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U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a news conferece on September 7, 2017. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Trump Is Our One-Man National Emergency

His "big beautiful wall" is the great lie, a metaphor for hatred and separation

Michael Winship

The fact that his predecessor was a smart, witty and popular black man makes Donald Trump crazy. Especially the black part.

Remember the stories about his alleged fury in 2011 when Barack Obama so effectively zinged Trump as he sat fuming from his table at the White House Correspondents Association dinner? Supposedly it was that humiliation at the hands of a black president that convinced Trump to seek the presidency and, God help us, get the last laugh.

As a candidate, and once he assumed the highest office, in addition to its fundamental principle of Not America But Me First, the Trump platform has been built on planks of anything-Obama-did-I-reject-and-attack. So out went Obama regulations and trade deals. Iran nuclear pact? Be gone. Farewell, Paris climate accord.

Last week, Trump tweeted, “No president ever worked harder than me (cleaning up the mess I inherited)!” That’s nonsensical on every level. For one, Lincoln and FDR must be laughing their presidential backsides off. And compared to you, Donald, you think Obama made a mess? Unless, of course, it’s something utterly, inarguably good, like the blooming, post-meltdown economy you inherited from him. Then it’s time to take credit for it.

No putdown of Obama, no matter how petty, fake or borderline racist is beneath Trump. Last month, Josh Dawsey at The Washington Post reported that Trump “relishes” giving tours of the Oval Office and telling visitors that Obama “just sat in here and watched basketball all day.” Given the recent disclosure of Trump’s vast expanses of “executive time” watching Fox News, this is projection at a championship level.

And then on Friday, at his loopy, meandering Rose Garden press conference announcing the emergency order to build his cockamamie wall, Trump announced that he believed Obama “would have gone to war with North Korea. I think he was ready to go to war. In fact, he told me he was so close to starting a big war with North Korea.”

At The New York Times, Peter Baker wrote, “Wait a minute — don’t remember Mr. Obama’s near-war with North Korea? Neither do the people who were working for Mr. Obama at the time.” He added, “This presumption has become part of Mr. Trump’s narrative in patting himself on the back for reaching out to North Korea to make peace.”

Trump’s claim is, of course, baloney, according to every former Obama staff member who responded to his statement. By their and other accounts, when Trump and Obama met shortly after the election, Obama told him that North Korea would be the incoming president’s biggest foreign policy challenge, but no atomic sabers were rattled. Instead, it was President Trump who fired off a series of provocative, sneering tweets at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, including the juvenile, “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”

That was before Trump said he and Kim “fell in love” and presumably began pushing each other’s buttons. But in constantly knocking Obama and his time in the White House, the president not only is engaging in his usual pattern of childishly insulting anyone critical of him, he’s reflecting the deep-seated racism that infects so much of him, and what got him into office.

Think back to Trump’s birther madness. His bogus claims that Barack Obama was born in Kenya went on for years until 53 days before the 2016 election when he was forced to make a non-apology from a ballroom in the about-to-open Trump International Hotel. "President Obama was born in the United States. Period," Trump announced, begrudgingly. "Now, we want to get back to making America strong and great again." Strong, he meant, and out of the hands of another minority citizen.

Trump’s birther claims remain, in the words of my colleague Bill Moyers, “one of the most malignant and ugly lies in American history” and are representative of a deeper disease in our country, a “perfect storm,” in the words of Johns Hopkins University’s Christopher Lebron, “of basically, white paranoia, white fear of an era of possible black liberation and justice.”

Lebron said that in a Bill Moyers video essay on birtherism, posted on Inauguration Day 2017 at the Moyers website. It's just as true today. In that same video, Hamilton College government professor Philip Klinkner added, “I think for many Americans, the whole definition of America is caught up with race: [the belief] that whites are the only people who have the requisite characteristics that would allow them to be full citizens and therefore the political leaders of the country.”

Such racial fabrication and delusions of white superiority were at the heart of Trump’s presidential campaign – from his birther bilge to those Mexican rapists – and subsequently have reignited in so many of the lies and misrepresentations this president has inflicted on the country since he took the oath of office.

Yet there are few so heinous as the great lie and metaphor for hatred and separation of them all, the “big, beautiful wall” for which, he says, we need to call a national emergency.

There is no emergency. Trump said so himself when he told the press on Friday, “I didn’t need to do this.” He just wants a wall to please his white nationalist base, to feed his edifice complex and insatiable appetite for attention.

You know as well as I: The real national emergency isn’t refugees of a different color trying to get into the United States. It’s the white guy sitting on Pennsylvania Avenue with too much “executive time” on his hands.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Michael Winship

Michael Winship

Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. 

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