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October 26, 2012

Musician Meatloaf performs during a campaign rally for Mitt Romney at Defiance High School in Defiance, Ohio on Oct. 25. As the only state to have sided with the winner in all of the last 12 presidential elections, Ohio is pivotal for both candidates. And Meatloaf — who knows? — could help. The Week Staff

10:36 a.m. ET

With the effort to remove Confederate monuments back on the national stage after violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, historian Erin Blakemore took to Twitter to discuss the Jefferson Davis Highway, an effort by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) to "memorialize their version of history" in the 1910s and 1920s. While the grand vision of a cross-country superhighway was never realized, the highway was constructed in bits and pieces, leading to many so-called Jefferson Davis Highways that have lasted into the 21st Century.

(University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee/Library of Congress)

"Since there was no federal highway system [in the early 1900s], states often relied on public support — sometimes from interest groups — for road [funding]," Blakemore explains. "And the Lincoln Highway — named after the great emancipator — infuriated members of the UDC. They decided to build a Southern analog. Their vision was just as grand. It would stretch from Arlington, Virginia, to San Diego, California, and spread the Lost Cause vision of the South."

Blakemore added: "Imagine how tempting it would have been for a county, city, or state to be presented with ample funding for a highway with the only caveat being that it was named after the man who symbolized the Confederacy and the UDC's vision of heroic white supremacy."

By the 1920s, the government had started numbering highways and it "was not enthused" by the idea of naming one after Jefferson Davis. "But states could do whatever they wanted!" Blakemore writes. "So highways named after Jefferson Davis — and the markers that went along with them — remained. This is how you got memorials to the Confederacy in surprising places like San Diego."

Markers that remain today have become targets after Charlottesville. One monument in Arizona was covered in what was likely tar on Thursday. Rep. Reginald Bolding (D-Ariz.) said that while he is working to change the highway's name, "vandalizing these monuments is not productive," 12 News reports.

Read Blakemore's full thread below. Jeva Lange

9:47 a.m. ET

Mitt Romney issued a stirring plea on Facebook on Friday for President Trump to apologize over his comments earlier this week that apparently equivocated white supremacist groups in Charlottesville, Virginia, with counter-protesters. "Whether [Trump] intended to or not, what he communicated caused racists to rejoice, minorities to weep, and the vast heart of America to mourn," Romney wrote.

Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, added gravely that "our allies around the world are stunned and our enemies celebrate; America's ability to help secure a peaceful and prosperous world is diminished."

The potential consequences are severe in the extreme. Accordingly, the president must take remedial action in the extreme. He should address the American people, acknowledge that he was wrong, apologize. State forcefully and unequivocally that racists are 100 percent to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville. Testify that there is no conceivable comparison or moral equivalency between the Nazis — who brutally murdered millions of Jews and who hundreds of thousands of Americans gave their lives to defeat — and the counter-protesters who were outraged to see fools parading the Nazi flag, Nazi armband, and Nazi salute. And once and for all, he must definitively repudiate the support of David Duke and his ilk and call for every American to banish racists and haters from any and every association. [Mitt Romney, via Facebook]

Many other Republicans have spoken up about Trump's approach to the Charlottesville violence. On Thursday, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (R) said: "We're at a point where there needs to be radical changes that take place at the White House itself."

Read Mitt Romney's full comments on Facebook. Jeva Lange

9:32 a.m. ET

Could President Trump be considering a pardon for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange? That is the latest rumor after California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) met with Assange earlier this week to discuss "what might be necessary to get him out" of asylum, The Daily Caller reports.

The rumors reignited Friday morning when an account that tracks who the Trump family follows shared that Donald Trump Jr. followed Assange:

Assange faces sexual assault charges in Sweden and if he returned there, he could be deported to the U.S. where he could face a potential death penalty for leaking documents with Edward Snowden. To avoid the charges, Assange has lived in the Ecuadorian embassy since 2012.

In his interview, Rohrabacher suggested that Assange might be pardoned in exchange for information about the Democratic National Committee email leak last year. "[Assange] has information that will be of dramatic importance to the United States and the people of our country as well as to our government," Rohrabacher told The Daily Caller. "Thus if he comes up with that, you know he's going to expect something in return. He can't even leave the embassy to get out to Washington to talk to anybody if he doesn't have a pardon."

Assange notably has argued that Russia was not involved in the DNC hack, contrary to reports by U.S. intelligence. Rohrabacher has been criticized for being too soft on Russia.

Rohrabacher added, "I can't remember if I have spoken to anybody in the White House about this," but "there has already been some indication that the president will be very anxious to hear what I have to say if that is the determination that I make." Read the full interview at The Daily Caller. Jeva Lange

8:15 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

As The Beatles once said, baby you can drive my car — if you have my toothbrush, toothpaste, gum, hand sanitizer, stapler, staple remover, business cards, napkins, and cough drops on hand at all times. Those are just some of the items chauffeurs of Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) are required to never be without, a leaked eight-page instruction manual obtained by Politico shows.

The manual also demands Rokita's drivers avoid "unnecessary conversation" with the lawmaker and "avoid sudden acceleration or braking." Drivers are also expected to serve as a human shield to block photographers from taking embarrassing pictures of Rokita, and to bring him a cup of black coffee and empty his trashcan whenever they pick him up at home, Politico adds.

Drivers are additionally supposed to collect information from "as many people as possible" at Rokita's events while also taking pictures for social media and taking note of "all interactions." Drivers are also to make sure Rokita has a drink at all times, but never let him be photographed with a drink.

Rokita is hoping to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) for his Senate seat next year, but he'll first have to beat fellow Republican Rep. Luke Messer (R-Ind.) in the primary. Rokita's staff blames Messer for leaking the high-maintenance memo.

Still, Rokita's campaign spokesman, Tim Edson, argued in defense of the eight-page memo: "There is nothing embarrassing about always being prepared," he said. Read the full memo at Politico. Jeva Lange

7:38 a.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Four in 10 Americans believe that "both sides" were equally responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend, indicating that President Trump's comments at a combative press conference earlier this week resonated with more of the public than expected. Another 46 percent of Americans believe that far-right groups were most responsible for the violence, the SurveyMonkey poll found, whereas just 9 percent believe counter-protesters are most to blame.

Trump's choice to lay blame on "both sides" was heavily criticized by the media. "He is right that there are two sides: the vestigial tail of the Confederacy and the United States of America; the white supremacists and their targets; the president and the patriots," wrote Fast Company. Former Vice President Joe Biden tweeted, "There is only one side."

The SurveyMonkey poll found the majority of Republicans believe both sides are "equally" responsible for the violence in Charlottesville, while 66 percent of Democrats believe far-right groups get the biggest cut of the blame. Among independents, 51 percent think far-right groups are most responsible, followed by 38 percent who think both sides share the blame. The poll reached 2,181 respondents on Thursday online.

"These findings reflect the fact that, because of the nation's partisan divide and fractured media, we no longer agree on basic facts," writes Axios. "That makes civil debate impossible."

So where did the "both sides" thinking originate? The Week's Ryan Cooper goes back to the Civil War in his investigation, and explores the origins of the phrase "alt-left" here. Jeva Lange

6:29 a.m. ET

President Trump "has had a lot of problems with history this week, mainly how he'll be remembered by it," Stephen Colbert said on Thursday's Late Show, "but also with defending the Confederacy." Colbert took special issue with Trump's argument, on Twitter and at a press conference, that because George Washington owned slaves, the decision to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee will lead America down a slippery, heritage-erasing slope to removing statues of Washington and fellow slave owner Thomas Jefferson.

"Comparing Robert E. Lee to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson is just willful dumminess," Colbert said, coining a word. "Washington and Jefferson have monuments not because of the slaves but because they fought the British, founded the country, and wrote the Declaration of Independence. We have statues of Robert E. Lee because he chose to secede and fight for slavery." Taking down Confederate statues "isn't about denying that slavery happened, it's about not celebrating the people who fought to keep it going," he said. "That's why we remember the Titanic but don't erect a monument to the iceberg."

On Saturday Night Live's Thursday night "Weekend Update," Michael Che invited George Washington, as played by Jimmy Fallon, on to defend himself. "About this Robert E. Lee thing, I'm nothing like that guy," Fallon's Washington said. "I created this country, he tried to tear it apart. I rebelled against England, he rebelled against America. Him bad, me the founding father, the original dad — Who's your daddy? Me!" He tried to leave, but Che stopped him, reminding him that he (Washington) did own slaves. Fallon said Jefferson was worse, prompting Jefferson (Seth Meyers) to come out and accuse him of throwing him "under the carriage."

After some playful banter, the two founding fathers looked solemnly into the camera, music playing. "In the end, Michael, we don't need statues to commemorate us," said Fallon. Meyers' Jefferson concurred: "Our legacy is the country that we risked our lives to create." "That is why this great nation has given us an honor greater than any statue," Fallon said: "a three-day weekend in February during which all Americans get 50 percent off all mattresses."

For a more serious discussion, CBS News political director John Dickerson gave Colbert his historical opinion in the last minute of his Late Show interview. Watch below. Peter Weber

5:28 a.m. ET
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

On Thursday, the Cleveland Clinic, the American Cancer Society, and the American Friends of Magen David Adom — a charity that raises money for Israel's equivalent of the Red Cross — all canceled major charity events at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida. The American Cancer Society, which has held galas at the club since at least 2009, cited its "values and commitment to diversity," The Washington Post reports, while the Cleveland Clinic told the Post "there were a variety of factors" behind its decision, adding, "We're not elaborating." Similarly, AFMDA said it canceled its 2018 charity ball — one of the biggest events at Mar-a-Lago last season — "after careful deliberation."

These cancelations, after Trump appeared to defend white supremacists, will certainly affect Mar-a-Lago's bottom line, the Post reports, noting that similar events brought in fees ranging from $100,000 to $275,000 apiece. The executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, Laurel Baker, said she "can't help but think there will be more fallout" for Trump's "morally reprehensible" club, which is a member of her organization. "The glitter, the shine has gone from the club," she said, adding: "The club is a member of the chamber. But right is right." There are still 13 big-ticket galas scheduled for Mar-a-Lago, notes the Post's David Fahrenthold, but at least seven major charities that typically hold events at Mar-a-Lago decided in recent months to look elsewhere, avoiding the need to cancel their galas. Peter Weber

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