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Trump insists the United States is 'rigged, crooked and evil'

A former American president described the United States as “evil.” This generated almost no attention whatsoever. Why is that?


As Donald Trump’s legal troubles mount, the former president turned to his social media platform over the weekend to whine in a rather provocative way.

“The Witch Hunt continues, and after 6 years and millions of pages of documents, they’ve got nothing. If I had what Hunter and Joe had, it would be the Electric Chair. Our Country is Rigged, Crooked, and Evil — We must bring it back, and FAST. Next stop, Communism!”

Even putting aside his idiosyncratic approach to capitalization, a variety of details stood out. For example, the Republican didn’t specify which of his many problems he considers “the Witch Hunt.” Also notable was the idea that we’ll soon fall victim to “Communism” — a line he echoed yesterday by publishing a follow-up missive that said, “We really are living in a Communist Country.”

Evidently, it only took a couple of days for us to collectively reach the “next stop.”

But of particular interest was Trump’s assertion that the United States is “rigged, crooked and evil.”

My first thought after seeing this was to wonder what the reaction might be if a former Democratic president made such criticisms against his own country. My second thought was to imagine how Republican candidates on the campaign trail might respond if asked whether they agreed with Trump’s condemnation.

But ultimately, what struck me as unusual was the fact that the missive went almost entirely overlooked. A former American president described the United States — his own country — as “evil,” in writing, on a platform he controls, and this generated almost no attention whatsoever from the political world.

Why is that?

It seemed at least possible that the criticisms went overlooked because many news organizations just don’t much care about Trump’s Twitter-like social media enterprise, but when he recently used the platform to direct "death wish" rhetoric at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, this generated quite a bit of attention.

The more likely explanation is that we’ve all grown accustomed to the former president’s selective patriotism: Trump’s love of country is, at best, sporadic, so no one's especially surprised when he lashes out like this against the country.

In the summer of 2019, for example, before his Twitter account was suspended, the then-president condemned those who “speak so badly” about the United States. In the same tweet, he expressed disgust for those who say “many terrible things ... about the United States.”

That, of course, was before he decided that the United States is “rigged, crooked and evil.”

But it’s not as if this weekend’s criticisms were somehow out of character. Circling back to our previous coverage, it was two weeks after his 2017 inauguration when Trump sat down for an interview in which he was reminded that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is “a killer.” Trump replied, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

As we discussed at the time, Americans generally weren’t accustomed to hearing their president be quite this critical of the United States. What’s more, the idea that the American chief executive saw a moral equivalence between us and a brutal autocrat came as a reminder that Trump didn’t always hold his country in the highest regard.

Indeed, he hasn’t exactly been subtle on this point. In December 2015, then-candidate Trump was asked about Putin’s habit of invading countries and killing critics. “He’s running his country, and at least he’s a leader,” Trump replied, “unlike what we have in this country.” Reminded that Putin has been accused of ordering the murder of critics and journalists, Trump added, “Well, I think our country does plenty of killing also.”

In a July 2016 interview with The New York Times, the Republican went on to argue that the United States lacks the moral authority to lead, because we’re just not a good enough country to command respect abroad. “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger,” he said.

There’s never been a president, from either party, who’s been so cavalier about America lacking in credibility. Sentiments such as “When the world looks at how bad the United States is...” are usually heard from America’s opponents, not America’s president. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg noted during the 2016 campaign that Barack Obama “has never spoken as negatively about America as Donald Trump has.”

The Republican also explicitly rejected the idea of “America exceptionalism,” questioning aloud whether the United States really is “more outstanding” than other nations.

To be sure, it’s a free country. If Trump wants to argue that the United States is “evil,” that’s his right. If he’s convinced that the United States is not a force for good in the world, he’s welcome to make the case.

But it’s more than a little jarring to see the Republican, at different times, both claim the moral high ground on patriotism and denigrate his own country in ways no former president has ever done.

It also explains why many see Trump use phrasing such as "rigged, crooked and evil," and effectively say, "There he goes again."