Opinion

Never before has so much steaming hypocrisy occupied the White House: Neil Macdonald

Trump is more capable than even his peers in Third World dictatorships of saying something — or promising something, or delivering judgment on something — and then turning around and doing that very thing, fecklessly and without the slightest shame, and then attacking anyone who notices.

Pundits and politicos better lap it up while they can

President Donald Trump is the Chronos of hypocrisy. He is Jabba the Hutt, with hypocrisy crouching in a silver bikini, a leash around its neck. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Hypocrisy is so deeply embedded in politics that the two words are synonyms. That shamelessness pays is an axiom.

And look, for sure, hypocrisy is the best thing about covering politics.

It's white truffles, it's Belgian chocolate, it's a spigot of fine wine that never, ever runs out.

Some politicians, called on hypocrisy, bluster, claiming they were only adopting a wide stance.

Others, like former president Bill Clinton, retreat to hilarious parsing: I didn't inhale, could you please define "sex," etc.

Still, others never even have to deal with it. Once he moved into the White House, for example, President Barack Obama's often-stated desire to "kneel before that rugged cross" seemed to evaporate. Sunday church outings ended.  

President Donald Trump, though, is the Chronos of hypocrisy. He is Jabba the Hutt, with hypocrisy crouching in a silver bikini, a leash around its neck.

In 2015, Trump criticized First Lady Michelle Obama for not covering her hair on a visit to Saudi Arabia. During Trump's visit this week, neither Melania Trump nor Ivanka Trump covered their hair. (Evan Vucci/Associated Press)

Trump is more capable than even his peers in Third World dictatorships of delivering judgment on something, and then turning around and doing that very thing, fecklessly and without the slightest shame, and then attacking anyone who notices. And like Third World dictators, he surfs on his own personality cult-wave.

It's addictive, actually. On the rare occasion when Trump acts presidential for a few days, reporters and politicos feel like a perk has suddenly and unfairly been cut off.

All right. Some examples:

In 2015, Trump criticized First Lady Michelle Obama for not covering her hair on a visit to Saudi Arabia, saying she insulted the Saudis and "we have enuf (sic) enemies."

During Trump's visit this week, neither Melania Trump nor Ivanka Trump covered their hair.

So what? Big deal! They love me over there! I get huge crowds!

In 2011, Trump mocked Barack Obama for his stiff, semi-bowing handshake with the Saudi king. Presidents apparently shouldn't bow to anyone.

This week, Trump bowed to the Saudi king.

Geddoudahere! It was different. He gave me a medal.

For years, Trump slammed Obama and Hillary Clinton for refusing to say "radical Islamic terror." That made them cowards.

On the Saudi trip, the text of his speech avoided the phrase, using instead "Islamist extremism" and "Islamist terror." When he slipped up and actually said "Islamic terror," his aides said he misspoke because he was exhausted.

What, I'm supposed to insult them?

During the campaign, Trump said Muslims are sick, and that they hate Americans, and shouldn't be allowed into the U.S., and he wouldn't rule out closing down mosques, or creating a national database of Muslims, and by the way, Barack Obama seems to feel pretty comfortable in a mosque.

In Saudi Arabia this week, he stood on the soil of Wahhabism, one of the most extreme streams of Islam, and called the religion "one of the world's great faiths."

The king gave me a medal! A very nice medal! Come on!

Then he posed with Saudi leaders, fondling that weird glowing orb. Imagine what he'd have tweeted had Obama done the same? (Simultaneously, Trump's crackpot supporters at websites like Infowars demanded that people stop making fun of the photo op and comparing Trump to Saruman the White, because at worst, it was "ill thought out.")

Then he was off to Jerusalem, the city to which he would move the United States embassy — or so he promised during the election — and he would really do it, unlike the pusillanimous presidential candidates who'd promised to do it in the past and then chickened out.

That was before he decided not to do it.

So what? Who cares where it is? I won a huge electoral college victory!

Anyway, in Jerusalem, he attended Yad Vashem, as foreign leaders do, but reportedly asked that the visit be a short one, because, you know, 15 minutes of this Holocaust stuff is enough.

He left a note that sounded like he was thanking a host for a great party. It's particularly interesting to set it beside the note Barack Obama once left.

The message written by U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife Melania is seen in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum guestbook. (Debbie Hill/reuters)
The message written by then-Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in 2008. (Sebastian Scheiner/Associated Press)

It was like the note Justin Bieber wrote in the Anne Frank (she was a great girl) remembrance book.

Trump reminds me of an American TV technician I once heard asking an Israeli driver: "So, did y'all have a good Shoah day yesterday?"

Referring to his time in Saudi, he told the puzzled Israelis he'd "just got back from the Middle East."

This whole travelling gong show is meant, in part at least, to smother the headlines back home, where Trump says he did not ask the "nutjob showboat" director of the FBI, the National Security Agency, and the Director of National Intelligence, to cancel or downplay the investigation into collusion between his campaign and the Russian government, which wanted Hillary Clinton to lose.

All three of those men, reportedly, say he did ask. He says he didn't.  

Come on, folks, these are very, very, very dishonest people! Deep State people!

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to leaders of more than 40 Muslim-majority countries on the final day of a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia. 33:37

Oh, also: the U.S. Office of Government Ethics has asked all federal departments for lists of names of lobbyists who have been given waivers by the White House to circumvent the law forbidding ex-government staffers from lobbying for a period of years. Apparently there are record numbers under Trump.

Obama used to make any such waivers public, with reasons. Trump has instead chosen to attack the Office of Government Ethics.

That ethics office is so unethical. Sad!

Oh, and Trump's budget, released as he was discovering the Middle East, will slash Medicaid and a gamut of programs to aid the working poor, millions of whom voted for him and continue to read Infowars and despise the lamestream media for insulting their hero.

I could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and they wouldn't care, remember?

Former media baron Conrad Black, a humid Trump fanboy, blames the media, too: "This whole cacophonous babel of spurious allegations will crash. The president is not a suave man, but he is very tough and very smart, and his enemies are not."

Uh huh. Whatever.

The fact is that never before, and probably never again, will so much steaming hypocrisy and sheer stupidity be laid on the media table. Sup with gusto, brothers and sisters.

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

About the Author

Neil Macdonald

Opinion Columnist

Neil Macdonald is an opinion columnist for CBC News, based in Ottawa. Prior to that he was the CBC's Washington correspondent for 12 years, and before that he spent five years reporting from the Middle East. He also had a previous career in newspapers, and speaks English and French fluently, and some Arabic.

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