Roughly 24 hours after the death of Colin Powell, Donald Trump proved, again, that he is utterly incapable of empathy, grace or even common decency.
“Wonderful to see Colin Powell, who made big mistakes on Iraq and famously, so-called weapons of mass destruction, be treated in death so beautifully by the Fake News Media,” Trump said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “Hope that happens to me someday. He was a classic RINO, if even that, always being the first to attack other Republicans. He made plenty of mistakes, but anyway, may he rest in peace!”
“But anyway, may he rest in peace!” Yes, Trump really said that.
The gulf between Trump’s statement and that of other former presidents on Powell’s passing is simply massive.
“Laura and I are deeply saddened by the death of Colin Powell,” said George W. Bush. “He was a great public servant, starting with his time as a soldier during Vietnam.”
“General Powell was an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot,” said Barack Obama. “He was at the center of some of the most consequential events of our lifetimes.”
“He lived the promise of America, and spent a lifetime working to help our country, especially our young people, live up to its own ideals and noblest aspirations at home and around the world,” said Bill Clinton.
What Trump’s statement should remind us is that this is a man uniquely self-obsessed – and without any ability to see beyond himself.
Powell was openly critical of Trump – he voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 – and of the dark direction the billionaire businessman was leading the country. And so, Trump saw Powell’s death as an opportunity to get back at him – and took it.
This is, in a word, classless. In two words: Utterly classless.
It also puts to lie Trump’s regularly repeated assertion that he loves the military more than any other president has ever loved the military.
Powell was an highly decorated soldier and served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the first Gulf War. While there’s no question that his argument that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction as a way to justify the second war in Iraq was a stain on his legacy, it’s just as clear that this is a man who gave the vast majority of his adult life to service to the country.
No one should be surprised by this latest degradation of what it means to be a president by Trump. He spent four years in office defining the job downward. That some people will applaud Trump’s trolling of a dead man is, perhaps, his most toxic legacy.