Wednesday 21 August 2019

Republican leaders greet latest outburst with a wall of silence

Wave of anger: US President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Wave of anger: US President Donald Trump. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Isaac Stanley-Becker

A day has passed without prominent Republicans stepping forward to disagree with President Donald Trump's notion that four minority congresswomen who have been critical of his approach to immigration enforcement should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came".

Insinuating that people of colour are foreigners, the president used a trope broadly viewed as racist when he tweeted on Sunday morning that the Democratic women - only one of whom was born outside the United States and all of whom are American citizens - "originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe." The silence of Republican leaders appeared to suggest either that they agreed with the views expressed by their standard-bearer or that he has so effectively consolidated his control over their party that they have grown disinclined to voice dissent.

Another possibility - that Republicans do not see the Twitter-induced presidential fracas as relevant to them - would seem tenuous as the controversy in this case engulfed their own colleagues in Congress.

One move that still reliably provokes intra-party backlash is Trump's crusade against John McCain, the late Republican senator from Arizona.

"It's deplorable what he said," Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, from Georgia, lamented in March of Trump's disparagement of his former Senate colleague.

"I can't understand why the president would, once again, disparage a man as exemplary as my friend John McCain," said Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, the party's previous presidential nominee, who also criticised the administration following the April release of the report from special counsel Robert Mueller.

There was no equivalent defence of the four Democratic lawmakers who appeared to be the president's targets on Sunday: House of Representatives congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

The four have been locked in a public feud with leaders of their own party over the approval of a $4.5bn (€4bn) emergency border aid package they felt did not adequately curtail the administration's authority. The progressive freshman politicians are frequently attacked on Fox News.

The president's disparaging comments, which came in a Twitter fusillade as the mass immigrant round-ups promised by the president had yet to be executed, were condemned as racist by Democrats and unaffiliated public officials.

Some took to social media to share stories about being told to "go back" to countries from which they never came.

"Growing up I used to hear 'go back to Mexico' from many kids, though I was born in the USA," Democrat representative Ruben Gallego, from Arizona, tweeted. "I thought then that it was just kids."

In the chorus of condemnation, the absence of Republican voices was striking. Not a single cabinet official aired a difference of opinion. Nor did congressional Republicans rush to take issue with Trump's suggestion their colleagues leave the country - and then "come back and show us how it is done".

One Republican who did speak out was Chip Roy of Texas, a long-time party aide elected to Congress last year. He said the president was "wrong to say any American citizen, whether in Congress or not, has any 'home' besides the US".

He also signalled his agreement with aspects of the president's message. He said lawmakers "who refuse to defend America should be sent home." Aides did not return a request for comment about what Roy meant by "home."

The most prominent Trump supporter to criticise his invective was Geraldo Rivera, a correspondent-at-large for Fox News. He called the president's language "xenophobic" and "even racist" while taking pains not to criticise Trump, whom he called his "friend.

The Washington Post

Irish Independent

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