Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at CPAC on Sunday, and in the Brady Briefing Room yesterday reporters asked White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki what President Biden thinks about that. Her reply: We’ve spent enough time talking about Trump, and we’re instead going focus on “the American people and our objectives to help them and our commitment to helping them.”
Amen. There’s been more attention given to Trump than anyone on the planet in the last four years and we shouldn’t feel the need to report what he says going forward as he continues to scream that he had an election stolen from him.
Instead, we should focus on the miscreants, hacks, and charlatans he’s left in control of the Republican party.
There are many qualities that we have come to expect from those in positions of political power. Three important ones are empathy, morality, and leadership. How is the GOP doing on each of them?
In a hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Ron Johnson from Wisconsin continued to spread the lie that Antifa provoked the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Yet Trump told the rioters “We love you, you’re very special,” so you have to wonder how Johnson can make that claim. Is he telling us that Trump loves Antifa?
Sen. Ted Cruz fled to Cancún during a recent winter storm that devastated his home state of Texas. Meanwhile, QAnon supporters put together TikTok videos trying to light snowballs on fire in an attempt to show that Bill Gates or another billionaire was behind the “fake snow” in Texas. (If the snow really were fake, does that make Cruz’s attempted escape more defensible, or less?)
Of course Rep. Matt Gaetz defended Cruz and said he should not have apologized for going on vacation while his constituents froze and died. Gaetz does, however, support a 2024 presidential bid by Trump—again showing how firmly attached his lips are to Trump’s nether regions.
Meanwhile, staffers for Cruz and Gaetz say they are trying their best to hold the Democrats accountable for the American public. I’ve heard similar words from a handful of other Republican congressional staffers as well—but based on their bosses’ words and deeds, who knows what that actually means.
So much for empathy. How about morality?
I often compare politicians to a group of refugees I visited five years ago at a camp in Calais. My hosts had traveled thousands of miles to France trying to escape violence and oppression, and they’d wound up in this camp, which the French referred to derogatorily as La Jungle. As I sat down, two of the residents made a small campfire from sticks and dried weeds, over which they brewed tea given to them by the British. They offered some to me. “You are a guest,” they said. “It isn’t right not to offer a guest food or drink.”
They had almost nothing. They lived in a tent made from plastic bags, sticks and pieces of a billboard. The people living there had nothing but compassion to give. Yet they gave it freely, though they were the wretched refuse yearning to breathe free.
How do the GOP glitterati of fame, wealth, influence, and power measure up against these huddled masses? They have Johnson’s respect for truth, Cruz’s compassion for their fellow man, and Gaetz’s sense of duty and propriety.
The result of this national dystopia is easy to see: Our Capitol is behind miles of fencing. The White House stands behind iron gates sixteen feet tall. Those in the GOP remain indifferent to the actual needs of their constituents and intent on lying to protect themselves.
Lincoln said in his famous “House Divided” speech that “If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”
At this point it is obvious where we are. A record number of American voters turned out in the last election to defeat a president who preached fear, racism, misogyny, and violence—a man whose supporters, with his encouragement, marched on the Capitol to overturn the elected government for his personality cult. That failed.
It is not clear where we are tending, though from their rhetoric it sounds like the Republican fearmongers believe our direction to be toward the precipice of Hell. By contrast, in his CNN townhall last week, President Biden was more hopeful that the country is better off than the rants of the diminished GOP, and that there may yet be a chance for E pluribus unum. “The nation is not divided,” Biden said:
You go out there and take a look and talk to people. You have fringes on both ends, but it’s not nearly as divided as we make it out to be. And we have to bring it together. . . . I really think there’s so many things that we agree on that we don’t focus enough on. And that’s in large part, I think because we don’t just condemn the things that are so obviously wrong.
For Lincoln, the purpose of victory was the preservation of the Union. And Biden, in his own way, is trying to hold the country together—to keep the house undivided.
But that will depend in part, as Biden said, on condemning things that should be condemned.
“We’re just trying to win back the House and the Senate in the midterms,” GOP congressional staffers continue to tell me as their bosses weave conspiracy theories about a false-flag insurrection and a stolen landslide election. “We will win. Ultimately we will win,” one staffer told me—the arrogance and ignorance dripping from his lips. None of them can make a strong case for how, especially since they cannot recognize why they lost the House, the Senate, and the White House in the first place.
The stubborn lunacy of Trumpism is built on lies, but it will not go away on its own. An equally stubborn insistence upon truth will be required to finally end it.