Republican consultant Ana Navarro on CNN’s State of the Union aptly summarized events on Saturday: “You had Trump, President Trump in Pennsylvania, speaking to his base, feeding red meat to the base and being divisive. You had the press celebrating the press standing up for journalism and you had the resistance marching in sweltering heat in Washington for climate change and against Trump.”
It’s normal for activists to march in favor of their causes (climate change was the issue this week). It’s certainly normal for the press to defend the First Amendment. What is not normal is for the president on his 100th day in office to rant and rave about the media in a campaign-style screed. It’s not normal for the president of the United States and leader of the Free World to declare: “Media outlets like CNN and MSNBC are fake news. . . . They are a disgrace.” It’s not normal for a president to stand in front of a crowd citing poll ratings — about the press. And it’s sure not normal to read the poem “The Snake” to describe illegal immigrants.
President Trump remains an angry, irrational figure, someone who still must stir up hatred — against the press, against immigrants, against Democrats — to enliven his base. Rhetorically, he is still the candidate of the resentful America First crowd, not the president of the entire country. His rambling, incoherent and factually deficient remarks in Harrisburg, Pa., remind us of the pathetic emptiness of the message — I’m with you because I hate the same people you do.
It’s not normal to rack up a record 488 falsehoods in the first 100 days in office and to repeat the same falsehoods over and over again. It’s not normal for a president to continue to question a foreign power’s responsibility for its well-documented, comprehensive effort to sway our elections. Yes, he is still doing that despite what all his national security advisers tell him.
It’s not normal for the public to doubt whether Trump even knows what is in his own proposals. He insists Trumpcare protects preexisting conditions. He claims his taxes would go up under his plan, which lowers his rate to 15 percent (he’s a Svengali of pass-through companies) and abolishes the alternative minimum tax. It’s not normal for a president to be surprised that health care is complicated or being president isn’t easy.
It’s not normal for a U.S. president to praise and congratulate dictatorial leaders, as he does with President Xi Jinping of China (“a very good man”) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey. (Good men do not lock up political dissidents.) Normal presidents do not go out of their way to cheer the leader of the National Front, a party that is still infested with anti-Semites and whose leader denied the role of France in the murder of French Jews during WWII. It’s not normal to invite for a White House visit a human-rights abuser and anti-American demagogue who has presided over thousands of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. (Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at her confirmation hearing correctly described extrajudicial killings under Rodrigo Duterte as a gross abuse of human rights.)
And yet Republicans in Congress and in the commentariat ignore, minimize or don’t care about all that. Great job! Give him an A! Hey, there’s Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, you know! Whatever standards — Constitutional, personal, ideological — Republicans once upheld have been thrown overboard. They cannot bring themselves to enforce the emoluments clause or compel Trump to disclose his taxes or crack down on the blatant conflicts of interest throughout his administration.
During the first 100 days the Republic has survived, but the GOP, permanently we think, has been morally compromised and intellectually corrupted, just as many of us warned. “Everything Trump touches dies,” GOP consultant Rick Wilson is fond of saying. Trump’s victims now include a respectable Republican Party.