"Classic RINO": Trump swipes at Colin Powell the day after his death

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

The best take on this I’ve seen came from a Twitter pal who simply posted a side-by-side of the commemorations of Powell issued by Jimmy Carter, George Bush, Barack Obama, and Trump. All you need to understand the Trump phenomenon is in that tweet. A third of the country will revel in the fact that 45 was willing to speak his mind about a political enemy at a moment when polite society was demanding that tribute be paid. Trump doesn’t stand at attention just because the political establishment tells him to.

The other two-thirds of the country will share a look not unlike the one you’d share with a friend if someone nearby ripped a nasty wet fart.

As brief as this is, it’s a classic of its genre because of how succinctly it summarizes Trump’s approach to people. There’s nothing in here about the election being rigged but apart from that it’s him to a T.

It’s gratuitous since he wasn’t obliged to say anything about Powell’s passing. It’s narcissistic, turning Powell’s death into a complaint about Trump’s critics. It’s petty in that it’s unwilling to honor Powell’s accomplishments, of which there were many. It’s obsessed with media coverage, particularly how other figures are covered relative to how Trump himself is. And it’s dishonest inasmuch as Trump doesn’t actually care about the Iraq WMD debacle or Powell’s role in it. That was the low point of Powell’s public service and so it’s cited here opportunistically, to bolster Trump’s case against Powell to the reader. To 45, there’s only one test of a man’s value: Was he pro-Trump or anti-Trump?

If Powell had supported him, Iraq would have been forgotten and Trump would have celebrated his career. Instead Powell was prone to saying things like this, requiring that Trump kick the coffin like he kicked John McCain’s and John Dingell’s. As his favorite Bible verse says: An eye for an eye. Even in death.

That’s another way in which the statement is true to its author. Presented here with a free, easy opportunity to earn a little goodwill from his skeptics by taking the high road with Powell, he couldn’t do it. Although he’s likely to run again in 2024 and will need to rebuild his appeal with swing voters who were disgusted by how his presidency ended, he couldn’t play the elder statesman by offering a few sweet nothings about the late general even as a matter of political self-interest. That’s his 2020 election strategy all over again, less concerned with persuading voters who were leery of him than with getting his own base as hyped as they could be to turn out and vote.

No one will remember his statement about Powell three days from now but little reminders like this that he hasn’t changed a tiny bit since leaving office are useful to his opponents in both parties. To get reelected, he needs voters to agree to endure another four years of daily fart-smelling antics like this. By 2024, I strongly suspect most of the country will prefer to be governed by Republican policies than by Democratic ones but the relentless cringe fatigue that another Trump term would bring to the population will cost him votes. Enough votes to lose? I don’t know. But it’ll cost him votes that a Ron DeSantis or Mike Pence would easily bank.

Speaking of which:

As I say, Trump’s Powell statement will be forgotten soon apart from a lingering sense of “Please, let’s not elect that guy again.” Stuff like this, in which he admitted to not going the extra mile to keep the Senate out of Democratic hands, should be remembered longer:

“They didn’t want to vote, because they knew they got screwed in the presidential election,” Trump told Drucker of Georgia Republicans, acknowledging that depressed GOP turnout cost Republicans control of the Senate.

Drucker then asked Trump what he think could have happened if the then-president had instead said that, “despite some irregularities that deserved looking into, the state’s voting system was reliable” and urged his supporters to vote.

“I don’t know,” Trump said. “I did two very successful rallies — very successful rallies. I did say a version of that, but not as strongly as you said, because I was very angry with what happened there.”

At least he hasn’t discouraged Republicans from voting more recently, right?

I’ll leave you with this, another case of a politician using Powell’s death to advance a political narrative. It’s more likely than not that Powell was infected with COVID by an unvaccinated person since the unvaxxed transmit the virus more frequently than the vaxxed do. But there’s no way to say so definitively in the age of Delta, when the vaccinated can be contagious too. Follow the science, governor. Good motives are no excuse for lazy assertions like this.