California Forum

Abramsky: Trump is bathing us all in his moral sewage

President Donald Trump talks with troops via teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
President Donald Trump talks with troops via teleconference from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP

Two days before Thanksgiving, Donald Trump made it absolutely clear he doesn’t give two hoots about the Saudi government-orchestrated murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In a juvenile, half-literate 649-word statement, Trump said Saudi crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman might have ordered the savage killing, or he might not have. Either way, it wouldn’t impact an America First agenda that views every relationship as simply transactional, that banishes all talk of human rights (or even human decency), and that reduces everything to a zero sum game of economic winners and losers.

Trump followed it up with an outdoor press conference a few hours later in which he reiterated his stance: He doesn’t care that his buddy bin Salman is, in the eyes of the world, a murderer. All he cares about are the arms sales.

In Trump’s universe, there’s no measure of success but the dollar sign, no moral value that can transcend convenient financial relationships.

In not just defending, but glorifying the godawful Saudi leadership, Trump has greenlighted murder globally, essentially declaring the US is no longer in the human rights business. Coming in the wake of his failed attempt to neuter the White House press corps by removing Jim Acosta’s press pass and threatening other journalists he doesn’t like, he has now made it abundantly clear that the First Amendment means less than zero to him in the US, and that the principles it embodies mean less than zero to him globally.

Don’t like a journalist or a critic? Well, kill him in a consulate overseas, dismember the body, lie to the world about it, and do so knowing the US president has your back.


“Will no-one rid me of this meddlesome priest?” England’s Henry II mused in the late 12th century, of his critic Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Soon afterward, someone did, indeed, remove Becket by assassination. In Trumpian language, Henry II might or might not have ordered the killing. In Trump’s worldview, it doesn’t really matter. Powerful people can do things that for mere mortals would bring sentences of death or life in prison.

This is Nietzsche’s über-mensch theory, the idea of supermen operating outside of the normal moral and legal codes of mortals. The Nazis loved this bloodthirsty, inherently sadistic notion. Trump too loves this notion. It is, of course, a truly terrible notion.

Sasha Abramsky.JPG
Sasha Abramsky

Trump’s orders for the US-Mexico border show how much he believes his vast power permits him to treat people abominably. He ordered active-duty military to install concertina barbed wire atop fences to prevent an “invasion” of hungry, destitute, and exhausted asylum-seekers. He callously authorized those soldiers to intervene to protect US Customs and Border Protection personnel who have managed quite well all these many years without military backup.

Trump’s inane press conference two days before Thanksgiving, in which he time and again said he was only concerned with “America First,” and time and again gloried in the phrase “catch and detain” when talking about asylum seekers, was the saddest, most pathetic spectacle of the morally shrunken New America imaginable.

Two days before a holiday in which we were supposed to give thanks for our good fortune, for the generosity of strangers in feeding those fragile English migrants all those centuries ago, Trump ranted and bellowed like a mildewed version of a mid-20th century fascist leader. He strutted the White House grounds, his chin in the air, his shoulders hunched defiantly. He threw ignorance around like rice at a wedding, showering the assembled crowd with its droppings. He lied and lied and lied again, relentlessly, an obsessive indulging of his favorite hobby.

This man is moral garbage. He came to our state, California, as the worst climate change-related catastrophe on earth was unfolding – lethal firestorms, followed by unprecedentedly dangerous air pollution blanketing the north of the state and the Central Valley – and told us our problem is we don’t rake our forests as well as the Finns; and another problem is our environmental terrorists; and yet another problem is our poor forest-thinning practices. He tweets out climate change-denying nonsense and he threatens to withhold federal funds from the devastated victims of the fires. He compounds misery with misery, just because he can.

I truly hope this puny man falls hard. I hope he falls so hard he can’t ever recover, and I hope he takes his whole rotten administration and all the supporting actors down with him. I hope this man who lacks any sense of empathy experiences the fragility, the weakness, the vulnerability that he has mocked in others.

This bullying, preening fool of a narcissist is a cancer whose presence deforms and eats away at everything he touches. How dare he say, in our name, that the interests of America are served by giving a green light to those who seek to murder journalists? How dare he tell young men and women that their military skills are needed against asylum-seeking families and desperate children the age of the soldiers’ younger siblings? How dare he seek to use the vast might of the federal justice system to settle personal scores? How dare he use his platform to try to eviscerate the independent judiciary?

It is time to say “enough.” No more outrages in our name. No more insults in our name. No more lies in our name. Be gone, you toadstool. Let America be restored.

Sasha Abramsky, who teaches at UC Davis, is a Sacramento writer whose latest book is “Jumping at Shadows: The Triumph of Fear and the End of the American Dream.” He can be contacted at