Even by Donald Trump’s standards, it was a wild ride. On a Memorial Day weekend when coronavirus deaths in the US closed in on 100,000, and a grateful nation paid respects to its war dead, its president took to the golf course and turned to social media to unleash a barrage of personal attacks on foes old, new and perceived.
On Saturday and Sunday, both days on which Trump visited his golf club in Sterling, Virginia, he followed his time on the links with late-night Twitter sessions tweeting or retweeting insults to prominent female politicians.
He renewed his feud with the former US attorney general Jeff Sessions, who is trying to regain his old US Senate seat in Alabama, and repeated a baseless conspiracy theory accusing the TV host Joe Scarborough of involvement in the death of a young staffer.
On Monday morning, just moments before attending the Memorial Day wreath-laying ceremony at Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery, the president was still raging, lashing out on Twitter at Joe Biden, his presumptive Democratic opponent in November’s presidential election, and Barack Obama, his predecessor in the White House.
Trump claimed his golf trips, his first in almost three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, were for exercise, and slammed the media as “sick”, “dishonest” and “deranged” for reporting them.
“The fake and corrupt news makes it sound like a mortal sin. I knew this would happen,” he tweeted on Monday, keeping attention on himself less than an hour before he appeared with the vice-president, Mike Pence, and defense secretary, Mark Esper, for a ceremony at Arlington’s tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
“They don’t mention Sleepy Joe’s poor work ethic, or all of the time Obama spent on the golf course,” he continued.
According to the website trumpgolfcount.com, the president has spent 251 days golfing since his January 2017 inauguration, at an estimated cost to the US taxpayer of $134m. By contrast, the website says, Obama played golf 306 times during the entire eight years of his two-term presidency.
Absent from Trump’s Twitter feed, however, other than a couple of retweeted health advice bulletins from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was any mention of the coronavirus pandemic still sweeping the nation. The feed did feature a small handful of Memorial Day-themed messages.
At midday on Monday, with beaches, parks, bars and restaurants packed across the US, largely in defiance of social distancing guidelines, the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus resource center was showing a death toll of 97,811.
Some of the president’s most insulting retweets were originally sent out on Saturday by John K Stahl, a failed Republican candidate for a 2012 California seat in the House of Representatives and self-proclaimed Trump supporter with more than 107,000 followers.
The Clinton tweet calling her a “skank”, which also referred to Biden as a racist, was one of eight Stahl messages that Trump retweeted in a brief period on Saturday night.
“The president is using his old playbook, his old grievances against Hillary Clinton and particularly [going] after Jeff Sessions, who is fighting in a Senate primary in July and which he is likely going to lose because of all this antipathy the president has for his former attorney general,” Seung Min Kim, the Washington Post’s White House correspondent, told CNN.
“What we’re not hearing from the president right now on his Twitter feed, which is his preferred method of communication, his preferred megaphone, is any solemn messages about Memorial Day.”