Jeh Johnson: Confederate Statues Are 'Neo-Nazi Rallying Points'

Martha Raddatz filled in on ABC's "This Week" charged with the arduous task of eliciting some semblance of logic from Jerry Falwell Junior's rationalizing of Trump's deplorable defense of White Nationalists, KKK members and Neo-Nazis.

The religious right fundamentalists see Donald Trump as their champion, someone who will defend their version of a religion that condones, racism and misogyny. Falwell could not fathom why many of LIberty University students are voluntarily returning their meaningless diplomas. One student remarked that 'by defending the president's comments, Jerry Falwell Junior is making himself, and it seems to me, the university he represents, complicit.' In other words, you hang with White Supremacists, you are probably okay with their twisted, hateful worldview. Falwell pretends to deny this reality.

Just to dig the knife of nostalgia of those distant memories of a competent administration in a little deeper, Raddatz interviewed former Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson to remind us of the days when competent, pro-government, success-driven people used to hold cabinet positions. His assessment of the removal of these inappropriate, hurtful and indefensible monuments was excellent.

JOHNSON: And it's in that vein that I'd like to respond here, both as former secretary of Homeland Security and as an African-American.

'President' Trump said this week that Jefferson and Washington were slave owners, where does it stop?

Where does it end?

Johnson admits he has relatives with the surname Washington and he'd never change that for anything, as slavery was an unfortunate characteristic of their era, and these men had a more noble objective of UNITING a country and defending these United States from enemies, domestic and foreign. He continues:

What alarms so many of us, from a security perspective, is that so many of the statues, the Confederate monuments, are now, modern-day, becoming symbols and rallying points for white nationalism, for neo-Nazis, for the KKK. And this is most alarming. We fought a world war against Nazism. The KKK rained terror on African-Americans for generations.


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And so a number of Americans, rightly, Republican and Democrat, are very concerned and very alarmed. And I salute those in cities and states who are taking down a lot of these monuments for reasons of public safety and security.

And that's not a matter of political correctness. That's a matter of public safety and homeland security and doing what's right.

RADDATZ: I think President Trump, the administration, would talk about that as a slippery slope. And we're here in Washington, DC. I'm in Washington, DC. Virginia, there's Jefferson Davis Highway. There's Washington-Lee High School.

Where should that stop?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, that's a good question. And I think that's a judgment that has to be made more at the local level. And Mitch Landrieu, mayor of New Orleans, two months ago, gave a very thoughtful speech on this.

And so communities have to make judgments about this. A lot of these monuments are being moved to places of history, but my concern, as the former secretary of Homeland Security, is we see white nationalists now, neo-Nazis, using these symbols as rallying points, modern-day....

RADDATZ: And I want to go back to 'President' Trump's comments and what Mr. Falwell said.

Is the media overreacting to this?

Did the president just speak his mind?

Did he make it clear, in your mind?

JOHNSON: Well, I don't think the media is overreacting. The media rightly covers everything the president says. And what the president doesn't seem to grasp here is that he -- our history is no doubt delicate, it's complicated, and you have to understand history to be president.

I tell public audiences, those who know history learn from it. Those who don't know the mistakes of history are bound to repeat it. And so I'm very concern that this president is -- frankly dividing us when he should be bringing us together. That's one of the jobs of the president of the the United States. It's part of the job description to bring people together, particularly in times like this of high anxiety. High stress. And I would encourage him, through his words, to try to do that, not just speak to his base, but to speak to all of America. He is the president for all of us in this country.

Raddatz addresses the fallacy that Trump espouses, that President Obama was a divisive figure. Johnson puts that to rest easily. She then asks his opinion on the revolving door that characterizes Trump's most trusted White House staff.

JOHNSON: Throughout his entire public career, Barack Obama has talked about bringing people together. And I know he dedicated much of his presidency to doing that. He talked to all American people, particularly in times like this. So I think that is a very unfair suggestion. His entire career was devoted to bringing people together.

RADDATZ: I want to turn now to what is going on in the White House and some of the turmoil in the White House. Steve Bannon leaving the White House this week. What do you think that says with Bannon leaving and we've got behind -- put on your Pentagon hat, if you will, from years ago? What do you think it says he surrounded himself with generals and they remain, and what do you expect going forward?

JOHNSON: ...There's been a lot of talk this week about people resigning from the White House, whether people should resign from the White House. We saw a number of his advisers resign from advisory councils.

Frankly, if John Kelly, or my friend Jim Mattis, came to me and said I'm thinking about resigning from this White House, I'd say absolutely not. You have to stay.

As John reportedly said, it's country first. And we need people like John Kelly, Jim Mattis, H.R. McMaster to right the ship.

Johnson knows that these statues are akin to Germany allowing commemoration reminders of Goebels, or Hitler, and we must rely on our Generals in the Cabinet to try to inform the guy in charge. He doesn't understand that millions of Americans experience racial inequality every day, and do not want more reminders of America's most shameful aspect of our history.

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