MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When Donald Trump was campaigning for president, he repeatedly promised that if elected he would "drain the swamp" in Washington, DC. Tuesday, October 16 is a regrettable example of how Trump is not only not "draining" the swamp, he is building his own deplorable swamp entirely centered around him.
Yesterday at a White House news conference, for instance, Trump asserted, "People have to be careful, because at some point I fight back.... it won't be pretty." What was Trump responding to? He was threatening Sen. John McCain for criticizing Trump's foreign policy earlier in the day at an awards ceremony, according to CNBC:
"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil," McCain said, after he was introduced by former Vice President Joe Biden while being honored with the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
McCain's use of the phrase "blood and soil" echoed a neo-Nazi slogan shouted during a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in August.
McCain, CNBC reported, went onto a more sweeping censure of Trump's foreign policy:
Without mentioning the president by name during his speech, McCain—who has served in Congress since 1982—laid into Trump's presidency and his politics. He targeted Trump's leadership on the world stage and his "America First" slogan.
"To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems," McCain said, "is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history."
One doesn't have to agree with McCain's conservative and militaristic foreign policy to find Trump's response objectionable. Not only was Trump insensitive to McCain having a fast-spreading brain cancer, he once again evoked the image touted by him and his press secretary that he is a "counter puncher." His response to McCain's Tuesday morning speech indicates once again that he is more interested in punching back than in civil governance and basic decency. Foreign policy doesn't appear to matter as much to Trump as his ability to make ugly, violent threats. It's as if he's going for the knockout punch in the middle of a swamp over which he presides as the ruling tyrant.
In fact, Trump's authoritarian streak has even gotten the likes of conventional politicians such as former Vice President Joe Biden riled up. At a Tuesday event, he compared Trump to Mussolini, and he assured the audience that he meant it:
Biden cited a moment earlier this year where Trump pushed aside the prime minister of Montenegro, which Biden characterized as being followed by Trump thrusting his chest and chin forward as he emerged in front of the European politician. Biden said the moment made him think of "Il Duce," a term for the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
"Not a joke," Biden said. "Not a joke. That's what people are thinking. That's what people are thinking. Violating the norms of personal conduct generates more anxiety and fear than any policy prescription that this President has enunciated."
That accusation from a former vice president should not be taken lightly.
In the same news conference that Trump threatened McCain as if he were in a barroom brawl, Trump flat-out lied to provide an excuse for not acknowledging the deaths of four US Army special operations commandos in Niger, who were killed earlier this month. It wasn't until he was asked a question at the media event that he even mentioned the deaths.
He never explained why he didn't remark upon the deaths earlier. Furthermore, he mischaracterized how previous presidents have communicated with Gold Star families. His overlooking of the military losses in Niger -- where most Americans didn't even know there are US soldiers – occurred during a period when Trump found plenty of time to denounce NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem. The Independent had this to say of Trump's response when cornered about his silence about the deceased soldiers:
His response was surpassing in its howling horrendousness. Trump, who as a candidate and as Commander-in-Chief has cast himself as the champion of the American military that, he says, Obama never was, stammered about having written letters to the parents of the victims that would be put in the post that evening. Well, or maybe the next morning. Already, you were thinking to yourself: no he hasn’t but now he’s been caught he’ll run inside and write them now.
Trump even managed to opportunistically use the combat death of his chief of staff's son to try and smear former President Obama, according to Time magazine:
President Trump doubled down on his assertion that his predecessor didn't call the families of fallen soldiers, citing the death of his chief of staff's son in Afghanistan.
Speaking with Fox News' Brian Kilmeade on Tuesday, Trump again suggested that President Obama didn't call military families, a claim that members of the Obama Administration had rebutted.
By all accounts, White House Chief of Staff Kelly, who along with his wife attended a Gold Star memorial lunch with the Obamas, prefers to keep the death of his son private, but when cornered, Trump knows no shame.
These developments in the Trump swamp all happened yesterday, and they represent even more proof that he is flooding DC with toxic, self-centered accusations and behavior. He has created a foul swamp within a foul swamp.