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Republicans are shocked, shocked, to learn that Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is a dyed-in-the-wool racist. Also , that snow is cold, the ocean is wet and the sky is often blue.
The clamor of GOP voices denouncing King’s latest racist eruption is more amusing than inspiring. Where have his Republican colleagues been all these years? Surely the “party of Lincoln” is aware that race has been the most divisive issue in our national history. Surely Republicans were aware of King’s toxic views, which he makes no attempt to hide. Why such an uproar now?
Perhaps King’s newly outraged critics were waiting for him to finally spell it out in language that even the “party of Trump” cannot ignore. Which he did. [..]
We have seen, in subsequent days, that the open embrace of white supremacy is a bridge too far for many Republicans. That’s what they say, at least. I’ll believe them when they make clear — with actions, not just words — that racists such as King are unwelcome in the party’s ranks.
There have been many policy disasters over the course of U.S. history. It’s hard, however, to think of a calamity as gratuitous, an error as unforced, as the current federal shutdown.
Nor can I think of another disaster as thoroughly personal, as completely owned by one man. When Donald Trump told Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, “I will be the one to shut it down,” he was being completely accurate — although he went on to promise that “I’m not going to blame you for it,” which was a lie.
Still, no man is an island, although Trump comes closer than most. You can’t fully make sense of his policy pratfalls without acknowledging the extraordinary quality of the people with whom he has surrounded himself. And by “extraordinary,” of course, I mean extraordinarily low quality. Lincoln had a team of rivals; Trump has a team of morons.
Last Tuesday, the major broadcast and cable news networks interrupted their regularly scheduled programming to air President Trump’s prime-time address on the nonexistent “crisis” at the U.S.-Mexico border. The speech failed to live up to the seemingly endless hype, vindicating those who questioned the networks’ decision to provide a platform for Trump’s oft-repeated lies. “There wasn’t anything of substance that we haven’t heard many times before,” wrote Post columnist Margaret Sullivan. “And all the fact-checking in the world — worthy as it is — can’t make a dent in the spread of misinformation that such an opportunity gives the president.”
This kind of media malpractice has become familiar in Trump’s Washington, where politics is often covered as a spectator sport. In the first week of the new Congress, for example, House Democrats introduced a sweeping reform package to strengthen voting rights, limit the influence of money in politics and fight government corruption. Yet the coverage of the bill was almost completely drowned out by coverage of a faux controversy surrounding freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) using an expletive in reference to the president. Journalists spent days covering the potential political fallout of Tlaib’s remark, with Politico reporting that “Democrats are furious” and “Republicans are positively salivating.” The new majority’s signature policy proposal and the real issues it addresses were virtually ignored.
One useful development has come out of this pointless shutdown: It has revealed how little Republican politicians actually care about many of the principles they claim to champion.
Eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse”? You’d never know this mattered, given their insistence that Democrats agree to spend “only” $5 billion on a wall that is a non-solution to a non-problem.
Valuing “freedom” and “property rights”? Hard to square with proposals to invoke eminent domain to build a border wall and use asset forfeiture money to pay for it (an idea endorsed by the chair of the House Freedom Caucus, no less).
But perhaps the biggest swindle revealed by the shutdown is Republican officials’ commitment to the “dignity of work.”
For years, the GOP has tried to slash the safety net on the premise that lazy Americans need to be weaned off government handouts. The objective is not to punish the poor, they say, or even to save money. Rather, it’s to imbue dejected Americans with greater feelings of self-worth through an honest paycheck.
And yet, with astounding callousness, Republicans have brushed aside the hundreds of thousands of Americans now being denied the dignity of that paycheck thanks to an unnecessary government shutdown.
An Ernest Hemingway character once said that he went bankrupt two ways: “Gradually and then suddenly.” That may also be how Donald Trump’s administration finally melts down.
We are now two years into the Trump presidency. Think back to how unnerving it was, a little more than 100 weeks ago, when Sean Spicer gave his fuming Baghdad Bob press conference insisting, falsely, that the crowd at Trump’s swearing-in was “the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period!” Americans were still capable of being surprised, in those innocent days, at being asked to put the lies of their new president above the clear evidence of their senses.
Imagine if you’d known then how far we’d fall. The government has been partly shut down for 24 days and counting. Around 800,000 federal employees are missing their paychecks. Thousands of low-income people — largely seniors and the disabled — may soon face eviction due to lack of funds at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Food and airplanes are both going without routine inspections.