After some prodding, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach weighed in Wednesday on the racial violence in Charlottesville, Va.
He called racism and white supremacist views “reprehensible.”
Then he said this: “I did not comment on the horrific attack in Charlottesville because I am running for governor of Kansas, not governor of Virginia.”
The statement was astonishing. Surely Kobach knows violent bigotry isn’t a problem just in Virginia.
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Has he already forgotten the 2017 murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla in Olathe? Kuchibhotla’s alleged assailant reportedly told the victim to “get out of my country” before firing.
Maybe Kobach has forgotten the 2014 shootings in south Overland Park. Glenn Miller Jr., a well-known and self-described racist and anti-Semite, shot three people to death, two of them outside the Jewish Community Center. Miller now sits on death row.
We could find no contemporary statements from Kobach in connection with either tragedy, both of which occurred in Kansas.
On Thursday, Kobach told us he informally commented on the Overland Park killings when asked about them on a radio show. But he said he didn’t comment further on the Kansas incidents because he wasn’t a candidate for governor at the time.
“At what point is it incumbent on you to say something?” he asked. “Who has to speak, and at what time? … At what point is your viewpoint relevant?”
The correct answer is immediately, when racist violence happens. Not days, or months, or years later. And not only when you’re seeking higher office.
Charlottesville is not a political issue. It is a moral issue, and it is time for choosing.
There is no such thing as a morally acceptable Nazi or a benign white supremacist. Those who would violently divide Americans by race or faith must be denounced in the strongest possible terms, repeatedly, without fear or partisan calculation.
To his disgrace, President Donald Trump has failed to do so. He has tried to straddle this moral divide by blaming “many sides” for the violence. He is wrong, and all Americans have a responsibility to tell him so, in terms that are clear and unmistakable.
That’s especially true for our public servants. At a town hall meeting Thursday, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill told an audience that her job isn’t to fight the president.
But McCaskill’s job — everyone’s job — is to challenge any president who condones morally repugnant behavior. This is just such a circumstance.
And it’s especially important for the president’s allies, including Kobach, to step forward. Denouncing evil is relatively easy on one side of the divide. On the other, Americans of good faith must hold the president to account regardless of party or preference.
(Criticizing the president does not include wishing for his physical harm. Missouri state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal posted a personal Facebook rant Thursday hoping for Trump’s assassination, a vile, deplorable statement that reveals an appalling lack of judgment or common sense.)
On Wednesday, Kobach said “it goes without saying” that racism is unacceptable. In America today, that cannot go “without saying.” Sadly, all of us must still say it, as often and as forcefully as possible.