Trump: I didn't say ... you know; Durbin: Yes, you did

Almost literally a day late and a dollar short. More than fifteen hours after the Washington Post first reported that Donald Trump dismissed immigrants from “shithole countries,” and almost fifteen hours after a non-denial White House statement, Trump finally got around to denying he ever used the term. In a tweet this morning, Trump said he used “tough language,” but that he didn’t use the word that anonymous sources told the Post he’d said:

How believable is this denial? The White House had an opportunity to rebut the reporting almost as soon as it went out. Instead, deputy press secretary Raj Shah put out a statement that didn’t directly address the claim at all, but certainly sounded like an implicit acknowledgment of it — and almost a “HE FIGHTS!” embrace of it:

The White House — and Trump himself — had plenty of opportunities to tamp this down immediately. During the time that the public-relations storm raged over his “shithole” comments, Trump tweeted about the Interdict Act, thanked Adam Levine for defending him on Fox & Friends earlier in the day, bragged about the results of a Small Business Poll, and attacked Dianne Feinstein, among other pressing topics. It wasn’t until this morning, when it became clear that the storm was not passing, that Trump finally tried denying the story.

Jake Tapper has some background on the “shithole” comment from his own source, which says that the remark wasn’t directed at Haiti — but was directed at African nations:

With that in mind, one can see why Trump’s emphasizing the denial on Haiti, and then generalizing it to other parts of his remarks. Also, at least one source for Trump’s remarks has gone on the record, and it’s one of Nancy Pelosi’s hamburger entrepreneurs:

Beyond that, though, the bigger story — on policy — is that Trump’s not going to buy off on the Senate compromise for DACA.

The lack of enthusiasm for the DACA deal is understandable since it gives Trump almost nothing of what he needs to declare a real victory. Just under three billion on enhanced border security, only a little over half of which can be used for building a wall? Come on, man. Jeff Flake might have thought he could slide that by, but Lindsey Graham had to know better.

So yes, Trump’s frustration is understandable, but that doesn’t excuse this. People want to dismiss this with the idea that Trump’s just talking like regular Americans, but a president in our system is not just one politician among many. He’s also the head of state, and when a head of state starts calling other countries “shitholes,” including some friendly to us, it has international consequences that go beyond our own internal debates over immigration policy. It’s foolish, and it’s needlessly provocative. A responsible president has to govern his tongue much more closely than the rest of us do, a lesson Trump still has not learned.