Donald Trump declared Thursday that he still plans to “drain the swamp” of alleged Washington corruption, bluntly contradicting former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s claim a day earlier that the president-elect had dumped that signature campaign slogan.
“Someone incorrectly stated that the phrase ‘DRAIN THE SWAMP’ was no longer being used by me. Actually, we will always be trying to DTS,” Trump said on Twitter.
Gingrich, whose conduct in the late 1990s earned him
“I talked this morning with President-elect Donald Trump. And he reminded me he likes draining the swamp,” he said in the video. “I blew that one.”
Gingrich said he had spoken to Trump earlier in the day and that the president-elect views his high-profile tussle with Boeing over the estimated cost of designing, developing and building two new Air Force One airplanes “is an example of draining the swamp.”
The former lawmaker’s show of contrition came a day after
“I’d written what I thought was a very cute tweet about ‘the alligators are complaining’ … and somebody [from Trump’s team] wrote back and said they were tired of hearing this stuff,” said Gingrich, one of Trump’s most high-profile supporters.
Trump himself had alluded to mixed feelings about the slogan during a Dec. 8 rally in Des Moines, Iowa, part of his triumphant postelection “Thank You” tour.
“Funny how that term caught on, isn’t it?” he said. “I hated it. Somebody said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ I said, ‘Oh, that’s so hokey. That is so terrible.’ I said, ‘All right, I’ll try it.’ So, like, a month ago I said, ‘Drain the swamp.’ The place went crazy. I said, ‘Whoa, watch this.’ Then I said again. Then I started saying it like I meant it, right? And then I said it, I started loving it.”
Trump used the refrain throughout October, and reprised it at every stop on his “Thank You” tour. His critics have taken to repurposing it to attack the president-elect’s choices of prominent bankers for his Cabinet, arguing that he is not draining the swamp so much as bringing in different alligators.
Gingrich told NPR that Trump was shedding some of his campaign language — including a prominent threat to jail Hillary Clinton — now that he has won.
“I’ve noticed on a couple of fronts, like people chanting ‘Lock her up,’ that he’s in a different role now and maybe he feels that as president, as the next president of the United States, that he should be marginally more dignified than talking about alligators in swamps,” the former lawmaker said.
Gingrich said he himself was fond of the imagery, but “he is my leader and if he decides to drop the swamp and the alligator, I will drop the swamp and the alligator.”
While it’s closely associated with Trump, the phrase appears to have entered the 2016 presidential lexicon in October 2015 via a campaign commercial for Ben Carson.
But it has bipartisan pedigree. Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi promised in the run-up to the November 2006 midterms that she would “drain the swamp” if her party won.
Two decades earlier, then President Ronald Reagan invoked the image in a Jan. 20, 1982, speech, promising to “drain the swamp of overtaxation, overregulation and runaway inflation that has dangerously eroded our free way of life.”
In those same remarks, Reagan warned supporters about the risk of contagion with “Potomac fever,” and told them not to fall back into business as usual.
“Don’t let the Washington whirl or the Washington morass let you lose sight of why we came here and what it is that we’re all trying to do. I know it isn’t always easy,” Reagan said. “As the old saying goes, ‘When you’re up to your armpits in alligators, it’s sometimes hard to remember that your original intention was to drain the swamp.’”