“The real opposition,” former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon proclaimed once, “is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with s—.”
President Donald Trump has proved to be the master of this strategy. The sheer volume of gaffes, scandals, controversies, crises and even potential crimes makes it feel impossible to keep track of them all — or to stay outraged on a 24/7 basis.
These are things we must never normalize or become numb to. They matter.
So, this is my attempt, ahead of Election Day, to try to sift through these past four years and remind us of (at least some of) the destructive behavior we have witnessed. (Trump years, though, feel like dog years.) For this purpose, I’ve created an A-to-Z of the moments and issues we must never forget or overlook; these are things we must never normalize or become numb to. They matter.
Antisemitism. The president accused American Jews of being “disloyal” to Israel, suggested the financier George Soros was behind the caravans of migrants headed to the United States from Central America, and mocked his first economic adviser, Gary Cohn, as a “globalist.” Soros and Cohn are Jewish. Trump has reportedly remarked in private that Jews are only “in it for themselves.” (See also: Neo-Nazis and “Very Fine People.”)
Bone saw. Trump stood up for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) in the cover-up of the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, whose body was reportedly dismembered with a bone saw. Don’t take my word for it. Take the president’s. “I saved his ass,” Trump told Bob Woodward, referring to MBS. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone.”
Coronavirus. At the time of this writing, more than 230,000 Americans have died from the virus. Yet the president dismissed and downplayed the threat from the coronavirus from the very beginning; he knew, for example, that this particular virus was deadlier than the common flu but told Americans the exact opposite. (See also: Disinfectant and Hydroxychloroquine.)
Disinfectant. In what was perhaps one of the most bizarre moment of a bizarre presidency, Trump told his top scientific advisers live on national TV, “I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” before asking, “And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” (See also: Coronavirus and Hydroxychloroquine.)
“Enemies of the people.” Trump has borrowed from the language of dictators and tyrants to demonize and incite violence against journalists. According to his former national security adviser John Bolton, the president even suggested that some journalists were “scumbags” who should be ‘“executed.”
Family separation. The Trump administration separated more than 5,400 migrant children from their parents to try to deter them from crossing the southern border — a practice described as “government sanctioned child abuse” and “torture” by experts. As of October, lawyers were still unable to find the parents of 545 kids.
Golf. Trump, who lambasted Barack Obama for playing golf as president, has reportedly played far more golf than his predecessor — often at properties he owns. The president has visited golf clubs 283 times since coming to office, according to the Trump Golf Count website.
Hydroxychloroquine. The president obsessed over the anti-malarial drug as a possible miracle cure for the coronavirus despite evidence suggesting otherwise. This makes it curious that, when he ended up at Walter Reed Hospital after testing positive for Covid-19, Trump took a bunch of various experimental treatments and meds … but not hydroxychloroquine. (See also: Coronavirus and Disinfectant.)
Impeachment. In December 2019, Trump became the third president of the United States to be impeached for “high crimes and misdemeanors,” specifically, for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. He is the only impeached president to run for re-election. (See also: Russia.)
Judges. Trump has appointed one-third of the Supreme Court and more than 200 federal judges — the fastest first-term rate of any president since Jimmy Carter. “Today, almost a third of all active federal judges on the U.S. appeals courts were appointed” by Trump, reports the Financial Times. These conservative judges are almost all men and almost all white.
Kim Jong-Un. Over the course of his four years in office, Trump fell in love with the world’s worst dictator. He said it himself when he revealed at a September 2018 rally: “He wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters. We fell in love.” Trump’s nuclear negotiations with Kim, however, have since collapsed.
Lies. There has never been a president as consistently dishonest as Trump. He began his presidency lying about the size of the crowd at his inauguration. According to Washington Post fact-checkers, he has made more than 22,000 untrue or inaccurate statements over the course of his presidency.
Muslim Ban. A week into his presidency, Trump banned citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States, cutting off Muslim American citizens from their families and provoking mass protests access the country. In June 2018, the Supreme Court upheld the third iteration of the Trump travel ban.
Neo-Nazis. The president has retweeted the far-right Britain First party; told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”; and heaped praise on groups chanting “Jews will not replace us.” (See also: “Very fine people.”)
Obamacare. In the midst of the worst pandemic for a century, with millions of Americans losing their employer-sponsored health care, the Trump administration went to the Supreme Court to demand that, because Congress eliminated the individual mandate for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), “the rest of the ACA must also fall.” But, hold on, the Trump administration must have a replacement for Obamacare, right? Surely it’s coming soon? Maybe not.
Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria battered the U.S. territory in 2017, killing an estimated 3,000 people on the island. Trump, however, dismissed the death toll, lashed out at the island’s political leaders and tossed paper towels during a visit with survivors. “I’m the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico,” the president declared in September.
QAnon. Described by the FBI as a new domestic terror threat, this cult believes Trump is locked in a struggle with a cabal of Satan-worshipping, Democratic Party-supporting pedophiles. Yet the president has repeatedly refused to condemn QAnon, saying that “these are people that love our country” and “I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard.”
Russia. Did someone say “collusion”? The Mueller report may have failed to find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russian government but it did conclude that “the Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion,” and the Trump campaign “expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” and it “welcomed” this help. (See also: Impeachment.)
“S—hole countries.” The president’s racism is as crude as it is brazen. “Why are we having all these people from s—hole countries come here?” the president once asked a group of lawmakers, referring to Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. “He once asked me if I could name a country run by a Black person that wasn’t a ‘s—hole,’” Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress in 2019.
Tear gas. In May, the president had a group of protesters and reporters outside the White House assaulted and tear-gassed so that he could go for a walkabout and pose outside a nearby church with a Bible in his hand. He was, to quote the New Yorker’s Masha Gessen, “performing fascism.”
United Nations General Assembly. The world’s leaders literally laughed at the president of the United States at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in September 2018. Nor was it the first nor the last time he was humiliated in this way.
“Very fine people.” “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.” Few can forget Trump’s shocking remarks in the wake of the murder of Heather Heyer by a far-right extremist in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. (See also: Neo-Nazis.)
War criminals. The president pardoned or granted clemency to three U.S. service members accused, charged or convicted of war crimes. Former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who met with Trump at his Mar a Lago estate, was described by his fellow SEALS as “toxic” and “freaking evil.”
X-rated. Trump has dropped F-bombs, regaled Boy Scouts with a tale of orgies, and been accused by prosecutors of paying “hush money” payments to a porn actress. The president has also been accused of sexual assault and rape.
Yemen. It may be deemed by the U.N. to be “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” but Trump vetoed a bipartisan Senate bill aimed at ending U.S. involvement in the brutal Saudi bombardment of Yemen. More than 100,000 Yemenis have been killed. (See also: Bone saw.)
Zero. Do you remember when the president promised the number of coronavirus cases in the United States — and, by extension, deaths — would hover near zero? Yes, zero? Well, I do. “You have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero,” Trump predicted in February. Eight months later, the U.S. has more than 9 million cases. The highest in the world. There have been more than 230,000 deaths. Again, the highest in the world.
This is Trump’s presidential legacy. And this is why the election on Tuesday is literally a matter of life and death. Yes, Trump has flooded the zone with s— as planned, but the United States has also been flooded with corpses.