President Trump has come under fire for portraying Confederate icon Robert E. Lee in a positive light during his latest campaign-style rally in Lebanon, Ohio on Friday, October 12.
In his push to continue driving a wave of support for Republicans for the midterm elections in November, the President kicked off his speech before a packed Warren County Fairgrounds crowd by extolling his administration’s most recent successes. He also took the time to shore up a bit of home state pride on what the New York Times notes to have once been the site of an old rural barn, which organizers spruced up with the blue-collar symbolism of Caterpillar excavators.
Unsurprisingly, Trump made sure to take a victory lap with allusions to a bustling economy, Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s promotion to the Supreme Court bench, the securing of pastor Andrew Brunson’s release from a Turkish prison, with the Washington Post quoting him as claiming that this was a “really historic week for America.” However, by the end of the hour-long address, supporters in the crowd were being wooed by Trump’s charismatic recounting of Ohio history.
In the vein of his “Make America Great Again” mantra, Trump name-dropped everyone from President William McKinley to Neil Armstrong and the Wright Brothers. Along the way, he’d invoke the legacy of Ulysses S. Grant by delving into the story of why President Abraham Lincoln appointed the Civil War hero to head the army of the Potomac. The President noted how Lincoln entrusted a somewhat uncouth Grant to take on Robert E. Lee and his Confederate soldiers – more than he trusted the line of West Point graduates who had assumed leadership before him – because he knew he’d get the job done. Only, as Politico notes, he didn’t shy from acknowledging the Confederate Lee as “great” in the process.
WATCH: President Trump says "Robert E. Lee was a great general" during Ohio rally, calling the Confederate leader "incredible." pic.twitter.com/HhsLI1Mk05
— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 13, 2018
“So Robert E. Lee was a great general and Abraham Lincoln developed a phobia; he couldn’t beat Robert E. Lee. He was going crazy […] but Robert E. Lee was winning battle after battle after battle and Abraham Lincoln came home and he said ‘I can’t beat Robert E. Lee,” said Trump.
Due to skepticism over remarks that he’s made and far-right figures he’s courted in the past, President Trump has toed a slippery slope whenever approaching the topic of the Confederacy. Up until this point, President Trump hadn’t gone as far as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who, last year, openly declared that Lee was an “honorable man”. Still, Trump has certainly extolled Lee and his legacy.
Many will recall similar sentiments just days after the tragic events of 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he objected to the removal of monuments honoring Lee.
“Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!”