Nearly 300 Republicans sit in the 535-member 115th Congress, and they’re marked by three principal characteristics. As publicity whores, they’re a dangerous lot, for the most perilous place on earth is the seldom-unoccupied expanse between them and television cameras; you’ll be trampled in the self-promoting stampede. As ideologues, they have exaggerated opinions about pretty much everything, which they insist you hear. And as more traditional politicians, they’re a logorrheic bunch; only death or severe illness or being caught in bed with a dead girl or live boy can shut them up.
Except, that is, when their president says something typically stupid and almost universally repellant, which is much more frequent than anyone imagined as of 19 January 2017. Donald J. Trump’s appalling campaign never stopped; he’s the same racist, xenophobic goon that he was while rabble-rousing like a Jim Crow firebrand. There is no rhetorical bile beneath him, for he dwells in the lowest sewers of American politics. Always has, always will. Thus yesterday, as the entire globe knows, while discussing immigration reform at the White House he vomited his “shithole countries” remark to a group of congressional pols, virtually all Republicans. (Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin also attended.)
And what, we ask, of “The Honorable” ladies and gentlemen of the president’s party? Their reactions? Their worthy, ethical responses to Trump’s typically stupid, almost universally repellant racist remark? This morning, for answers to these questions, I set about reading the nation’s free press. From its ledes, I was at first encouraged — heartened by its sundry assessments of striking similarities.
The NY Times reported that “members of Congress from both parties” were “alarmed and mystified”; Trump’s politically correct right-wing bigotry nonetheless “drew a backlash from Republican and Democratic lawmakers”; “the language he used … shocked and appalled many lawmakers“; “the reactions were extraordinary bipartisan rebukes to a sitting president.” The Hill‘s account also noted that the president’s venom “sparked bipartisan backlash,” adding that “Democrats slammed the comments as racist, while multiple GOP lawmakers called on Trump to clarify his remarks.” (Clarify “shitholes”?) CNN observed that “Several lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle strongly rebuked [Trump’s] comments.” The Washington Post acknowledged that “Democrats erupted in outrage,” although, further in, it reported more generically that the president’s “comments left lawmakers taken aback.”
There I stopped my survey. I had gotten the drift. Bipartisan outrage, shock and alarm dominated reportage on Donald Trump’s casual bigotry. To some extent, bipartisan outrage was a fact — but, fact is, not nearly bipartisan enough to be in any way balanced.
Utah’s Congresswoman Mia Love, an ethnic Haitian, issued a blistering takedown of Trump’s words. They were, she said, “unkind, divisive, elitist,” and “the president must apologize to both the American people and the nations he so wantonly maligned.” One of Love’s homeland senators, the retiring Orrin Hatch, demanded a “detailed explanation” of “shithole countries” — a defining demand from a U.S. senator as mentally declining as Trump.
Sens. James Lankford (Oklahoma) and Tim Scott (South Carolina) both whimpered that the president’s again-revealed racism was “disappointing.” Florida’s Rep. Carlos Curbelo tweeted that “Under no circumstances is it acceptable to degrade, denigrate, or dehumanize #TPS immigrants,” and fellow Floridian and U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said “Language like that shouldn’t be heard in locker rooms and it shouldn’t be heard in the White House.” But Ros-Lehtinen is also retiring, so her coherent and thus unOrrinesque statement doesn’t really count as courageously, anti-Trumpianly defiant.
And that, from my morning survey, was that. Four congressional Republicans — out of 290 — still hoping for a political future reacted to Trump’s malignity with anything close to genuine outrage. Four, or, to the more statistically minded, 1.4 percent of the entire Republican caucus. Perhaps a handful of other Republicans was somewhere muttering disapproval of Trump, but if so, they sure weren’t seeking notice from the Times, the Post, the Hill or CNN.
For when the Orange Baboon puffs his chest, rib-scratches and wobbles in pathetic contempt for just about anyone of color, mum’s the word. One word, anyway. Others are cowardice, timorousness, pusillanimity and Quislinglike contemptibility. Being returned to Congress — only to be forgotten by subsequent generations — is far more important to these bipedal primates of lousy clannishness than upholding even a modicum of honorable behavior. If remembered at all, that is how this 115th Republican Congress will be eulogized.