If you try to defend President Donald Trump, you will always end up having the rug pulled out from underneath you. It's a law of nature.
And yet, so many of the president's allies have failed to learn this simple lesson. So when Trump launched a new attack at progressive Democratic lawmakers that was one of his most obviously racist smears, inevitably, some of his defenders tried to deny the obvious truth.
His screed attacked a group of women who have come to define the left wing of the Democratic caucus, which includes Reps. Ilhan Omar (MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rashida Talib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA). Though only Omar is an immigrant (she was a refugee from Somalia as a child), Trump seemed to assume all four women of color weren't born in the United States, and most egregiously, he suggested they should "go back" to other countries:
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments ar… https://t.co/W7GAYLJ5Ki— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1563107272.0
....and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our… https://t.co/xPRSZHNNAd— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1563107272.0
....it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be… https://t.co/8IoVStRDut— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1563107272.0
Matt Wolking, a deputy director of communications for the president's re-election campaign, was one of the first to defend the president, by bizarrely claiming he didn't say what he said.
Anyone who says the president told members of Congress to go back to where they came from is lying. He told them t… https://t.co/Aww3KuHYi1— Matt Wolking (@Matt Wolking)1563115706.0
Of course, saying "go back to your country and then come back" includes the statement "go back to your country," so his statement was absurd on its face. To read the argument as generously as possible, though, Woking might have been trying to argue that Trump's statement couldn't echo to the racist trope of white Americans telling minorities to "go back to their country," because that trope doesn't usually include an invitation to return. However, even this argument is clearly nonsense, because there's no reason Trump's claim that the congresswomen should "help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came" and then "come back and show us how it is done" should be seen as anything but disingenuous. First of all, most of the women that he's clearly referring to were born in the United States, so there's nowhere for them to "go back" to. They are fighting to improve the only country they've lived in. Second, even telling someone like Omar, a refugee, that she owes more allegiance to "fix" the country her family fled as a child is still patently racist. And the idea that we should take Trump seriously when he says he would want to learn from Omar if she were able to "fix" Somalia's problems is so ridiculous that Wolking should be ashamed to ever speak publicly about politics ever again.
But even more humiliating for Wolking is that on Monday, Trump decided to undermine even this tissue paper-thin defense of Trump's tweets. He made it clear that "then come back" part of the message was a complete throwaway line — the point was that he thinks these critics of his should leave because he questions their patriotism.
“These are people that hate our country,” Trump said at the White House. “They hate our country. They hate it, I think, with a passion.”
He continued: “If somebody has a problem with our country, if somebody doesn't want to be in our country, they should leave."
He also tweeted:
We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country. IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE! It is your choice, and… https://t.co/ShbHZSmpLw— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump)1563224904.0
The line "it is your choice, and your choice alone," may have been an attempt to soften the statement, but obviously, any free American citizen has the right to leave or stay in the country if they want. The message he is sending, however, that when people of color challenge him and criticize his administration or white supremacy, that he thinks they don't belong in the country anymore. (And of course, this is completely hypocritical, as Trump has been extremely critical of the United States in recent years. In 2015, he literally published a book called "Crippled America" — and yet no one thought the fact that he had criticisms of the country meant he should find somewhere else to live.)
And CNN's Jake Tapper pointed out that Trump's new comments also undercut the defense from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD). Harris said Trump's tweets were "clearly not racist" and the congresswomen to "go back to the district they came from — to the neighborhood they came from."
Of course, Trump's original tweets and his doubling down on the remarks make it clear that this isn't at all what Trump meant.