The big news in the sporting world over the weekend was that Medina Spirit, the surprise winner of the Kentucky Derby, had tested positive for an anti-inflammatory drug that is often used to mask injury or ease joint pain in thoroughbred racehorses.
That Medina Spirit is trained by Bob Baffert, perhaps the most recognizable person in horse racing, and that this is the fifth time a horse he has trained has failed a drug test in the last year, made it not just national but international news. Baffert insists the horse was not given the anti-inflammatory drug and everyone is awaiting a second test until a hard and fast conclusion is drawn. He told Fox News on Monday that the horse is a victim of “cancel culture.” Yes, really.
Lots and lots of people had takes on Medina Spirit, Baffert and the horse racing game more broadly. But none of them was as weird – and out of left field – as that of former President Donald Trump.
“So now even our Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, is a junky. This is emblematic of what is happening to our Country. The whole world is laughing at us as we go to hell on our Borders, our fake Presidential Election, and everywhere else!”
(Before you ask, yes this is a real statement by the former President – appearing on his revolutionary new communications site … kidding … “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump.”)
OK, so let’s try to analyze what Trump is saying here – line by line. (It’s only a few lines.)
1. “So now even our Kentucky Derby winner, Medina Spirit, is a junky. This is emblematic of what is happening to our Country.” I am assuming that Trump isn’t being totally literal here – as in, he doesn’t mean that, as a country, we have too-high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs in our systems. So what does he mean? I guess that cheating (or alleged cheating) is rampant in America? Or something?
2. “The whole world is laughing at us as we go to hell on our Borders, our fake Presidential Election, and everywhere else!” So, is the whole world laughing at us because a horse that won the Kentucky Derby failed a drug test? That would be sort of weird since the owner of Medina Spirit – Amr Zedan – is from Saudi Arabia. Or does Trump mean – and this seem more likely (I guess) – that the world is laughing at us because of the horse and our borders and the election and the fact that we are going to “hell … everywhere else” too? If that’s what Trump means, there’s scant evidence to back up that claim. A Pew poll released earlier this year showed large majorities of Western Europeans believed President Joe Biden would do the “right thing” in international affairs,a stark contrast to how those nations felt about Trump. I couldn’t find any polling that asked foreign countries whether they are currently (or have been) “laughing at us as we go to hell.”
Yes, it’s low-hanging fruit to pick apart Trump’s wild statements. And yes, there’s a contingent of folks – in politics and the media – who think that we should collectively ignore Trump because, well, he isn’t the president anymore.
Which is true! But I think ignoring him misses this simple fact: If Trump runs again for president in 2024, he is the overwhelming favorite to be the GOP nominee. And this (other) simple fact: Trump continues to bend the GOP to his will even out of office and power. Doubt it? The vote this week by House Republicans that is expected to remove Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney from party leadership and replace her with Trump-endorsed New York Rep. Elise Stefanik is proof positive.
Trump is THE most visible and powerful person in the Republican Party. Period. Which makes wacky statements like this one on Medina Spirit all the more concerning for Republicans. If they weren’t too busy burying their heads in the sand, that is.