The hour is yet early, but “s***hole countries” seems to be ready to 2018’s version of “covfefe“: the word or phrase the media is going to obsessively fixate on to prove something about the Trump presidency that probably isn’t there.
For those of you living under the Rock of Gibraltar, a quick summation: The president allegedly used the aforementioned vulgar phrase in a bipartisan meeting on immigration that touched upon individuals who are in the United States under temporary relief visas that aren’t so temporary (one involving refugees from a hurricane in Honduras dates back to 1998) and diversity lottery visas for individuals from countries and/or backgrounds that wouldn’t ordinarily qualify for immigration to the United States.
The account of the president saying “s***hole countries” comes mostly from Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (who, for what it’s worth, has a history of prevarication for political gain). Trump denies using the phrase, which was allegedly applied to Haiti, El Salvador and other unnamed African republics. Durbin’s account quickly renewed media claims that Trump is some form of white nationalist/bigot/racist/Grand Wizard of the Pennsylvania Ave. KKK chapter/etc.
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Well, if the 45th president is racist for calling out the developmental issues of African nations, so is the 44th. You see, while Barack Obama was never accused of using the term “s***hole nations,” he did have the temerity to tell African countries to get their act together.
And predictably, nobody cared.
The incident in question dates back to 2009, in the early days of the Obama honeymoon when some people actually thought maybe he did deserve that Peace Prize. Before a trip to Ghana, Obama said that he was “a big believer that Africans are responsible for Africa.”
“I think part of what’s hampered advancement in Africa is that for many years we’ve made excuses about corruption or poor governance, that this was somehow the consequence of neo-colonialism, or the West has been oppressive, or racism — I’m not a big — I’m not a believer in excuses,” Barack Obama said then, according to the U.K. Telegraph.
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While the last six words of that quote would induce laughter in a corpse, what the former president was saying — in very diplomatic terms — is that certain parts of the continent aren’t doing all that stellar and it isn’t perfidious whiteys who are responsible for it.
“I’d say I’m probably as knowledgeable about African history as anybody who’s occupied my office,” Obama continued, displaying his trademark humility. “And I can give you chapter and verse on why the colonial maps that were drawn helped to spur on conflict, and the terms of trade that were uneven emerging out of colonialism.
“And yet the fact is we’re in 2009. The West and the United States has not been responsible for what’s happened to Zimbabwe’s economy over the last 15 or 20 years. It hasn’t been responsible for some of the disastrous policies that we’ve seen elsewhere in Africa. And I think that it’s very important for African leadership to take responsibility and be held accountable.”
While he didn’t exactly use the vulgar phrase currently being bandied about, Obama was directly implying certain countries were excrement-burrows — in particular Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, whose singular improvement in the intervening years has been the recent removal of Robert Mugabe.
The takeaway from this is simple: Even the former president was irked by “s***hole countries” in Africa and let the media know he held Africans responsible. And yet, there were no charges of racism, bias or white nationalism (the last might be a bit difficult to pull off, admittedly).
If Trump made the remark he’s been accused of making, it was vulgar. It was also profoundly unwise.
That said, there’s no denying the existence of “s***hole countries,” even if one should probably use more dignified, diplomatic language — especially in the presence of people who are desperately looking for enough rope to hang you.
If liberals don’t believe that there are countries whose political messes have caused problems for both their own polity and the world at large, they don’t have to take our word for it.
They can take Mr. Obama’s.
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