This should have been a triumphant week for President Donald Trump. Instead he turned it into a s—hole.
In an alternate reality, Trump would have luxuriated with fellow Republicans in a warm bath of positive news. Walmart just announced a higher minimum wage and bonuses, joining a parade of other companies doling out cash to workers and crediting the GOP tax plan. A new poll showed rising faith in the U.S. economy. Blackrock CEO Larry Fink told CNBC the new lower tax rate would boost the U.S. over Mexico.
All this should be have been music to Trumpian ears and an opportunity to do what senior West Wing staff are regularly begging the president to do: Stay on a positive message about bigger paychecks and faster economic growth.
Administration officials privately say the key to reversing Trump’s dismal approval rating and the GOP’s awful generic ballot numbers against Democrats is to get people to credit them for improving economic conditions.
The Quinnipiac poll showed a plurality of Americans still credit the Obama administration for the state of the economy. But with a signature piece of legislation now enacted and companies beginning to respond, Republicans have a decent case to make that they should start to get the credit.
Even a marginally functional chief executive could execute on this strategy. Trump can’t. The president started his day on Thursday live tweeting “Fox & Friends” and in the span of a few minutes rebuked his own administration’s policy on domestic surveillance and then had to reverse himself.
But things really blew up later in the day when at a private meeting with lawmakers, Trump reportedly asked why the U.S. has to accept immigrants from “s—hole” countries, an apparent reference to Haiti and some African nations. He also reportedly said: “Why do we want people from Haiti here?”
The comments blew up on social media and cable television, completely wiping out news about Walmart and the economy. It did not end there.
Trump also gave a lengthy and bizarre interview to The Wall Street Journal in which he suggested the market might go up if he pulled out of NAFTA, rambled about a Mexican wall with windows, suggested he might have secretly met Kim Jong Un and boasted about how he is the smartest and best at pretty much everything.
Perhaps sensing the interview was going off the rails, a White House staffer present for the discussion kept trying to get Trump out of the room.
The president could have steered back on message on Friday, hoping the “s—hole” controversy would die out. But of course he didn’t. He kept it going at least another day by tweeting a denial.
“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!”
He added: “Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country. Never said “take them out.” Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings – unfortunately, no trust!”
He did this despite the White House not denying any of the comments on Thursday and multiple news organizations confirming them. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who was present for the remarks, rebuked Trump’s denial on Friday: “It’s not true. He said those hateful things, and he said them repeatedly.”
All this guarantees that news and social media feeds over the weekend will obsess and argue over whether Trump really said racist and disgusting things. And a bunch of news on the economy that might actually help the president and the GOP will get dumped down the s—hole.