How a president flubs Memorial Day weekend: A case study

Given the enthusiasm with which he spent a few days airing grievances, perhaps Trump is confused by the differences between Memorial Day and Festivus?
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs the White House for travel to Michigan on May 21, 2020.Jonathan Ernst / Reuters
Get the Msnbc newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Steve Benen

In theory, it's tough for a president to bungle Memorial Day weekend. All he or she has to do is honor those who served their country and made the ultimate sacrifice, while lending support for their loved ones. Even Donald Trump should find this relatively straightforward.

But the president nevertheless found a way to screw this up in ways only he could.

The first sign of trouble came on Friday afternoon, when the Republican delivered White House remarks intended to honor veterans and POW/MIA servicemembers (a sensitive subject for Trump, given his 2015 mockery of troops who were captured while serving abroad). Over the course of about 20 minutes, the president lied about the Veterans Choice program, lied about pandemic stockpiles, lied about Joe Biden, peddled nonsense about Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, attacked journalists, and turned an official event into an explicitly campaign-oriented pitch.

"November 3rd is a big day. We don't want to destroy this country," Trump said, pointing to Election Day 2020. He added, "Get out there. Work. November 3rd -- November 3rd is the big day."

In an official event the White House described as "Honoring our Nation's Veterans and POW/MIA," the president's principal focus appeared to be on honoring the goals of his re-election campaign.

Over the weekend, his antics grew quite a bit more offensive. The Washington Post took note of Trump's Twitter feed, which featured content the president published in between trips to a golf venue he continues to own and profit from.

In a flurry of tweets and retweets Saturday and Sunday, Trump mocked former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams's weight, ridiculed the looks of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and called former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton a "skank." He revived long-debunked speculation that a television host with whom Trump has feuded may have killed a woman and asserted without evidence that mail-in voting routinely produces ballot stuffing.

Remember, this is a holiday weekend in which the nation recognizes Americans who died while serving their country. It coincides with a deadly pandemic, which has claimed the lives of nearly 100,000 Americans.

Donald Trump, however, doesn't have a somber and respectful mode. He has but one style, which he seemed eager to flaunt.

To the extent that he referenced the coronavirus crisis at all, it was only to claim that "cases, numbers and deaths are going down all over the Country!" which still isn't true.

But the deadly virus wasn't what the president wanted to talk about anyway. Not when there's content to amplify "from a supporter with a history of racist and sexist online commentary."

This coincided with Trump's interview with Sharyl Attkisson for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, in which the president accused assorted domestic enemies of having committed "treason."

All of this, of course, helped pave the way for yesterday, which he began by threatening North Carolina, indicating that he's prepared to move the Republican National Convention if Gov. Roy Cooper (D) doesn't relax efforts to address the pandemic before August. Soon after, Trump published a tweet wishing everyone a "HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!" which is not a phrase usually associated with a national holiday honoring the dead.

The missives were soon followed by presidential complaints about Barack Obama's golfing and an Obama-related conspiracy theory so absurd that Trump still can't tell anyone what it means.

And did I mention that Trump also slandered a Marine vet who serves in Congress on Memorial Day? Because he did that, too.

Given the enthusiasm with which the president spent the holiday weekend airing grievances, perhaps Trump is confused by the differences between Memorial Day and Festivus?