Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Every time I think Donald Trump couldn’t possibly sink lower, he proves me wrong.
The most recent example? His completely made-up claim that the nearly 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria were, in essence, “fake news.” First, President Trump tweeted on Thursday that, “3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico.”
Trump then added moments later, in part two of this tweet, “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible…If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list.”
Well, as fact checkers swiftly noted, Trump was lying. Democrats didn’t come up with the death toll. The estimate that 2,975 died as a result of Hurricane Maria was based on a study commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico and conducted by researchers at The George Washington University.
But the fact that this study was methodically conducted by a neutral party didn’t stop Trump from again taking to Twitter on Friday night to declare the death toll wrong, without presenting even one shred of evidence to support his contention. Perhaps Trump believes that if the death toll is that high it will hurt him politically, so he will lie, deflect and do anything else he needs to do to undermine the findings of the nonpartisan study.
Is his response vile? Yes. There have been so many moments – from the time Trump descended that escalator in June 2015 to announce his candidacy, to today – that seemed they would be his lowest. Wrong.
One incident from Trump’s 2016 campaign that stands out as truly abhorrent was when Trump mockingly mimicked a disabled New York Times’ reporter who simply refused to back one of Trump’s lies about Muslims cheering in New Jersey on 9/11.
Then there was the incident a few months later when Trump retweeted a white supremacist who used the Twitter handle “White Genocide” and then shortly thereafter refused to denounce former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke or “white supremacy” when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked whether Trump would definitively do so. After a media firestorm, Trump did issue a perfunctory denouncement.
There was also his conduct in August 2017 after the white supremacist rally and violence in Charlottesville. That’s when he equated those opposing white supremacy and anti-Semitism with those advocating hate by declaring that there were “very fine people” on both sides.
And then there was the time when Trump retweeted anti-Muslim videos from a United Kingdom hate group.
While it’s impossible to actually rank Trump’s vileness, another potential low point came in February of this year and involved Rob Porter, a former top White House aide, who was accused of being abusive to his two ex-wives. Even though a photo of one of Porter’s ex-wives had been made public in which she had a black eye, allegedly caused by Porter, Trump responded by offering words of support for Porter, while not expressing any sympathy for the two women.
And just last month, after the death of Sen. John McCain, we saw Trump again sink to a new level. Trump, who in the past infamously demeaned McCain’s service in the military with his comments, “He’s not a war hero” and “I like people that weren’t captured,” couldn’t bring himself to publicly praise McCain with even half of the passion that he uses to go after his rivals.
In fact, White House staffers had reportedly drafted a statement that praised McCain for his heroism and years of service to our nation, but Trump declined to use it. Instead, Trump sent a short tweet offering “sympathies” with no mention of McCain’s lifetime of service to our nation.
If only the GOP-controlled Congress would call out Trump’s vileness with a unified voice maybe – just maybe – that would have an impact on Trump’s behavior. It’s hard to tell. In so many instances, Trump truly seems to lack compassion and empathy and appears to enjoy being cruel.
But one thing is clear, if you reject Trump’s despicable behavior, then come Election Day on November 6, make your voice heard by voting. We may not be able to stop Trump from sinking lower, but we may just be able to stop Trump from dragging America down to his level.