President Trump during a news conference with Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg. (Jim Watson/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
Columnist

“President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers. Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway.” — The Washington Post

I defy anyone to stand up with a straight face and say they are surprised by Trump’s remark. But as usual, Congress is trying. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said, “I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President’s comments.”

What could the explanation be?

The first speech out of Trump’s mouth after he descended the escalator: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

He just forgot the words he was allowed to use to say this sort of thing. He keeps forgetting.

This is only a surprise in the sense that going to the bathroom and finding that someone has not flushed the toilet is a surprise. You know it isn’t supposed to happen, but it’s exactly the kind of thing you would expect to find there. It is a surprise in the sense that usually this part is bleeped. It is a surprise in the sense that seeing the thing that is usually blurred or covered with a black bar is a surprise, which is to say, not. He forgot to leave the fig leaf on; that is all. We are shocked, shocked to find anything that might HINT at racism in this establishment, whose slogan is Let’s Bring Back The 1950s And Also We Have Serious Complaints About Colin Kaepernick!

I guess the shock is that usually he uses a smaller whistle. But he doesn’t, not really. So it’s just the word, then.

You are supposed to cloak these kind of sentiments, you see. You are supposed to say hand-ups not hand-outs and just be wistful about the 1950s for no particular reason. You are supposed to say what a nice sort of lady Taylor Swift is, not like these other sorts of ladies. You are supposed to express a vague misty warmth about the past, before all this “political correctness.” You do not remember most of what happened in the past, of course. Abraham Lincoln did something that was important to do, and especially at that time. Andrew Jackson probably could have prevented the Civil War. What was the Civil War about again? Probably nothing. Probably there were good people on both sides.

No, I’m sorry. Maybe Trump just meant that he wants to make America a nicer place to live than Norway, and the thought got a little tangled on something on the way to his mouth. All he is saying is that he wants to give everyone health care, and, uh, socialism? This is certainly a roundabout way of saying this, but, you know, benefit of the doubt.

There are places in America where you literally cannot drink the water, and Puerto Rico is still suffering in the wake of the hurricane, so those would of course need to be fixed, before we could make a pitch that we were a niftier destination than somewhere else, In Norway, I’m told, everyone is issued a flying car, no one is permitted to die or suffer pain, and, I think, you all get the rights to oil and a personal fjord? I am not clear on the exact details of it, but I know that it sounds very good except for the food. In fact, I wonder why my ancestors left. Of course, eventually everything will be destroyed in Ragnarok, but that is probably going to happen here anyway.

To compete, we will have to increase everyone’s standard of living to an unthinkable level. Everyone will have to be issued a cat who actually loves them, they will have to fix the weather somehow, and no more celebrities will be allowed to let us down. And, of course, we will all have health care and multiple fjords and the food is already better. And the president will only say things that do not embarrass us —

No, this cannot be what he meant.

Besides from the beginning, Trump seems to have been taking a different tack when it came to immigration. Between the travel bans and the escalator remarks and the press conferences where Stephen Miller shouted that the poem by Emma Lazarus was added to the Statue of Liberty later and the — well, most things, come to think of it! Maybe that is his tactic. He is trying to make America worse so that nobody will want to come, not from Norway, not from anywhere. Could that be it?

No, only someone who had been paying even a minimal amount of attention to anything Trump said at any time would think Trump might possibly have some racist ideas. You are not just supposed to get out there and say the word “shithole.” You must be vague. Heritage. Statues. We don’t write symphonies anymore. You are supposed to dance around these words. There is a subtlety and art to all this. You cannot just be overt about it.

It is not that people disagree, of course. It is just in poor taste, like leaving the lid of the sewer off, or typing out “shithole” instead of the tasteful s——-. What could those dashes possibly be? It could be any word at all.

Read more:

Joe Scarborough: There is nothing ‘professional’ about this president

Eugene Robinson: Trump has no idea what he thinks (except about those ‘shithole’ countries)

Jennifer Rubin: Republicans: More reasons to be scared about the midterms

Joel Dreyfuss: No, President Trump, we Haitians don’t all have AIDS

Karen Attiah: The dark side of Trump’s focus on immigration and ‘merit’