If Donald Trump intended to spark a controversy with his racist tweets directed at four Democratic congresswomen, he succeeded.
The president hosted a "Made in America" showcase at the White House this morning, and not surprisingly, there were more than a few questions for the man who said the progressive lawmakers -- each of whom are Americans, three of whom were born in the United States -- should "go back" to the "broken and crime infested places from which they came."
This brief exchange helped summarize the Republican's current posture.
Q: Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?TRUMP: It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me.
That's not an answer. "Many people" may agree with a racist statement; that doesn't make it less racist. Propriety and decency need not be seen through the lens of a popularity contest.
He added, in apparent reference to elected American congresswomen, "These are people that. in my opinion. hate our country." (As he sees it, to condemn his agenda is to hate the country itself.) Trump soon after argued, over and over again, that his critics are welcome to leave the country.
"If you are not happy here, then you can leave," he said. "As far as I am concerned, if you hate our country, if you're not happy here, you can leave. That is what I say all of the time."
The repetition doesn't make presidential rhetoric like this any less offensive. Trump's line is quite plainly a direct attack on dissent. In the American tradition, those who are dissatisfied with the country's direction are encouraged to become politically engaged and work to produce change.
In this president's vision, those who are dissatisfied with the country's direction are encouraged to leave the United States altogether. Donald Trump apparently sees the country as the proper home for those who appreciate and celebrate Donald Trump.
There was a six-word slogan in the Vietnam era, repeated by war supporters: "America: Love It or Leave It." The idea, evidently, has been re-embraced by the current president.
He is, however, a relatively new convert to the cause. As I recall, during Barack Obama's presidency, the Republican whined incessantly about the Democratic administration, and he repeatedly made his dissatisfaction with the United States known. The stronger and healthier the country became, the more Trump complained.
Thankfully, Obama never said his critics hated the United States and he never encouraged his critics to self-deport, though I wonder what Trump would've said if someone had reminded him, "If you're not happy here, you can leave."