I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Donald Trump is the worst person ever to live in the White House. He proved it again on Monday with the whole Navajo code talkers-Pocahontas mishigas. It’s not the worst thing he’s said since becoming president* but it’s the perfect distillation of who he is. It’s the context that makes this uniquely awful.
Asterisk-free presidents love ceremonial occasions where they act as head of state. It’s a chance for them to soar above controversy and conflict. The act of appearing non-political benefits them politically. If we had the British system of government, I would never have wanted Ronald Reagan as prime minister but he would have made a helluva constitutional monarch. Nobody did ceremonial occasions as well as the man who played the Gipper. It was one reason for the personal popularity that saw him through the ups and downs of his presidency.
Barack Obama was the second best American head of state of my lifetime. He loved mingling with non-politicians from celebrities to the hoi polloi. Some of the most memorable moments at the Obama White House involved the president interacting with children. Kids love the man, which should have led to his political opponents saying: I don’t like his policies but he’s a helluva nice guy. He was the first president of color so that didn’t happen. Instead, they posted pictures of him as a witch doctor on social media. We all know who those creeps voted for.
The White House ceremony honoring the Navajo code talkers was the perfect chance to act presidential. One might even call it a no-brainer; unfortunately, this president* is a no-brainer himself so he blew it by attacking a political opponent. If he had honored the code talkers for their grit, wit, and valor, the ceremony would have been about them. Instead, he made it about him by saying this:
“I just want to thank you because you’re very, very special people,” Trump said to the group. “You were here long before any of us were here — although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas. But you know what? I like you. Because you are special.”
The tone is, of course, patronizing. He addressed these elderly veterans as if they were simple-minded fools. I guess the Insult Comedian was projecting again.
Context is everything. This was not an occasion to bring one’s political vendettas to the table, er, podium. Calling Senator/Professor Warren Pocahontas is, in this context, a racist slur as well as typically mean-spirited. Trump’s apologists denied it was a racist insult but the best response came in this statement from John Norwood of the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes:
There are some who ignored the response from Indian Country and defended Mr. Trump, both then and now, with the excuse that the name “Pocahontas” is not a racial slur. When honorably referencing the actual historic figure, this indeed is true. However, the name becomes a derogatory racial reference when used as an insult. American Indian names, whether they be historic or contemporary, are not meant to be used as insults. To do so is to reduce them to racial slurs.
There are many in Indian Country who have given various perspectives on Senator Warren’s claim of an American Indian ancestor. There are many non-tribal Americans who make similar claims of indigenous ancestry. Sometimes it is a matter of documented genealogical fact and sometimes it’s merely a matter of family lore. Such private claims, when not used to claim the legal protections or benefits of the citizens of American Indian Nations, cause little or no harm to tribal people. However, degrading an American Indian name or historic tribal reference by using it as an insult is making a racial slur, whether knowingly or unknowingly. The right to determine if it is a slur belongs to those who have been insulted, not the one who made the insult.
I suspect that Pocahontas is the only name of a Native American female that Trump knows. It has lodged in that pea-brain of his as the perfect way to insult Professor/Senator Warren. It is more revealing of Trump’s nature than anything else: he’s a bully and a coward but we already knew that. As his own secretary of state said, “He’s a fucking moron.”
I was also struck by the staging of the event. The podium was placed in front of a portrait of General/President Andrew Jackson who is well-known for his extreme animus against Native peoples. It’s as if the Tuskegee airmen were honored in front of a portrait of John C. Calhoun. This may well be one of the few Trump flaps that was premeditated as a way to pander to the worst of the MAGA maggots out there. The soundbite sounded written, which means it could be the handiwork of Stephen Miller.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ response to this mess was to defend her president* and lie like a poorly woven rug. She may have gone to the loom once too often as it were. This tweet from a certain internet smart ass sums it up rather well:
The White House is the people’s house. That’s why we call sitting presidents the Current Occupant. It’s not just a place for those who voted for the Current Occupant, it’s a place where *all* Americans should feel welcome regardless of their politics. Hospitality is almost sacred in the Greek community so I was raised to treat my guests like they’re honorees at a ceremonial occasion. I’ve wanted to throw people out of my house but have never done so. I do, however, want to throw Trump and his tacky crew out of the people’s house.
I originally planned to call this post That’s Why I Call Him The Insult Comedian hence the meme. I woke up this morning thinking of the book The Ugly American hence the final title. Being an Ugly American should be a “bad thing” as the Insult Comedian would surely interject at this point. It was fashionable during the first Bush-Cheney term but began to slowly fade after Rummy was shitcanned. Ugliness is back in vogue and it’s being whipped up in what Mencken called the “sahara of the bozart” and elsewhere in the boondocks by the Ugliest American of all. The barbarians are not at the gate, they’re in the White House.