When President Donald Trump lambastes Federal Reserve Chair Jerome “Jay” Powell, in an attempt to blame him for GM’s plant-closing decision (revealing Trump’s economic promises to be empty), Republicans are silent.
When national security adviser John Bolton declines to listen to the audio recording of Washington Post Global Opinions columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder for the preposterous reason that he doesn’t speak Arabic (are there no translators?) and declines to make CIA Director Gina Haspel — who has heard the tape — available to brief lawmakers, Republicans are silent. It’s up to Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to declare: “This is just a bad movie. You have John Bolton refusing to listen to a tape because he doesn’t speak Arabic. … He should want more information, not less.”
When White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declares that the voluminous National Climate Assessment put together with the support of 13 agencies is not based on facts, Republicans are silent about her outright fabrication. (Yet right there in a section entitled “Our Changing Climate,” the report states: “This chapter is based on the Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), which is Volume I of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (available at science2017.globalchange.gov). The Key Messages and the majority of the content represent the highlights of CSSR, updated with recent references relevant to these topics. The interested reader is referred to the relevant chapter(s) in CSSR for more detail on each of the Key Messages that follow.”)
When Trump responds to the assessment by simply declaring that he doesn’t believe facts and by blathering on about other issues (“You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean,” he told The Post’s interviewers. Record clean?!), Republicans are silent.
This is Trump’s GOP — silent, intellectually dishonest and afraid to confront a president and an administration that flaunts its ignorance and offers no factual basis for its own positions.
Imagine instead if Republicans had a smidgen of intellectual integrity:
— They would remind Trump of the importance of the Fed’s independence and tell him that his promises of a manufacturing renaissance were misguided and impossible to guarantee (just like the “You can keep your doctor” promise President Barack Obama made). Then, they’d take back the power to levy tariffs and end the destructive tax (that’s what it is) on steel, which contributes to the auto industry’s woes.
— They’d tell Bolton to listen to the Khashoggi audiotape before fully briefing them and, if necessary, subpoena Haspel to testify under oath. Then they would consider appropriate legislative action to sanction the Saudis, end arms sales, block consideration of a nuclear deal with the Saudis, and cease support for the Saudis’ disastrous war in Yemen.
— They would tell Trump that people with “very high levels of intelligence” don’t ignore established science or lie about the data. (They’d do well to follow the example of climate scientists who told The Post that his assertions were “idiotic” and that it’s not up to us to believe facts or not; the facts are the facts.)
A party lies and indulges lies when its leader has no rational policy response to the real world and is driven by emotion, impulse and, possibly, financial self-interest. In covering for Trump and indulging his misrepresentations on everything from climate change to trade to corporate tax cuts (which aren’t being used to boost wages as promised) to immigration to foreign policy, Republicans demonstrate that they are unfit to govern.
Democrats should use their majority status in the House, their bully pulpit in the Senate and their presidential campaign to inform the American people, treating them like adults capable of processing information and understanding rational options. They have a strong case to make that Republicans are too craven and feeble to confront the actual challenges we face. Voters deserve leaders who do more than put their fingers in their ears and hum to block out disagreeable information.
Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post. @JRubinBlogger