“I’d much rather be in Washington, Mich., than Washington, D.C,” said President Trump at a rally with supporters on Saturday. He certainly looked much more comfortable there than he would have been at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. And while “objective” journalists were fanning themselves over a comedian being mean to the White House press secretary, Trump was finding new lows more than 400 miles away. Back inside the Beltway, few seemed to notice.
Early during the 80-minute, apparently unscripted address, the president tried to blackmail a sitting U.S. senator. Angry at Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) for helping to derail the nomination of Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson to run the Department of Veterans Affairs, Trump said, “I know things about Tester that I could say, too. And if I said them, he’d never be elected again.” Trump is probably bluffing here, as when he warned that former FBI director James B. Comey “better hope that there are no ‘tapes'” of their conversations — an insinuation he later walked back. But regardless, even President Richard Nixon saved his blackmail threats for behind closed doors. For the president to do it in public is simply gross.
Then there was Trump’s bizarre spin on the news that the Russian lawyer who met with Trump officials in the summer of 2016 was a self-described “informant” for the Russian government:
I guarantee you, I’m tougher on Russia, nobody ever thought. In fact, have you heard about the lawyer? For a year, a woman lawyer, she was like, ‘Oh, I know nothing.’ Now all of a sudden she supposedly is involved with government. You know why? If she did that, because [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and the group said, ‘You know, this Trump is killing us. Why don’t you say that you’re involved with government so that we can go and make their life in the United States even more chaotic.’ Look at what’s happened. Look at how these politicians have fallen for this junk. Russian collusion — give me a break.
Just . . . what? The president’s defense of his campaign team is that the person they were meeting with is taking orders from Putin? While it’s not Trump’s first attempt to spin away the investigation, he is certainly hitting a new level of twisted nonsense.
And then there was the most telling moment of the evening: Trump asking, “Are there any Hispanics in the room?”
This is actually the second time Trump has tried this offensive line while touting low Hispanic unemployment. (He leaves out that most of the decline took place under President Barack Obama.) This time, the far whiter crowd heckled an entire ethnic group, and the president of the United States took that in stride. Yet not a single major Sunday show covered it.
Perhaps the president’s remarks generated so little coverage because much of it was par for the course — a rambling diatribe of non-sequiturs, half-truths, boasts and outright lies. But if media outlets have a day and a half to spend hand-wringing over a comedian’s roast, surely they can squeeze in some horror at the president’s rhetoric. Pretending his words are now normal will get the country nowhere.