Thursday, April 26, 2018


President Trump said a lot of crazy stuff in this morning's Fox & Friends interview-- go to The Washington Post for an annotated transcript. Other commentators are discussing the most extreme statements -- but I want to point out the way Trump used the word "swamp" in the interview. Recently I've been pointing out that while you and I might think "swamp" is shorthand for "corrupt practices in Washington," that's not what Trumpers mean by "swamp" at all. Now Trump himself has proven that.

Here's what Trump said this morning about his appointment of Dr. Ronny Jackson to be the head of the Veterans Administration, just as it was being revealed that Jackson had withdrawn from consideration:
TRUMP: You know, these are all false accusations that were made. These are false and they're trying to destroy a man. By the way, I did say welcome to Washington. Welcome to the swamp. Welcome to the world of politics.
To Trump, that's the swamp -- not people who are corrupt but, rather, people who say bad things about one of his appointees. The swamp is everyone who's not loyal to Trump.

He uses the word later in the interview, at a moment when he's asked to give himself a grade as president, though he's distracted by his own anger at the Russia investigation:
TRUMP: Look, I'm fighting a battle against a horrible group of deep-seated people — drained the swamp — that are coming up with all sorts of phony charges against me, and they're not bringing up real charges against the other side. So we have a phony deal going on and it's a cloud over my head. And I've been able to do — to really escape that cloud because the message now everyone knows — it's a fix, okay. It's a witch hunt, and they know that, and I've been able to message it. I would give myself an A+.
Again, the swamp isn't corrupt people -- it's "deep-seated people." It's anybody who was in government before Trump was and who is loyal to anything -- governing norms, the rule of law -- other than Trump himself.

This is the same definition used by Trump's base: the swamp is the president's enemies. No one in the Trump administration can be part of the swamp -- not Jared Kushner, not Scott Pruitt, not Trump himself -- because the swamp is defined as whatever is not Trump or Trump-positive. That's why the Trump base will never care about Trump administration corruption.

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