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Trump, Congress and Integrity

Photo by Adrián Martínez | CC BY 2.0

One looks in vain for anything resembling integrity from those who purport to represent the United States citizenry. It’s bad enough that the people in that unfortunate nation must tolerate a president who lost the election by 3 million votes, despite his repeated proclamations that he did, in fact, win the popular vote, and it was only through voter fraud that it appears differently. He seems to feel that the U.S. has the same level of voting reliability as any other banana republic. And while there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud anywhere but in his own orange head, the entire system of voting in the U.S. is deeply flawed. But that is a topic for another day.

Just last week, a ragtag group of the U.S.’s most disreputable citizens gathered together in Charlottesville, Virginia, to assert their belief in white supremacy. This group of neo-Nazis and their various cohorts was met by counter-demonstrators in a march that quickly grew violent, with one Nazi supporter ramming his car into a crowd of counter-demonstrators, killing one woman.

People of conscience in the U.S. and around the world were shocked at this behavior, and were quick to condemn the actions of the white supremacists. That such behaviors can be openly displayed in this day and age was, in and of itself, shocking.

Such horror at these actions, however, was not universal. When U.S. President Donald Trump finally decided to comment on them, he condemned the actions of both sides, without ever mentioning anything about white supremacy. Two days later, when his tepid comments had a reaction almost as strong as that which resulted from the march itself, he did issue a statement condemning neo-Nazis and related organizations. Unfortunately, a day later, when he spontaneously decided to answer questions at a press conference, much to the dismay of his aides, he backtracked on his criticism.

One is naïve at best if one expects anything better from Mr. Trump at this point. Almost seven months into his presidency, he has proven to be an international embarrassment at best, and a threat to the continued existence of civilization, at worst.

But what of Congress? What about the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, those august bodies that, along with the judicial branch of government, are supposed to provide a check on the executive branch? Surely they were astounded by Mr. Trump’s comments, and forcefully confronted him in public and private, clearly stating that they were appalled that he would countenance anything related to such racism, demanding that he clarify his remarks, to remove all doubt about his disgust at the very idea of white supremacy, and distancing themselves from any such notions.

Well, no. A report on that popular entertainment site, CNN News, included this: “Republican lawmakers and administration aides found themselves again Wednesday weighing the costs and benefits of remaining loyal to President Donald Trump, whose equivocal statements about neo-Nazis and white supremacists marked a dramatic shift in presidential rhetoric. By Wednesday afternoon, most appeared to have made their calculation: deserting Trump now cold only harm – and not help – their agendas or political fortunes”.

So there you are. Integrity? Bah! Who needs that old thing? What is ‘integrity’ when one’s political fortunes are at stake?

Even if we give Congress members the benefit of the doubt for just a moment (and no more than a moment), the view is no better. CNN mentioned their agendas, not just their political fortunes (although this writer thinks there is probably no difference; their main agenda is always getting re-elected). Perhaps they don’t want to cross the president right now, because staying in his good graces will assist them in passing legislation. Without the president’s support,  such noble pursuits as depriving millions of people of health care, cutting funding for the so-called ‘safety net’ for the poor, so that more money can be spent killing innocent men, women and children around the world, may become more difficult to do. They don’t want to risk reducing air- and water-quality standards, and perhaps feel that they need to stay on the good side of the president, in order to assure that laws mandating a basic standard of quality can be more easily repealed.

We will now return from our flight of fancy, and get down to brass tacks: elected officials (this writer refuses to refer to them as ‘representatives’, since they couldn’t possibly care less about the people who stupidly voted them into office, and continue, for some bizarre reason, to do so), always want to ride a president’s coattails into re-election. And there seems to be a belief that even a president as widely unpopular as Mr. Trump can assist them in doing so; the prestige of the office, they seem to think, will accomplish that, despite the reputation of the person currently inhabiting it.

And the result is that most Republican officials are content to let his racist attitudes ride.

Oh, there are exceptions. Senator Jeff Flake, a Republican of Arizona, continues to be critical of the president. However, according to all reports, he has little to lose. He must stand for re-election next year, and there seems to be no one on the planet who expects him to succeed; he is only slightly more popular in his home state than Mr. Trump is nationwide. And Senator Lindsay Graham of South Carolina, who is also critical of Mr. Trump, can easily afford to do so; his current term doesn’t end until 2020. That gives him plenty of time to make amends for his transgressions.

And the Democrats? One must remember that the differences between the Republicans and the Democrats are mostly cosmetic. Yes, the Democrats aren’t quite as anxious to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (aka Obamacare), but when it comes to military spending, saber-rattling, and obeisance to lobby groups, they are mirror images of the Republicans. And they know that it was partly white supremacists and neo-Nazis who put Mr. Trump into office, as David Duke, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, has recently pointed out. No, much better not to alienate such a powerful voting bloc; a bit of tepid criticism is all that’s required, followed by a quick change of subject.

A new day has dawned in the U.S. There was a time when racist attitudes had to be hidden; they certainly existed, but individuals didn’t openly express them, and government officials simply passed laws that mainly penalized minorities (today, more Blacks are involved in the U.S. so-called correctional system – incarceration, probation or parole – than were in slavery the year before the start of the Civil War, mainly due to the country’s draconian drug laws). But now racism is out of the closet, out in the open for all to see, and such views are shared by the president of the United States.

In ‘the land of the free and the home of the brave’, things continue to go from bad to worse. Where it will all end is anyone’s guess.

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Essays on Palestine (Red Pill Press).

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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