IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, October 31, 2015 | REUTERS/Brian C. Frank
Every day in Donald Trump’s America is seemingly dumber, crueler, and more exhausting than the one that preceded it. This week alone saw the president’s pick for labor secretary withdraw his name from consideration, a story that was all but eclipsed by the still greater scandal of Michael Flynn’s resignation from the National Security Council amidst charges of collusion with the Russian government.
While it’s tempting to believe the centrifugal force of Trump’s cracked brand of authoritarianism will pull his presidency apart, the reality is that he remains enormously popular with Republican voters and the party’s craven politicians are unlikely to take any kind of action that could alienate them. Even if he were miraculously impeached or removed from office through the 25th Amendment, America would be left with President Mike Pence, arguably an even darker fate than the dystopian timeline in which we find ourselves.
What is clear is that to a man, from the preening “mavericks” to the proud white supremacists, the GOP is entirely complicit in the horrors of this administration. Every unconstitutional executive order, every denigration of the country’s citizenry and press comes with the party’s seal of approval. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may not like what the president is saying, but he likes what he’s doing.
What follows are five Republican disgraces you might have missed this week watching Donald Trump combust:
1. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) huddles with National Front Leader Marine Le Pen
The Iowa congressman has been one of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters since the Republican primary. He’s also infamously argued that white people have contributed more to civilization than any other “subgroup.” Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that he sat down Monday with Marine Le Pen, a French reactionary making her own bid for president on a campaign of unapologetic xenophobia.
Le Pen made headlines of her own last week when she called on French Jews to renounce their dual citizenship with Israel and abandon use of yarmulkes in public spaces — part of a larger ban on religious attire primarily targeted at French Muslims. That didn’t stop King from glowing about the two countries’ “shared values” on Twitter, although with Steve Bannon’s liver pulsing in the West Wing, it’s safe to wonder if the congressman’s words contain more than a flicker of truth.
2. Rep. Jason Chafetz (R-UT) won’t even mask his villainy
The Utah congressman, who once said he wouldn’t be able to look his daughters in the face if he continued to support Donald Trump, began the week by accusing rowdy demonstrators at a recent town hall of being paid protesters. But he was only getting warmed up. Three days later, on the heels of Michael Flynn’s stunning ouster from the National Security Council, the chairman of the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform declared there was no need for further inquiry. “It’s working itself out,” he told reporters with a smirk.
Chaffetz finally called for an investigation on Thursday — not of the national security advisor who could have shared sensitive intelligence information with a hostile foreign government, but of the leakers responsible for his resignation. And yet the coup de grâce arrived the following morning when he announced that he would be seeking criminal charges against the State Department employee who helped Hillary Clinton set up her server.
If America emerges from Trump’s authoritarian regime mostly intact, Chaffetz may be remembered as his single greatest enabler.
3. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) lets the truth slip
Rep. Jason Chaffetz makes no apologies about putting party over country, but he’s hardly alone. Sen. Rand Paul echoed the Utah congressman by suggesting that membership in the GOP itself should preclude an elected official from public scrutiny. “I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party,” he droned to the “Kilmeade and Friends” radio show. “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.”
Paul has no interest in the Trump administration’s possible ties to a violent autocrat. He just wants to get down to the hard work of stripping tens of millions of Americans of their health insurance, if you don’t mind.
4. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he’s committed to fighting authoritarianism with a straight face
The Arizona senator was in Germany this week as part of party-wide blitz to assure Western Europe that the U.S. is still committed to its alliances — a campaign that has, incidentally, proven largely unsuccessful. “[The founders] would be alarmed by an increasing turn away from universal values and toward old ties of blood and race and sectarians,” he told the Munich conference. “They would be alarmed by the growing inability — and even unwillingness — to separate truth from lies. They would be alarmed that more and more of our fellow citizens seem to be flirting with authoritarianism and romanticizing it as our moral equivalent.”
Noble sentiments one and all. If only John McCain hadn’t endorsed a proto-fascist who openly mocked his war record; or waited until the release of an audio tape cataloguing his sexual abuses before retracting said endorsement; or taken literally any action to impede the rise of the very politician he now coyly refuses to identify by name. Let’s give Gizmodo’s Alex Pareene the final word on the maverick who isn’t.
5. The Senate Committee confirms Scott Pruitt to the EPA
By a vote of 52-46, a Republican-controlled Senate confirmed Scott Pruitt as the next head of the Environmental Protection Agency Friday — four days before the release of emails between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies ordered by a federal judge in Oklahoma. The two Democratic votes belonged to Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), hailing from oil-rich and coal-rich states respectively.
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has challenged the existence of man-made climate change and sued the EPA over its efforts to limit carbon emissions, regulate smog pollution ,and protect wetlands and streams, all of which apparently qualifies him to lead the federal agency itself. In a related story, scientists warn Arctic ice melt could trigger uncontrollable climate change at a global level.
Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.
IMAGE: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul speaks at the Growth and Opportunity Party at the Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Brian C. Frank