One of the things that hasn't been noticed in Emperor Trump's smarmy, patronizing, shoulder-patting performance with three nonagenarian World War II Navajo Code Talkers at a Native American Heritage Month event at the White House yesterday, after the group's president, Peter MacDonald, had presented his own opening remarks summarizing their achievements. Not the characteristic narcissism—
And I want to tell you -- you said you're 90 years old? That's great, because you have good genes. That means the press has got me to kick around for a long time. (Laughter.)(Trump is going to live for a long time because his guest has good genes?) Or the unceremonious decision not to read the remarks that had been prepared for him and just dump the text into MacDonald's hands—
I loved that and I loved your delivery. And the Code Talkers are amazing. And seriously, it is what I said. So what I'm going to do is give you my speech, and I want you to hold that. And I know you like me, so you'll save it. But that was so well delivered, from the heart. So I want to give you this speech because I don't want to bore them with saying the same thing you just said. And you said it better, believe me, because you said it from here. And I mean it from there too.It's that he has no idea what they're being honored for, what the Code Talkers did, beyond being "special" and "brave" and displaying "love for the country"—didn't have any idea what it was before yesterday, hadn't read the remarks in advance, and had been daydreaming while MacDonald spoke, hearing nothing but a reference to Iwo Jima, until the very last bit (an appeal for help in putting together a Navajo Code Talkers Museum), which he did pick up on later on:
I have to say, I said to General Kelly --- I said, General, how good -- here he is right there, the Chief; he's the General and the Chief. I said, how good were these Code Talkers? What was it? He said, sir, you have no idea. You have no idea how great they were -- what they've done for this country, and the strength and the bravery and the love that they had for the country and that you have for the country.
So that was the ultimate statement from General Kelly, the importance. And I just want to thank you because you're very, very special people. You were here long before any of us were here, although we have a representative in Congress who, they say, was here a long time ago. They call her "Pocahontas."
But you know what, I like you because you are special. You are special people. You are really incredible people. And from the heart, from the absolute heart, we appreciate what you've done, how you've done it, the bravery that you displayed, and the love that you have for your country.And no clue how much of what they displayed was intelligence of the kind only a bilingual has, and quickness under pressure. Then, as he begins to see the risk he's running of showing that he doesn't know what he's supposed to be talking about, asks Kelly to come up and fill in the facts, demonstrating further that he doesn't know whether what MacDonald said and what his own speech said overlapped in content or not, though he just said they did:
General Kelly, just come up for one second. I want to just have you say what you told me, a little bit about the Code Talkers. Because it really has been -- learning about you and learning about what you've done has been something that I'd like General Kelly to say to the press.And Kelly obliges and offers a concise account of the Code Talker program and its accomplishments. Another one of those illiteracy coping strategies (General Kelly, I left my glasses in my other jacket pocket, could you... ?) that we see him using even though in a technical sense he's really not illiterate. And lastly appropriates the last thing Kelly said as if it was his own interesting observation.
KELLY: It would have been a lot worse had we not had the Navajo Code Talkers. And I thank you. Semper Fidelis. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: So they're working on building a Navajo Code Talkers Museum.... You're very special people. And without you, maybe the results would have been a lot different. I've heard that, actually, the results could have very well been different.
It's not a racial slur against Warren. It's a racial slur against our native peoples to assume, as affirmative action opponents assume, that an Indian heritage gives somebody an unearned career advantage, and it's a slur against Warren's character to suggest that's why she claimed it, which she certainly did not, as I noted here last year:Sanders on Trump’s 'Pocahontas' comment: "What most people find offensive is senator Warner lying about her heritage to advance her career"; says it's a "ridiculous response" to see Trump's remark as a racial slur. (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/gXyjgHsn1T— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) November 27, 2017
The story of Elizabeth Warren's supposed Cherokee and Delaware ancestry, which became a public matter in 1984, when she contributed recipes for savory crab omelet and spicy baked beans to a Pow Wow Chow cookbook produced for the gift shop of the Five Civilized Nations Museum of Muskogee ($19.95), has never been an actual issue. It's true that she listed herself as a "minority" in the American Association of Law Schools law teachers directory from 1986, the year before she got a job at the University of Pennsylvania (she had been working as a law professor for ten years already, at Rutgers, University of Houston, and University of Texas at Austin) until 1995, the year she accepted Harvard's second offer of a tenured post, and it seems to be true that somebody in the Harvard administration saw the listing and was inspired to boast that Harvard Law had hired its first woman of color.In my experience of being an American, something I've been doing all my life, lots of people white or black have a Cherokee or Mohawk grandparent or great-grandparent and talk about it because they think it's cool, and romantic, not because they think it will bring them some kind of economic advantage. Old-line Virginians with ancestry going back to colonial times love to claim kinship with the Powhatans and Matoaka alias Pocahontas herself, because whatever version of the story you may have heard, that was one astonishingly cool-headed and brave little girl. There's no reason to think Senator Warren is anything but proud of that crab omelette.
But there is no evidence she made any use of the claim in her academic career. She didn't mention it in a job application—she didn't apply for the jobs at Penn and Harvard at all but was recruited—and unquestionably the most important factor was the major research she did on bankruptcy law while she was in Austin, putting her at the forefront of a new and very significant trend in legal studies, of looking at how legislation affects the ordinary citizen; and for the Harvard job her 1989 book, As We Forgive Our Debtors, awarded the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award.
As Donald Trump continues to insult American Indians with the insinuation that none of them are smart enough to score a teaching gig and that affirmative action is used to boost them into positions they aren't qualified for, the only policy discussion he has ever engaged in on the subject has been complaining, with lots of false and blatantly racist allegations, about tribally-owned casinos, his business rivals, in 1993
in testimony given that year to the House Natural Resources subcommittee on Native American Affairs, Trump "devoted much of his testimony to bad-mouthing Indians and their casinos," asserted that "organized crime is rampant on Indian reservations" and that "if it continues it will be the biggest scandal ever." Trump offered no evidence in support of his claim, and testimony from the FBI's organized crime division, the Justice Department's criminal division, and the IRS's criminal investigation division did not support Trump's assertion. Representative George Miller, a Democrat who was the chairman of the Natural Resources Committee at the time, stated: "In my 19 years in Congress, I've never heard more irresponsible testimony."and in 2000
Trump bankrolled in 2000 a set of anti-Indian gaming ads in upstate New York that featured "a dark photograph showing hypodermic needles and drug paraphernalia," a warning that "violent criminals were coming to town," and an accusation that the St. Regis Mohawks had a "record of criminal activity." The ad—aimed at stopping the construction of a casino in the Catskills that might hurt Trump's own Atlantic City casinos—was viewed as "incendiary" and racially charged, and at the time local tribal leaders, in response, bought a newspaper ad of their own to denounce the "smear" and "racist and inflammatory rhetoric" of the earlier ad.And of course he opposes any change in the name of the Washington, D.C. NFL franchise. Bet you didn't see that coming!
Trump (fun to remember that 100% of his grandparents and almost 67% of his wives are foreign-born, speaking of "being here longer than any of us were here"—what do you mean, "us"?) can't understand that, any more than he can understand the distinction of Warren's career as a scholar. He can't understand anything worth understanding.
Not that any of it matters, except what Roy said.