These five words may be the most un-Trumpian thing Donald Trump has ever said: “It is what it is.”
He said it in an interview with Jonathan Swan, of Axios, who asked how Trump could argue that the Covid-19 pandemic was “under control” since “1,000 Americans are dying a day.” Trump responded, “They are dying, that’s true. And you have — it is what it is. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.”
“It is what it is” is a phrase that football coaches lean on after their teams embarrass themselves on the field. President George W. Bush reportedly said it, too, when he was informed, wrongly as it turned out, that he was in danger of losing the 2004 election to John Kerry.
But not Trump. In a long career — in real estate, reality TV and the White House — Trump has reached often for exaggeration and falsehoods to convince people it is what it isn’t.
At another point in the Axios interview, more in character, he praised his administration for doing a “great job” on Covid.
“This was not Trump’s first failed interview,” wrote Jill Filipovic. “Nor did it break entirely new ground in laying bare his inability to grasp basic conepts, his disregard for American lives, his narcissism and pettiness. But the interview did reveal a new set of outrageous and alarming moments from the man who, regrettably, is in charge.” For example, Trump proved reluctant to praise John Lewis, the civil rights hero who died last month, and instead carped about Lewis not attending his inauguration.