In the White House Cabinet Room yesterday, a reporter asked Donald Trump whether he'd be willing to avoid the phrase "go back to your country." The president ignored the question and stuck to the latest Republican strategy: shift the debate from race to patriotism.
"I think it's terrible when people speak so badly about our country, when people speak so horribly." Trump replied. "I have a list of things here ... said by the congresswomen that is so bad, so horrible, that I almost don't want to read it. It's so bad."
In fairness, some comments are tough to overlook. When Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), for example, argued that the United States is a corrupt country that's "going to hell," she should've expected an angry backlash from those who prioritize patriotism.
Wait, did I say that was a quote from the Minnesota congresswoman? It was actually Donald Trump who said that -- just one month before he launched his campaign in 2015.
Part of the problem with his current gambit is that the president can't -- or at least, shouldn't -- pretend that his attacks against congresswomen of color are unrelated to race. It's far too late for that.
But the other part of the problem is that Trump is under the mistaken impression that a fight over patriotism leaves him on stronger ground. As this New York Times analysis helps make clear, it really doesn't.
America stinks. At least that's what Donald J. Trump seemed to be saying before becoming president.
He did not believe in "American exceptionalism," he said, because America was not exceptional. Instead, it was a "laughingstock" that was no better than Vladimir V. Putin's Russia. By promising to make America great again, he made it clear that he believed it was not great anymore.
The analysis added that Trump is "the president who trash-talked America more than any other in modern times."
The Washington Post ran a related piece this week, highlighting instances in which the Republican said the United States has "lost all sense of direction or purpose" and has become "stupid."
I recently pulled together some related examples, including one instance in which Trump whined about "how bad the United States is."