So, I set out to tackle a depressing task: ranking the five lowest points of the Trump presidency. These are specific moments — events or statements — not policies or patterns of behavior. They all occurred during his presidency, not the campaign (which rules out the “Access Hollywood” tape, mocking a disabled reporter, attacking a Gold Star family, calling to ban all Muslims from entering the country or labeling Mexican immigrants as rapists). There are nonetheless dozens of contenders that would define and disgrace past presidents — but don’t even register with Trump. Here’s my best shot at ranking the five lowest points of Trump’s time in office.
5. “Go back” to where you came from
Trump told minority congresswomen to go back to where they came from. Where they came from, with one exception, was America: Cincinnati, the Bronx and Detroit. But Trump revived one of the most well-worn racist statements in American history. There were no more winks or dog whistles. It was indefensible racism. It even prompted Republican holdouts who have, despite overwhelming evidence, resisted labeling Trump as a bigot, to finally conclude that he is a racist president.
4. Trump “fell in love” with Kim Jong Un
Trump’s absurd, over-the-top praise for dictators lurched into self-parody when he claimed that he “fell in love” with North Korea’s totalitarian dictator, Kim Jong Un, in September 2018. Kim’s regime runs a vast network of concentration camps, conducts campaigns of mass rape and reportedly executes people with antiaircraft guns for sport. The juxtaposition with Trump’s consistent ally-bashing behavior left no room for misinterpretation about Trump’s values, and how at odds they are with America’s founding principles.
3. Implying that Puerto Ricans were lazy as an estimated 2,975 Americans died
In the week after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, leaving millions without electricity or tap water, Trump tweeted 95 times. Fifteen tweets attacked black National Football League players. Just one was about Puerto Rico, in which Trump chastised the island for its “massive debt.” Then, on Sept. 30, while Puerto Ricans were dying and pleading for additional federal help, Trump responded by implying that they were lazy and wanted “everything to be done for them.” A later study showed that a significant number of the deaths were avoidable and came not from the storm but from an inadequate government response. Trump’s paper towels weren’t enough, it turned out.
2. The “very fine people” in Charlottesville
On Aug. 12, 2017, a man murdered Heather Heyer with his car. He was a neo-Nazi. She was protesting neo-Nazis. Three days later, Trump drew a false equivalence between the groups, insisting that there were “very fine people on both sides.” One of those sides was marching alongside Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The other was protesting those hate groups. Trump tried to conflate the two, and in so doing, stained his presidency forever.
1. Implementing child separation — and lying about it
From April to June 2018, the Trump administration implemented a “zero tolerance” policy at the southern border that deliberately separated children and babies — some as young as 4 months old — from their parents. In the span of six weeks, 1,995 kids were torn away from their parents. Some will likely never be reunited. On June 16, 2018, Trump lied about the policy, saying it was “forced” by Democrats. Once his lie was exposed, on Oct. 13, 2018, Trump explicitly advocated his barbaric policy as a deterrent. Those low points sparked international outrage.
There are countless honorable mentions that nearly made the cut. Trump helped cover up Saudi Arabia’s murder of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and called the press the “enemy of the people” even after one of his supporters sent pipe bombs to journalists. He kowtowed to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki and fired FBI Director James B. Comey because of the Russia investigation. Trump mocked Christine Blasey Ford and dismissed E. Jean Carroll’s credible rape accusation by saying she wasn’t his "type.” He lied about illegal hush-money payments to his alleged mistress while pardoning a former sheriff who abused the law. And Trump endorsed violence against reporters when he praised a congressman as “my guy” because he assaulted a journalist.
It’s a horrifying list. But perhaps most horrifying is that all those low points happened in the first 2½ years of his presidency. There may yet be much more to come.
If you think I missed some depressingly awful low points or that my ranking was completely off base, please comment with your own list of five below.