If there’s no contrapositive to “damning with faint praise” there should be. Something to convey the idea of “accidentally praising by criticizing with less-than-adequate force.” If you’ve ever read a sentence that begins, “Could Trump be one of the worst presidents in our lifetime?” and felt justifiably pissed off by its languid insufficiency and inept, passive-voiced, over-qualifying shilly-shallying – to the point of wanting to scream – then you know exactly what I am talking about.
Hitler wasn’t just an overzealous leader, he was a vicious, murdering psychopathic monster. Donald Trump is not (merely) a dishonest leader who has abrogated his role as POTUS, he’s a petty, childish, stupid, spoiled, career criminal and traitor who stole the presidency and will, if not stopped, utterly destroy America. He isn’t possibly the worst president in my lifetime, he’s the worst in history, worse than anyone could have thought possible or even imagined.
Now that we’re clear on that, retired four-star Army General Stanley McChrystal’s remark to ABC’s Martha Raddatz that, “I don’t think he (Trump) tells the truth,” can be examined in context. It doesn’t go far enough, obviously, as so many assessments of Donald Trump’s “presidency” don’t go far enough. One doesn’t “think” Trump is a liar any more than one thinks gravity is real. It’s something we know intrinsically already, and we know it because we have roughly 5000 tweets from Trump’s very own Twitter account to know it by. Any attempts to soft-pedal these self-evident truths are — wittingly or unwittingly — playing directly into the hands of Trump-normalizing Republican guile.
Trump’s response to the General’s mild denigration was a staggeringly childish and outrageously stupid tweet. “’General’ McChrystal got fired like a dog by Obama. Last assignment a total bust. Known for big, dumb mouth. Hillary lover!” Say what you will about this tweet, and you would be justified in condemning it in language dripping in bile and contempt, it nevertheless reflects the level of outraged discourse that we should parallel word for word and line for line. Donald Trump has made this a screaming contest. He has the volume but we have both the volume and the content. The year 2019 is the year we need to finally take the gloves off.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.