went up. I mean it`s that straight forward.
DICKERSON: Quickly on Bannon. What`s your take?
PACE: Bannon has been in a pretty precarious position the last couple of weeks. I think he`s going to be continue to be a force from the outside. He is going to be calling out this White House if they`re not acting on the things that have been on that white board in his office.
DICKERSON: Thirty seconds. The president`s about to make a decision on Afghanistan. What should we look for?
GOLDBERG: What you look for is a little bit more of the same. He seems to be going down a conventional path of a modest troop increase, which is what the generals, his generals, are asking him to do. The Bannon right wanted a draw down.
Trump is now interested in Afghanistan because he`s been told that there`s a lot of mineral wealth under the ground, so he sees a return on the American investment in more troops. And I think what we`re going to see is more of the same and more pressure on Pakistan, which is actually a useful thing.
DICKERSON: OK. We`ve run out of time. Thanks to all of you, especially with the speed round at the end.
We`ll be back with some thoughts on speaking out.
DICKERSON: In the modern presidency, the chief executive is expected to respond to anxious national moments with words that stabilize the country. President Trump chose a different route. He did not give a stirring speech of unity or create a national gathering point around common ideals. He spent his passion on other things. This created an opportunity for others. For clarity about hate, there was a stampede. Four previous presidents spoke out against bigotry and racism. Five of the seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff did. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was succinct, good people, he said, don`t march with neo-Nazis.
There was also grace from Mark Heyer, the father of victim Heather Heyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK HEYER, FATHER OF HEATHER HEYER: People need to stop hate and they need to forgive each other, you know? And I include myself in that in forgiving the guy did that did this, OK? He don`t know no better.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Followed by Susan Bro, Heather Heyer`s mother, who, without speech writers or experience, found the words to testify to the meaning of her daughter`s life and build a monument to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN BRO, MOTHER OF HEATHER HEYER: And I want you to pay attention, find what`s wrong, don`t ignore it, don`t look the other way, you make a point to look at it and say to yourself, what can I do to make a difference, and that`s how you`re going to make my child`s death worthwhile.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Social media which can feel poisonous, lit up with clips of that speech and then later images of the candlelight vigil held at the University of Virginia.
It was a collective ground swell from the public to put itself back in touch with the national values of equality and humanity. In the absence of one voice, there was a chorus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD (singing): I`m going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DICKERSON: Back in a moment.
DICKERSON: Be sure to join -- to join your CBS station tomorrow for special coverage of the solar eclipse. CBS News will have a special report at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.
That`s it for us today, though. Thanks for watching FACE THE NATION. I`m John Dickerson.