One of the most striking things about the last several days after the President’s “shithole” outburst is that two of the Senators in the room have now willingly and repeatedly lied on the President’s behalf to serve his narrow interests. Of course, politicians lie. Even the good ones will shade the truth and fail to speak up to clarify public confusion. But this is an extreme and almost unique case.
All but one of the people in the room were Republicans. Dick Durbin, the Democrat, has said very clearly what the President said. Lindsey hasn’t used the word in public but he told fellow South Carolina Senator Tim Scott that he used the word. Most notably the White House itself has conspicuously declined to deny the use of the word. Even Cotton and Perdue, the baddies here, at first could only muster a feeble ‘do not recall’ non-denial denial.
After things escalated and it became clear that their ‘do not recall’ line wasn’t getting the job done, Cotton and Perdue shifted to the attack and outright denial of the published reports and Durbin and Graham’s claims. In other words, their memories appeared to get crisper and more accurate over time. That’s amazing. My point is not simply that they’re lying for the President. It’s that they’re lying for the President in a case where the fact that they are lying is by any standard all but undeniable. Note this: even as they defend the President, the White House itself won’t deny the claim. Indeed, in off the record comments to reporters the best top White House officials can manage is an almost parodic debate about whether the President said “shithole” or “shithouse”. “Shithole” is definitely tri-state area vernacular. Not “shithouse”. But holy shit, this is a stupid non-point.
One of the elemental features of the Trump Era is how readily Trump has been able to garner from most Republicans the kind of reflexive obsequiousness and fealty strong men and would-be strongmen demand. While our political system has many ills, this has not tended to be one of them. Trump’s arrival changed that. It’s obvious they’re lying. They know it’s obvious. They know we know and yet they’re doing it anyway. That is a message in itself. They’re doing it because hyper-loyalty of this sort trumps embarrassment in the Trump GOP.