Ask typical Americans about the best day of the year and you’re likely to get a one-word answer – Thanksgiving, they’ll tell you, when families gather to eat, relax, eat and then eat some more.
At Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump’s gaudy ‘Florida White House’, this year’s holiday was just a little different.
Sure, the egomaniacal inhabitant of the Oval Office cleaned his plate but he was more interested in feeding the rest of the world a heapin’ helping of reasons why he is so wonderful, at least by his own reckoning.
Indeed, it can be fairly said he was intent on stuffing news of his achievements – punctuated by slaps at his enemies – down the throats of one and all.
Wanting to keep his friends close, he began by rebuking his own intelligence agency’s conclusion last week that the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate on October 2 was, “with high confidence”, ordered by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He told reporters the CIA “had feelings” on the matter, suggesting the “world” should be held responsible for Mr Khashoggi’s death because it is a “vicious place”.
The president then doubled-down on his comments, suggesting an oil deal with Saudi Arabia was far more important than holding anyone accounting for Mr Khashoggi’s murder.
“Do people really want me to give up hundreds of thousands of jobs?” Mr Trump said of his partnership with Prince Mohammed, 33, who is effectively the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler.
“And frankly, if we went by this standard, we wouldn’t be able to have anybody as an ally,” he added, before claiming the crown prince “hates it more than I do” that the assassination took place.
Meanwhile, using the traditional presidential Thanksgiving call to troops deployed overseas, Mr Trump was anything but traditional. All previous presidents have limited their remarks to best wishes and feel-good expressions of gratitude for the year’s blessings.
But not Donald J Trump.
After patting himself on the back he launched into a laundry list of grievances about judges, trade, Mexico and the caravan of would-be migrants rolling north toward the US border.
“It’s a disgrace,” Mr Trump said of judges who have blocked his attempts to overhaul US immigration law, as he linked his efforts to secure the border with military missions overseas.
Critics were quick to note the irony of Mr Trump enjoying the holiday with First Lady Melania and his children while the 6000 troops he dispatched to the border eat field rations and miss their own kith and kin.
Not that criticism seemed to bother Mr Trump, who conscripted Air Force General David Lyons to his anti-migrant crusade while strongly implying the Pentagon’s top brass back his policies all the way.
“You probably see over the news what’s happening on our southern border,” Mr Trump began.
“Large numbers of people are forming … and I don’t even have to ask you, I know what you want to do, you want to make sure that you know who we’re letting in,” Mr Trump said, speaking to General Lyons, who took the call at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.
“And we’re not letting in anybody, essentially because we want to be very, very careful.
“You’re right, you’re doing it over there. We’re doing it over here.”
Retired Rear Admiral John Kirby was scathing when commenting on Mr Trump’s rant, his politicisation of the military and use of General Lyons as a political prop.
“The President’s conduct on that call, the manner in which he politicised it, demonstrated an utter and complete disregard for what military service means,” he told CNN.
“This was, sadly, predictable and avoidable.”
President Trump reveals what he's thankful for this #Thanksgiving: "For having a great family, and for having made a tremendous difference in this country. I've made a tremendous difference in the country." https://t.co/RM5VrVvlY7 pic.twitter.com/w6Gl8ssxGs
— The Hill (@thehill) November 22, 2018
Later, Mr Trump again cast the military as ardent supporters, this time using a US Coast Guard commander as a foil while lambasting the rest of the world for exploiting America on trade.
“We’ve been taken advantage of for many, many years by bad trade deals,” Mr Trump told the commander, who sheepishly replied that, “We don’t see any issues in terms of trade right now.”
And throughout, Mr Trump was sure to congratulate himself, telling the officers that the country is doing exceptionally well on his watch.
“I hope that you’ll take solace in knowing that all of the American families you hold so close to your heart are all doing well,” he said.
“The nation’s doing well economically, better than anybody in the world.”
He later told reporters “nobody’s done more for the military than me.”
Mr Trump also turned his attention to America’s southern neighbour, threatening to close the border if his administration determines Mexico has lost “control” on its side.
Indeed, asked what he was thankful for this Thanksgiving, Mr Trump cited his “great family,” as well as himself.
“I made a tremendous difference in this country,” he said.
He and his family capped Thanksgiving with several hundred dues-paying members and their guests at a Thanksgiving feast in Mar-a-Lago’s opulent ballroom, where the fare included all the traditional items along with chilled seafood, Chilean sea bass and braised short ribs.
“You really are our heroes,” he said as waiters bustled about the Thanksgiving dinner tables.
Unlike America’s top military commanders, the US president did not ask the wait staff to endorse his trade policies.
– with AAP