The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump’s racist tweets are one of the lowest moments of his presidency

President Trump speaks on the South Lawn of the White House on Monday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

PERHAPS PRESIDENT TRUMP was trying to distract his base from the fact that his promised immigration raids did not occur over the weekend. Maybe he failed to understand that he would only help the Democrats unite around the four congresswomen he attacked, until then a source of party division. Whatever his motivation, Mr. Trump hit one of the lowest moments of his presidency on Sunday, which is saying something, when he tweeted that “ ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

This reference to four left-wing members of Congress — widely understood to mean Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) — required an explanation and an apology. Instead, Mr. Trump doubled down on Monday, insisting, essentially, that his critics are the real racists.

If the president had a real press secretary who offered daily briefings, as was the long-established custom, now would be a time for clarification. A few of the questions that might be asked: Which governments was Mr. Trump criticizing? Is it the president’s view that foreign-born Americans should be judged based on their place of origin, rather than their actions? And does he believe that people of color, even if born in the United States, are not true Americans?

Because, in fact, three of the four members of Congress he targeted were not born abroad. The president’s impression that they were seems to stem from some combination of their skin color and foreign-sounding (to him) names, reflecting his casual, shallow, ignorant, toxic racism.

Follow Editorial Board's opinionsFollow

But even if they were all foreign-born — so what? Just as many, if not most, Americans would be horrified to be blamed for their current president and his actions — his family separations, admiration for dictators and so on — individuals hailing from other countries are individuals who deserve to be judged on the content of their character. Once they are citizens, they are citizens, indistinguishable from those born into citizenship. In its dehumanizing essence, this episode recalls Mr. Trump’s insistence that the United States should attract more immigrants from Norway than “shithole” countries in Latin America and Africa.

Monday was sentencing day on state charges for the neo-Nazi who rammed his car into a group of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, killing Heather Heyer a reminder of another low moment in Mr. Trump’s presidency. But his Sunday tweets are among the most despicable comments from any president in recent memory — with the only competition coming from other comments by Mr. Trump . Sadly, the poison by now is no more surprising than the cowardly complicity of the Republican Party.

Columnist Michael Gerson says the president is an anti-Muslim bigot who applies religious freedom only to those Trump favors, which counts out Rep. Ilhan Omar. (Video: Joshua Carroll, Danielle Kunitz/The Washington Post)

Read more:

Henry Olsen: Yes, Trump’s tweets are offensive. But there’s one big reason Republicans still stand by him.

Max Boot: I may not agree with AOC’s squad, but they are better Americans than Trump

Greg Sargent: Trump just denied his attacks are racist. He only confirmed the worst.

Erik Wemple: You happy now, Tucker Carlson?

Alexandra Petri: Why I have yet to denounce the president’s racist remarks