WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump shrugged off the idea that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “killer” by suggesting the U.S. is just as bad, Democrats had a question for their GOP colleagues on Monday: Where’s the outrage?
Trump made the remark on Fox News, when host Bill O’Reilly called Putin a “killer,” prompting Trump to respond: “There are a lot of killers. We got a lot of killers. You think our country’s so innocent?”
One could support Trump’s contention that the U.S. isn’t innocent by pointing just to the recent history of U.S. drone strikes around the world, and even the very recent strike that Trump authorized in Yemen that killed a U.S. citizen and numerous other people.
But Trump likely wasn’t criticizing his own drone strike. And he also appeared to be brushing off Russian foreign policy in Ukraine and Syria, as well as accusations that Putin has had journalists and political opponents killed or harmed.
Republicans’ generally tame reactions to Trump’s comments don’t begin to compare to the outrage they expressed whenever President Barack Obama said something they found insufficiently patriotic. They went so far as to falsely accuse Obama of traveling the world on an apology tour for U.S. misdeeds, something fact-checking website PolitiFact rated a “pants on fire” lie. When former first lady Michelle Obama declared she was “finally proud” of America, they attacked her.
The irony was not lost on Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who took to the Senate floor Monday morning to call out the GOP for hypocrisy.
“Can you imagine if a Democrat had said that? Every one of these seats would be filled with people decrying that kind of moral equivalence,” Schumer fumed. “Russia, a dictatorship, where Putin kills his enemies, imprisons the press and causes trouble anywhere he can in the world. Morally equivalent to this great land?”
“Come on,” Schumer said, gesturing to the GOP’s side of the chamber. “Where are you? You know if a Democrat said it, you’d be just howling at the moon. Rightfully so. And here, I don’t hear much.”
Schumer took his comments a step beyond trolling his colleagues, however, and also said he had a broader point.
“What worries me most is the policy,” he said.
“Will this administration cozy up to Putin and his oligarchs and relax sanctions?” Schumer asked. “Will they look the other way when Russia supports separatists in Ukraine or commits human rights violations in Syria alongside Iran, Hezbollah, and the Assad regime? Putin is the kind of bully where if you give him an inch, he’ll take ten miles. We have all come up against people like that.”
Some Republicans did criticize Trump. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) slammed him on Twitter.
And though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) pointedly declined to criticize Trump, he did say on CNN Sunday that he disagrees with Trump’s position.
“Look, I’m not going to critique the president’s every utterance,” McConnell said. “I obviously don’t see this issue the same way he does.”