I had written half of a relatively silly column when I stopped and read these words online:
“The predators and criminal aliens who poison our communities with drugs and prey on innocent young people — these beautiful, beautiful, innocent young people — will find no safe haven anywhere in our country.
“And you’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough. So they'll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife, because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long. Well, they’re not being protected any longer, folks.”
That’s a story the president of the United States told at a rally in Ohio on Tuesday night. It’s a creepy story, one that mixes unnecessarily detailed savagery with the image of “a young, beautiful girl.”
There’s no mention of the anecdote’s origin, no specifics on when or where a “beautiful, beautiful, innocent” young person was sliced and diced and put through “excruciating pain.” There is just the violent imagery, and the repeated reference to “animals.”
That’s weird. It’s intentionally dehumanizing an entire group of people, which I'll get to in a moment, but it’s also just weird. Weird in a way that if someone at a bar told you that story you’d excuse yourself and walk away as quickly as possible.
And it came from Trump’s mouth the night after he shared a sexually suggestive story about a rich guy and a yacht with a sprawling crowd of Boy Scouts, children he rallied into booing a former president. It came during a week in which Trump has been publicly degrading his own attorney general, forcing him to endure abuse rather than simply firing him.
I wanted to keep writing that other column — and some of you will undoubtedly wish I had — but I couldn’t. I write about this president often, and I’d like to write about him less, but I won’t.
Because he never stops behaving in a way that degrades our humanity. He never finds a bottom. And that’s not OK.
The intent of the tale that Trump told his rabid fans in Ohio was simple: Foment hatred for immigrants. You present the innocent characters who are part of the “us,” and you have them ravaged and destroyed by the murderous “them.” You call them animals, something peddlers of hate have done for ages.
Did his story of slicing and dicing stem from an actual event? I don’t know.
The closest story I could find was the murder of two teen girls on Long Island last year. They were attacked by members of the brutal MS-13 street gang and beaten to death with bats and a machete. Several of the gang members arrested were in the country illegally.
Without question, there are crimes committed by people who are here illegally. But as a group, immigrants — both documented and undocumented — commit fewer crimes than native-born Americans.
Trump’s barbarous tale makes it sound like America is overrun by murderous “predators and criminal aliens” who revel in inflicting maximum pain on beautiful young girls. That’s a sadistic vision of an America that, thankfully, doesn’t exist.
And it’s weird to hear a president using that kind of language. It’s not normal.
The president is mad at his attorney general because he recused himself from the investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, a decision that led to the appointment of a special counsel.
But rather than firing Sessions or working out the problems, Trump is dragging his former friend through the public square. Tweeting that Sessions is weak. Accusing him of not doing his job. Telling reporters who ask if the attorney general will be fired: “We'll see what happens.”
The president is publicly humiliating Sessions. That’s not normal.
It’s cruel. It’s a bully tactic. And it’s sadistic.
You'll note that none of this has anything to do with policy. Many Trump defenders seem to think people like me are bothered by the president because he is (allegedly) a Republican.
I don’t care what party he represents. If we were six months into a Bush or Rubio administration, I’d have plenty of disagreements on policy, but I wouldn’t be dropping other columns to highlight routine affronts to the basic decency of the office of the presidency.
What Trump said in Ohio on Tuesday night was not normal. What he said to the Boy Scouts was not normal. What he’s doing to his attorney general is not normal.
No American should accept any of this sadistic nonsense as normal.
Rex Huppke is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may email him at email@example.com.