'Pocahontas' slur shows Trump indecency knows no bounds

At this point in President TrumpDonald John TrumpTom Arnold claims to have unreleased 'tapes' of Trump Cohen distances himself from Tom Arnold, says they did not discuss Trump US military indefinitely suspends two training exercises with South Korea MORE’s chaotic tenure, one would think nothing surprises. But Trump's use of an insulting racial slur during an event Monday in the West Wing dedicated to Native American code talkers dropped jaws across the room and throughout the country.

During the White House event designed to honor Native Americans who risked their lives for or gave their lives to the United States during World War II, Trump could not help himself as he talked about “how special” the Native Americans were.

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He told the veterans at the ceremony: "You were here long before any of us were here. Although we have a representative in Congress who they say was here a long time ago. They call her Pocahontas."

 

The silence was deafening. Even those who thought they could not be surprised by Trump were. Why? Why would he bring that insulting, racist, snooty remark into the solemnity of an event honoring some of our most treasured veterans who happen to be Native Americans?

The “Pocahontas” remark Trump made was meant to insult Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money — Sponsored by Prudential — Trump floats tariffs on European cars | Nikki Haley slams UN report on US poverty | Will tax law help GOP? It's a mystery Bill to protect work licenses of student loan debtors is welcome development Federal court rules consumer bureau structure unconstitutional MORE (D-Mass.) whom Trump has attacked before with the same name-calling in an effort to belittle her and remind people of the controversy surrounding her campaign for Senate when she claimed Native American ancestry.

But in a bit of poetic justice, nowadays, every time Trump uses the insult against Sen. Warren, it is like an in-kind contribution to the "Warren for President 2020" campaign.

It gives her an opportunity to comment about just how unfit Trump is for office, which she did. Trump grossly insulted some of our most cherished veterans as he clumsily went after her.

The shakes of heads were endless. People said, “Well, that’s vintage Trump.” They said, “Oh, that is who he is.” Well enough of that. It is simply not good enough anymore to say that Trump will be Trump.

When will he and his unwavering, loyal supporters realize that he is president of the United States and, like it or not, he is held to a higher standard?

I can try to understand those who said they voted for him thinking that if he won, he would develop a more presidential persona. He even said during the campaign the he “could be very presidential.” Well it seems he is either incapable or simply uninterested in living up to the stature of what it really means to be commander in chief.

The remark did not go unnoticed by Native American activists: “The name becomes a derogatory racial reference when used as an insult,” the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes’ general secretary said in a statement. “American Indian names, whether they be historic or contemporary, are not meant to be used as insults. To do so is to reduce them to racial slurs.”

To add insult to injury, the White House event took place in the Oval Office under a portrait of President Andrew Jackson, called "the Indian killer" by the Cherokees for his policies that brought about the forced resettlement and death of thousands of Native Americans during the Trail of Tears.

Some think the portrait was not an accident. Gyasi Ross, a member of the Blackfeet Nation tribe and author told the Washington Post that he thought the portrait was deliberate:

“It’s an incredibly distasteful wink in front of people who have sacrificed so much,” Ross said. “Donald Trump is not a stupid man. He understands visuals and optics: His background is in television. So all of that stuff, I believe, is very deliberate.”

It also brings to mind that it is not the first time Trump deliberately insulted Native Americans (not to mention all of the other ethnic and racial groups Trump has deliberately insulted during his business career, campaign and current term).

He had run-ins with Native American casinos in the 1990s and used an array of insults in those clashes. From a policy perspective, Native Americans saw Trump’s support for the Dakota Access Pipeline as a huge slight.

Intentional or not, the whole episode reeks of racism at worst and willful ignorance and complete disinterest in history at best. Neither quality should be embodied by the president of the United States. 

The American people are sick and tired of having these jaw-dropping moments of embarrassment and bewilderment resulting from the president's behavior. It is no wonder Trump continues to carry the dubious honor of having the lowest approval ratings in history at this point in presidential tenures.

So when will Trump be held accountable for his total and complete lack of fitness for office? Clearly, Republicans who still support him won’t do it. So it’s up to the rest of us.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.