As the new year heads into its third week, President Trump remains on a personal political losing streak. None of his opponents — not the Democrats, not the Never Trumpers, not any of the others — can damage him as badly as he hurts himself.
It was only a few days ago when he opened up an immigration negotiating session with bipartisan members of Congress to the cameras and was lauded in some quarters for doing so. He was described in some accounts as a president doing the real business of the country. That proved to be a one-off moment.
Before and after, the conversation around the presidency — the conversation at times forced by the president — involved topics that were alternately disquieting and shocking, from questions about his mental fitness and stability to serve as president (which he helped elevate with tweets) to the racist and vulgar comment he made about African and other nations in a private meeting.
Together they reinforce a portrait of a president who doesn’t appear to understand or appreciate the importance of the immigrant experience, often lacks clarity of his own views or the details of issues he is negotiating, and who projects an image that regularly flies in the face of standards long applied to those who occupy the Oval Office.
Trump has tried to wiggle away from asking why the United States must take immigrants from what he called “shithole countries.” Amid the firestorm set off by Post reporter Josh Dawsey’s account of the meeting, Trump acknowledged that he used some “tough” language during the meeting at the White House but said he never used the exact words attributed to him.
His claim was quickly undercut by others. Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the attendees, directly contradicted the president’s statement, saying the president used words that were “hate-filled, vile and racist.” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has been courted by the president, issued a statement of his own that implicitly backed up Durbin. Graham said he had conveyed his feelings about what was said at the meeting directly to the president at the time. Graham notably did not side with Trump’s version of events.