The Silence of the Lemmings

Donald Trump is an awful excuse for a human being. He finds new ways to demonstrate that irrefutable truth every day.

Trump is a racist, something that was evident to anyone paying attention long before his most recent outburst. He is a pathological liar whose lies sometime have a purpose and other times seem more like reflex actions, his natural state of being.

The President is uninformed, lacking a scintilla of curiosity. He doesn’t read. His attention span is so short that briefing him on an important topic is almost impossible.

Psychiatrists should be reluctant to go on the public record. However, it doesn’t take medical training to recognize that he is a narcissist, might well fit the definition of a sociopath and offers a textbook’s worth of material for studying abnormal personality traits.

And yet, almost all the members of one of this country’s two major political parties act as if they are deaf, dumb and blind to these obvious characteristics.  The Emperor has no clothes on, but Republicans are still committed to admiring his non-existent outfit.

Every once in a while, but remarkably infrequently, one of them offers tepid criticism of something that Trump said, but so weakly as to lack any impact.  Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is the master of the mealy-mouthed non-comment, but he certainly has lots of company.

A new version of “Profiles in Courage” focused on Republican Members of Congress would be nothing but blank pages.  When Trump bragged during the presidential campaign that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue and no one would care, did we realize that he was including Congressional Republicans in that assertion?

At this point in the Trump era, he may continue to shock us, but he no longer surprises us.  There is no bottom to what he is capable of doing, no act too outrageous, no assertion beyond his imagination.  He is, he tells us, “the least racist person in the world”, the individual who “understands the health care system better than anyone else,” “the best deal maker ever.”  The rest of us shake our heads in dismay while Republicans act as if what he is doing and saying is normal.

The crazy–is there really another word for it?–meeting in the White House to discuss immigration legislation last week is the latest example.  Trump was reported to be furious that a bipartisan proposal included special provisions for refugees from Haiti, El Salvador and several African countries.

According to the one Democrat in the room, Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, Trump fumed about letting people into this country from “shithole” places such as those.  Two Republican Senators who were also in the meeting first claimed that they could not remember what he said and later denied that Trump used those precise words.  Trump himself offered a weasely explanation that his words had been “rough” but not what Durbin claimed.  He and his minions have not provided their version of what Trump  said.

On Monday, the extent of Republican complicity in covering for his racist language became clear.  Multiple sources assert the word Trump used was “shithouse” rather than “shithole.”  Based on that very narrow distinction, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Senator David Perdue of Georgia defended Trump.

I don’t know to what circle of Hell Dante would assign Cotton, Perdue and Trump’s other Republican enablers, but it would certainly be one of the hotter ones.

For Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and other Republicans, Trump is a “useful idiot.”  While it’s clear that he had little understanding of the provisions of the tax bill and made all sorts of dishonest assertions about it, his presence in the White House allowed a group of hardline conservatives to pass legislation that they have salivated about for years.  Despite his wildly exaggerated opinion of himself, the movie version of this story would have Trump played by Charlie McCarthy, the dummy manipulated by Edgar Bergen.

Is there any action that Trump might take that would go too far for Congressional Republicans?  They are clearly unconcerned about Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Will they continue to be indifferent to future meddling?  Trump’s administration has taken no actions to prevent future cyber-penetration and Republicans have shown no willingness to acknowledge that America’s security is at risk.

Similarly, they seem untroubled by Trump’s assertions–totally without merit–that there was widespread voter fraud in 2016.  In fact, the party that once had Lincoln as its standard-bearer fully supports a wide assortment of voter suppression schemes.  Efforts to undermine our democratic system don’t set off any alarm bells for Republicans.

What about the risk that Trump will initiate or provoke a war with North Korea?  Or that his bellicose rhetoric and hostility to diplomacy will lead to renewed fighting in the Middle East?  Whatever your favorite metaphor for indifference–fiddling while Rome burns or whistling past the graveyard– Republicans refuse to take seriously the dangers that this unhinged president poses to world peace.

Last, but certainly not least, how will Republicans respond as Robert Mueller closes in on Trump, his family and his co-conspirators?  If Trump tries to fire Mueller, the early indications are that his party will excuse his action as a legitimate response to a partisan witch hunt.

We are in scary territory.  Politics has never been, as the old saying goes, beanbag, but there has usually been an assumption that, when push comes to shove, country does come before party.  Right now, it’s hard to argue such a principle is alive in the Republican Party.

At long last, have they no sense of decency?