U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci told Fox & Friends on Friday morning: “I’ve said all along the president many times says what people are thinking.” The Wadsworth Republican, and now candidate for the U.S. Senate, spoke amid the furor stirred by President Trump questioning at a White House meeting why the United States should accept immigrants and refugees from “s***hole countries,” a reference to Haiti, El Salvador and African nations.

The suggestion from Renacci and others is that many see these countries as the president described, and thus it shouldn’t trouble that the president says so out loud. Renacci has bound his candidacy tightly to the president. He’s a Trumpkin. More, he fits into a category teeming with Republicans, those who enable the president by failing to call out his deplorable behavior.

And this was deplorable, the word worth stressing. That many say something doesn’t make it true. It actually falls upon the president to elevate the conversation, to lead, in a word.

What was so offensive, disappointing and ignorant? For starters, the president appeared to argue that because such countries have problems, the people are unworthy of coming here. That is, as Speaker Paul Ryan concluded in another episode involving the president, “textbook racism,” prejudice, applying a stereotype.

The president insists he wants a more merit-based approach to immigration. That is a fair discussion. It also means assessing people on their skills, and it hardly suggests eliminating entire countries, or making the careless assumption that no one from such a place is worthy. As it is, experience and research show the opposite,

Was the president just using “tough” language, as he put it, engaging in a crude shorthand? The nation’s head of state must do better, to say the least. His words aren’t just embarrassing in the way they depart from principles and values, that Emma Lazarus poem linked to the Statue of Liberty, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” They do harm to the country’s moral authority.

And that translates to diminished influence and, yes, less power. So the country is weaker, not stronger, contrary to the president’s claims.

If this episode had been isolated, perhaps it could be explained away. But it is part of a pattern, going back decades, of the president inviting the conclusion that he is racist. The Justice Department found discrimination in the operation of his rental properties. He leaped to condemn the Central Park Five, and continued, though they were found innocent in the brutal assault of a woman. For years, he persisted in the falsehood that Barack Obama was not born in this country. During the campaign, he called Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists.”

As president, little has changed, from the travel ban aimed at Muslims to the harsh words for black athletes protesting during the national anthem to the “fine people” among the white supremacists marching in Charlottesville.

This is Donald Trump, often the Ugly American. He gets points among his most ardent supporters for his authenticity, but he is missing in the main what the country expects from an authentic president, a public persona that is dignified, informed, magnanimous and driven to achieve a “more perfect union.” No president hits all the marks all the time. Few have been as wanting as the current occupant of the office. He has degraded the presidency.

It isn’t good enough to say what the people are thinking. A president must lead.