It was the expletive heard round the world: President Trump’s alleged decision to call certain nations “s***hole countries” — including Haiti and Guatemala — during a bipartisan Oval Office conference on immigration reform.
It didn’t take long for the liberal media to pounce.
“This is CNN Tonight, I’m Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist,” the least trusted anchor at the most trusted name in news began his show Friday. “A lot of us already knew that.”
Believe it or not, some other liberal stalwarts were less subtle. “‘What he said was basically a form of eugenics’: a professor on Trump’s ‘s**thole countries’ remarks” read Vox’s headline on the matter. Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s director of immigration policy and campaigns, was even less delicate when it came to her ad hom: “President Trump has been consistently honest about the white nationalism behind his immigration policies.”
Pretty damning invective there. However, it’s worth pointing out that all three of these institutions, from the venerable to Vox, were around two years ago.
I point that out because that’s exactly when former President Obama said something involving almost the same expletive that Trump used to describe an African nation in chaos — one which the Obama administration likely wasn’t totally jazzed about letting immigrants in from.
“So we actually executed this plan as well as I could have expected: We got a UN mandate, we built a coalition, it cost us $1 billion — which, when it comes to military operations, is very cheap,” Obama said during the interview.
“We averted large-scale civilian casualties, we prevented what almost surely would have been a prolonged and bloody civil conflict. And despite all that, Libya is a mess.
“Mess is the president’s diplomatic term; privately, he calls Libya a ‘s*** show,’ in part because it’s subsequently become an ISIS haven — one that he has already targeted with air strikes,” The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg noted.
“It became a s*** show, Obama believes, for reasons that had less to do with American incompetence than with the passivity of America’s allies and with the obdurate power of tribalism.”
This isn’t to criticize Obama for his choice of words, although his strategy in North African country left something to be desired. Libya, as a polity, was a s*** show, and the president duly acknowledged this fact. This deserves a rare plaudit for our former commander in chief.
As for what Trump said, we can only ascertain that his remarks involved Haiti, El Salvador and other unspecified African nations. In each of those cases, you may disagree with the expletive. If you’re a liberal, you may think this somehow makes Trump a racist. However, at least in the two countries we can identify, you’re unlikely to book your next vacation to these feces-burrows, and not without reason.
For those attracted to the charm and squalid danger of the Haiti portrayed in Graham Greene’s “The Comedians,” rest assured things have somehow managed to get a lot worse since then. Decades of ruin under the Duvalier family dictatorship and their tontons macoutes turned the Caribbean nation into one of the most indigent and defeated places on earth. Since they were deposed, several earthquakes and a concatenation of corrupt and inept leaders (who one can safely assume managed to skim off no small amount of skrilla from disaster relief efforts) have made things no better in Haiti.
This has predictably led to an upsurge in crime in the country. A 2012 State Department advisory — issued under, for those bad with dates, the Obama administration — travelers were urged not to visit Haiti unless they enjoyed playing roulette with their lives.
“US citizens have been victims of violent crime, including murder and kidnapping, predominantly in the Port-au-Prince area. No one is safe from kidnapping, regardless of occupation, nationality, race, gender, or age,” the advisory read.
Lovely. While El Salvador doesn’t quite have any dictator with the depravity factor of the Duvaliers or many of Haiti’s other exigencies, that hasn’t stopped the country from being the most violent in the world not currently experiencing a war. Insight Crime reports the Central American nation reported 5,278 murders in 2016 “for a homicide rate of 81.2 per 100,000.” That was actually down from the 104 per 100,000 just the year before.
I’m not quite sure how I feel about presidents calling entire countries s***holes. That said, I’m also not too keen on presidents calling entire countries s*** shows. Yet, Obama’s utterance induced almost total media silence, while the other one caused the country to ground to a halt and start wringing its hands over a president that’s said something “racist” for the eleventy-billionth time.
If Barack Obama’s State Department can quite rightly point out the rampant criminality in Haiti, so can Donald Trump. And if Obama can call a country a s*** show, I think s***hole isn’t exactly too far off when we’re dealing with El Salvador and Haiti.