With a small handful of notable exceptions, Republican politicians are hiding behind a false narrative to excuse their refusal to speak the plain truth about our dangerously unfit president.
The narrative goes like this: All that matters is the legislative agenda. Everything else is “just noise.” Ignore the noise and focus on “getting things done.”
This comes from many of the same culture warriors who impeached a president for telling a lie about sex. And whine about Hollywood and rap music warping our culture and corrupting our youth. And circle the wagons to protect our poor, besieged Christian super-majority from the Jewish/Islamic/Media “War on Christmas” that has laid waste to our nation. Oh, the horror!
But now, Republicans are suddenly telling us that values and character don’t count. They are saying that the unhinged behavior of a president of the United States is too trivial to be worthy of discussion. We shouldn’t focus on Trump’s compulsive lying or race-baiting. So what if he’s dividing the country into warring camps. Why waste time worrying about forfeiting America’s world leadership, insulting our allies, or undermining the credibility of our intelligence services. Who cares if Trump obstructs investigations into foreign interference with our elections, starts a civil war within his own party, boasts about sexual assault, and emboldens white supremacists.
That’s all just “noise.” We should ignore it, and focus on the only thing that really matters:
Take Ted Cruz. Please. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
Cruz campaigned against “New York values,” castigated Barack Obama for defending Colin Kaepernick’s right to protest unequal treatment of minorities, and announced that he became a country music fan because he “didn’t like how rock music responded to 9/11.” He accused the federal government of working “to undermine our values,” and promised to deliver a government that “works to defend the sanctity of human life and to uphold the sacrament of marriage.”
Now, Cruz oozes smarmy indignation at the very suggestion that it might be appropriate for him to comment on Trump’s poor values and indecent behavior. He insists that he has “nothing to say” about “all the nonsense,” and demands that everybody just “shut up and do your job.”
Our country is paying a steep price for Trump’s war on truth.
And it’s not just the fringe loonies on the far-right who think Trump’s bad behavior should be off the table. House Speaker Paul Ryan has gone into full “why can’t we all just get along” mode. He reacted to deadly serious criticism of Trump by Senators Corker and Flake with the verbal equivalent of a shrug. To Ryan, talking about Trump’s indecency and dangerous behavior is just “calling each other names.” It does nothing to advance what’s important, the legislative agenda, so why bother with it? It’s just noise.
Well, it isn’t just noise.
With apologies to William Shakespeare, there are more things in heaven and earth, Republicans, than are dreamt of in your legislative agenda.
And you know it. You just don’t have the political courage to admit it.
In fact, the Republican cover story has it upside-down. If we’re going to rank the importance of issues facing our country, it is the legislative agenda du jour, not Trump’s bad behavior, that should be dismissed as “just noise.”
The damage inflicted by Trump on our nation and the world will have a far greater and longer lasting impact than tinkering with the tax code for the umpteenth time in our history.
Our country is paying a steep price for Trump’s war on truth, non-existent ethics, abuse of power, and disastrous foreign policy. If that’s noise, it’s the noise of your house falling down around you.
Trump’s war on truth is a relentless campaign to undermine the credibility of every American institution that has the legal, political or moral authority to hold him accountable. Those institutions include the free press, the courts, and the American intelligence community. As a result, millions of Americans, Trump’s political base, appear to have been entirely immunized against believing even the most objective, provable facts if they don’t come from Trump or a Trump-approved outlet. Trump knows he can say anything, and that the mere fact of his saying it will be enough “proof” for his base. That’s a crime against democracy.
By breaking his campaign promise to drain the swamp, and instead bringing the swamp into the White House, Trump has created a new paradigm of presidential corruption. He has not only declared himself immune from ethical restraints, but he has also enriched himself and his family, filled his government with anti-government billionaires and special pleaders, and chased out officials responsible for government ethics at the first sign that they might act with independence and integrity.
He abuses his presidential power daily, interfering with and politicizing the criminal justice system, smearing politicians who dare to criticize him, and belittling private citizens who say things he doesn’t like. His bullying has had an enormous chilling effect on honest political discourse. Witness the cowardly defensive crouch into which he has placed most of the Republican establishment.
And it is certainly not just noise when a president recklessly lurches into one foreign policy blunder after another. He goads an immature, unstable North Korean leader with a nuclear arsenal. He so grievously insults the President of Mexico that he enhances the possibility that Mexico will elect a left-wing populist who would radically change the relationship between our two countries. He raises questions with our allies about our commitment to mutual defense.
All of this amounts to massive spiritual and civic damage to the country, and loss of credibility, leadership and respect across the globe.
That’s not “just noise.”
Follow Philip on Twitter at @PhilipRotner. Philip is an engaged citizen and a columnist who has spent over 40 years practicing law. His views are his own and do not reflect the views of any organization with which he has been associated.