In case you’re keeping track, we’ve now reached the point in the unmonitored, unguided hell simulation where Republican members of Congress are using the barmy brain nuggets Donald Trump drops on the daily and recycling them as talking points. Because Trump’s every utterance is genius, and like a frontiersman on his hardscrabble farmstead pulling hearty fistfuls of offal from hens who died in the dead of winter of some as-yet-unidentified bird flu, Republicans have decided to savor every last morsel of Hickory Farms All-Natural Offal ‘n’ Beak-Bits Summer Sausage.
As you may recall, on May 10, when CNN opted to napalm our great nation with ipecac instead of jellied gasoline, Trump let loose a fusillade of feral, head-scratching nonsense that left Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler pining for an elysian future in which he’s secured part-time, minimum-wage employment as Chris Christie’s personal bathtub attendant. But Trump’s lies weren’t the only things on lurid display. He also said the U.S. “might as well” default on its debt (which would naturally crater the economy, leading to a deep recession and millions of lost jobs) and that his previous insistence that the debt ceiling should never be used as negotiating leverage no longer applied because he was no longer president.
Any which way you slice it, that’s a rancid hunk of bologna, and yet Republicans expect you to slurp it up through a straw. And Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida (you may remember him from his 15 minutes in the spotlight as a GOP speaker candidate back in January) believes you simply need to get accustomed to the taste.
On Sunday’s edition of “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd asked Donalds about Trump’s highly partisan, hyper-hypocritical statement. And Donalds turned the gaslight up to 11.
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TODD: “I want you to respond to something former president Trump said about the debt ceiling in 2019. Take a listen.”
TRUMP (CLIP): “I can’t imagine anybody ever even thinking of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating wedge.”
TODD: “Why don’t you agree with him on this?”
DONALDS: “Well, first of all, he also said the other day on a rival network that he said that when he was president, and when asked why he wasn’t saying it now, he said because he’s not president.”
TODD: “Do you know how absurd that sounds?”
DONALDS: “That is not absurd. He’s always negotiating, Chuck. Chuck, he’s always negotiating. That’s what he does. That’s actually one of the reasons why so many deals for our country worked out to our benefit as compared to his predecessors, both Republican and Democrat, because he’s always negotiating.”
TODD: “Do you realize how partisan that sounds ...”
DONALDS: “That is not a partisan statement.”
TODD: “… what is good for me is not for thee. He’s basically saying ‘when I’m president, there’s no negotiating on this, but hey, when somebody else is president, screw ‘em.’”
Okay, first let’s look at the claim that Trump was a great negotiator, because there’s essentially zero evidence to support that.
Trump wanted to pass an infrastructure bill, but that would have taken months of detailed, give-and-take negotiations—and at least a superficial understanding of what his administration was trying to accomplish—and none of that is Trump’s strong suit, so we got no infrastructure bill.
Trump wanted to strike a deal with North Korea. He gave them credibility and one grossly inappropriate, treason-adjacent salute, and in return they gave us … bupkis.
Trump took a hard line against China on trade. When Republicans—and Trump himself—mention his otherworldly negotiating skills, his dealings with China are what they’re most likely to touch on. But those talks were, by any reasonable metric, an abject failure.
What was supposed to happen: The trade war was billed as a plan to bring China to its knees by choking off the all-important American market with 25% tariffs on many imports that would rein in the U.S. trade deficit, boost American exports and slow China's rise as a global superpower.
What really happened: "The trade war with China hurt the US economy and failed to achieve major policy goals," a recent study commissioned by the U.S.-China Business Council argues, finding that the trade war reduced economic growth and cost the U.S. 245,000 jobs.
- Last year, the U.S. trade deficit widened to its largest on record. In the fourth quarter, the U.S. goods trade deficit hit its highest share of GDP since 2012 and the U.S. current account deficit jumped to its highest level in more than 12 years in the third quarter.
So, sure, Trump may “always” be negotiating, but he’s “always” doing it badly.
As for “that is not a partisan statement”—uh, yes it is. It’s as partisan as it gets. Trump—whose administration oversaw an explosion of government debt—clearly wants the U.S. economy to crash, because he wants Joe Biden to look so helpless that Americans are willing to send an open, unapologetic insurrectionist (whose policies, by the way, made the deficit far worse) back to the White House. It couldn’t be more obvious. And yet the media still too often pretend that Republicans’ latest debt ceiling standoff is about something other than cutting off the oxygen to a rapidly improving economy in order to hurt President Biden. And, Republicans are betting, after Biden is fatally wounded, they’ll be able to resume control and reopen the deficit spigot—this time in the form of more upper-class tax cuts.
This has always been Republicans’ plan, of course. Anyone who’s paying attention can see it. It’s so obvious, even Trump can see it. He’s simply the only one foolish—and cynical—enough to say it out loud. And that alone should end his latest campaign to ruin everyone’s lives for another four years. But with vertiginous spin doctors like Donalds by his side, he can simply keep those absurdities rolling ad nauseam. After all, it’s the Republican way.
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Check out Aldous J. Pennyfarthing’s four-volume Trump-trashing compendium, including the finale, Goodbye, Asshat: 101 Farewell Letters to Donald Trump, at this link. Or, if you prefer a test drive, you can download the epilogue to Goodbye, Asshat for the low, low price of FREE.