Donald Trump’s flair for insults is well noted, but his knack for backhanded compliments is perhaps under-appreciated. Note the finely calibrated use of the conditional tense in this Friday morning tweet:
Representative Devin Nunes, a man of tremendous courage and grit, may someday be recognized as a Great American Hero for what he has exposed and what he has had to endure!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 5, 2018
The pesky “may” aside, the Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee isn’t getting much love elsewhere. Democrats accuse him of duplicitousness in the memo about the FBI’s surveillance of Carter Page release on Friday. Intelligence officials accuse him of endangering national security. And even Republicans are edging away, tepidly supporting the release of a Democratic rebuttal and saying the memo should not affect the jobs of Special Counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Maybe Trump is genuine, though. He also boasted over the weekend, “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe.” (It doesn’t, and who knows what those scare quotes around his name mean.) Labeling the California Republican a hero is all the more impressive when you consider the short list of other luminaries upon whom Trump has bestowed that honorific. Looking at Twitter, astronauts form a big contingent:
Sorry to hear of the passing of Neil Armstrong over the weekend. He was an American hero.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 27, 2012
Today we lost a great pioneer of air and space in John Glenn. He was a hero and inspired generations of future explorers. He will be missed.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
Also making the cut is Bob Dole, a former Senate majority leader and presidential candidate; Presidential Medal of Freedom winner; and Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient in World War II:
Today, we witnessed an incredible moment in history – the presentation of Congress’ highest civilian honor to our friend, and true AMERICAN HERO, Bob Dole. #CongressionalGoldMedal pic.twitter.com/qNQqDLRmCk— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 17, 2018
So does John McCain, a Vietnam War POW:
So great that John McCain is coming back to vote. Brave - American hero! Thank you John.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
That’s a little confusing, since Trump has also retweeted an assertion that McCain is not a hero.