NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a news cenference at Trump Tower on January 11, 2017 in New York City. This is Trump's...
Spencer Platt

The ‘most anti-American statement ever made’ by a U.S. president

It’s still hard to believe Donald Trump went there. After talking about his respect for Russia’s Vladimir Putin, the American president was told, “Putin’s a killer,” Trump responded, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

In the span of just a few seconds, Trump drew a moral equivalence between the United States and Putin’s Russia, abandoned any sense of us having moral authority, and suggested violence may be a legitimate governing tool. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said of the president’s comments, “This is as scary as it gets.”

MSNBC Live, 2/6/17, 10:38 AM ET

Retired general: Trump confused American values

Retired general Barry McCaffrey joins NBC’s Hallie Jackson to discuss Trump’s “respect” for Russian President Vladimir Putin and how Vice President Mike Pence addressed the controversial remarks.
But it wasn’t just Democrats who noticed. Former Gen. Barry McCaffrey appeared on MSNBC and said of Trump’s comments, “One could argue that’s the most anti-American statement ever made by the president of the United States.”

As Politico noted, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wasn’t pleased, either.
Sen. John McCain rebuked President Donald Trump on the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon, lashing Trump’s defense of Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend as “either terribly misinformed or incredibly biased.”

The Arizona senator, who has emerged as one of Trump’s chief Republican foils on foreign policy and national security issues, never mentioned Trump by name. But as he spoke in favor of anti-Putin activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, McCain clearly singled out Trump’s comments about Putin on Sunday, when Trump compared Putin’s strong-armed history of cracking down on dissidents to the United States’ own record on human rights.
“[Kara-Murza] knew that there was no moral equivalence between the United States and Putin’s Russia. I repeat, there is no moral equivalence between that butcher and thug and KGB colonel and the United States of America, the country that Ronald Reagan used to call a shining city on a hill,” McCain said in his statement. “To allege some kind of moral equivalence between the two is either terribly misinformed or incredibly biased. Neither, neither can be accurate in anyway.”

That’s a fairly mild rebuke – if a Democratic president disparaged the United States this way, it’s likely the articles of impeachment would already be moving through committee – but it’s nevertheless a good sign a GOP lawmaker was willing to say anything at all on the matter.

After all, while Trump has a habit of following one jaw-dropping quote with another, his denigration of the United States is the kind of line that could, and probably should, help define his presidency.

As for the partisan context, I’m glad McCain rebuked Trump’s comments, but I can’t help but wonder (a) what he intends to do about the president’s criticism of his own country; and (b) why McCain supported Trump in 2016, even after Trump made similar comments in 2015.

Donald Trump, John McCain and Russia

The 'most anti-American statement ever made' by a U.S. president