Republican lawmakers once again took to the Sunday shows to defend Donald Trump, this morning. This time it was over a Trump tantrum behind closed doors in which he complained to lawmakers that too many immigrants were coming from "shithole countries" like "Haiti" and unnamed African nations as opposed to "Norway"; the Republican defenses to what every other sentient being took as a racist sentiment were primarily to complain that the real problem here wasn't a sitting president's racist outbursts, but that someone told the public about it.
"You can't have an immigration compromise if everybody's out there calling the president a racist," [Sen. Rand Paul] added. "They're actually destroying the setting. And he's a little bit of it, but both sides now are destroying the setting in which anything meaningful can happen on immigration."
At some point in his career, Rand Paul stopped pretending at being an offshoot of his wild-eyed father and settled into being a reliably conventional Republican. The premise that racist sentiments spoken by party leaders in private should not be repeated in public because allowing party leaders to be racist in private is important for legislative comity is word-for-word the argument used by decades of past southern Republicans. Presenting the two as equal sins—speaking racist things, and informing the public when racist things have been spoken—using the rhetoric of "both sides" behaving badly is the sort of moral grease fire Republican senators have long loved to simmer in.
Sen. Tom Cotton, who would easily rank as our dumbest senator based on his comments about ISIS and ebola alone and who himself has been elevated into office thanks to his dull-witted and oft-repeated xenophobia, piped up to say that he never heard such a thing said at all even though the president himself has been phoning allies bragging about making it; he accused Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of lying about it.
"I certainly didn’t hear what Sen. Durbin has said repeatedly. Sen. Durbin has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings, though, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by that,” Cotton said on CBS's “Face The Nation.”
He did not accuse Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of lying about it too, even though Graham has confirmed to another senator that the exchange took place. But he will probably get around to it later.
A hat tip where due: Republican Rep. Mia Love, whose parents immigrated to this nation from Haiti, was less willing to stomach the remarks than the others. She was willing to affirm that what Trump said was indeed racist, but is "looking forward" to hearing about the "context" of his racism. (No, it’s not clear what “context” would make those remarks better, unless Trump and the other Republican leaders were merely holding a sound-like-a-racist contest at the time.) She's also looking for a public apology from Trump, which she is never, ever going to get.
We will go out on a limb and predict that Trump refusing to apologize his racist remarks will make not a damn bit of difference in her support for Trump going forward, but it is good to see that, like Sen. Ted Cruz before her, she will muster a bit of outrage when the new leader of her party starts hurling malignant insults at her own parents. May she do better than Ted Cruz did at remembering the episode a month or two on.