Tom Cotton, David Perdue, and the Trap of Lying for Donald Trump

In denigrating anyone who called the President out for his slurs, Senators Cotton and Perdue (pictured here in August) show their willingness to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

.. According to the Post, “Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard ‘shithouse’ rather than ‘shithole,’ allowing them to deny the President’s comments on television over the weekend.” Is that how people sleep at night in Trump’s Washington?

And they are poisonous.

.. It should be clear that the house/hole distinction, should it even have existed, would not count as “allowing” Cotton and Perdue to deny the President’s remarks on any terms. But the ones on which they did so are particularly egregious, because they offered themselves as witnesses to other senators’ supposed dishonor.

.. Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, had confirmed the reported phrase “shithole countries” publicly; Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, had backed up the press accounts more obliquely but unmistakably. Senator Tim Scott, his Republican colleague, who is African-American, told reporters that Graham had confirmed the essentials of the report to him; Graham didn’t dispute that. Graham had also publicly said that there was a racial aspect to the remarks, which he said he’d called the President on, saying, by his account, “America is an idea, not a race.”

.. Cotton, appearing on Sunday news programs, specifically disparaged Durbin’s credibility. “I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was,”

.. Cotton told John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I know, and I know what Dick Durbin has said about the President’s repeated statements is incorrect.” He also said that Durbin had a history of dishonesty.

.. When Dickerson asked Cotton about the thrust of the remarks, as opposed to the President’s word choice, Cotton said, “I did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons.” Perhaps there was another rationalization in there: he was being derogatory about whole populations, not individuals!

.. in the next sentence, Dickerson made the terms of Cotton’s lies clear when he asked, “So the sentiment is totally phony that is attributed to him?”—meaning to the President. Cotton answered, “Yes.”

.. At the same time, Perdue was busy on ABC’s “This Week,” telling George Stephanopoulos, in even more categorical terms, that Durbin was guilty of a “gross misrepresentation” of Trump’s remarks, saying that such “language” was simply not used.

.. When Stephanopoulos noted that there were multiple sources who said otherwise—indeed, the President himself reportedly called friends to brag about what he had said

..  Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, who is the House Majority Leader and has not commented (but, as the Washington Post noted, stood quietly next to the President when he denied the reports on Sunday; Trump also called himself the “least racist person”

.. members of his Administration at first thought that the controversy could be settled in the shady realm of “do not recall,”

.. They were caught by surprise when he started tweeting about how the accounts of his language were outright false.

.. But perhaps he also listened to what the other Republicans were saying, and had an insight that they would, indeed, back him up. It was a bully’s triple play:

  1. first, he got to slur whole nations.
  2. Then he got his guys to gang up on anyone who called him out for it, which produced the final prize:
  3. the acknowledgement that the Republican lawmakers were his guys, subordinate and willing to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

.. What is notable is that, at first, Cotton and Perdue had tried, in a joint statement, to hedge by saying that they did “not recall the President saying these comments specifically.” But, as his lies escalated, so did theirs, to the point where they were backing up the idea that the media was involved in a fake-news conspiracy.

.. But it is, apparently, hard to lie halfway for Trump; he won’t let you.

New Video Shows Kim Jong Nam’s Accused Killers Knew They Had Poison, Police Say

The new video shows that immediately after the assault, Ms. Huong and Ms. Aisyah strode quickly away in opposite directions, each walking with hands slightly raised and away from their bodies, then taking elevators down one level to separate restrooms. Both women reached the restrooms within minutes of the attack.

.. They stayed in the restrooms for about a minute, during which time each appeared to have washed her hands, a police officer said. Upon exiting the restrooms, both women relaxed their arms, striding quickly away with their hands at their sides, the video shows. Both women then left the airport.

Wan Azirul Nizam Che Wan Aziz, a police officer investigating the case, described the women’s demeanor as more relaxed after they exited the restrooms.

Big patriotism is poisoning America

Though I suggest Trump and his supporters on this issue are missing the protesters’ point — and, in some cases, doing so willfully — I have no doubt that, for Trump’s part, patriotism is indeed at stake. The trouble is the sort of patriotism that informs their ire, for patriotism is not of a single kind.

.. Frodo does not love the Shire because it is the best country in Middle-earth. It does not boast the striking scenery and deep knowledge of the elven kingdoms, or the security and wealth of the dwarves, or the cosmopolitanism and architecture of the cities of men. The Shire does not have to be the best, for it is already home and already good in its own way.

If the patriotism Tolkien depicts is small, the patriotism most prevalent in America today is a poisonous variety we might call “big patriotism,” or, less charitably, nationalism. Its contrast with more modest variants is vast.

.. Small patriotism is the love of home because it is home.

.. Big patriotism is all abstract ideals and national mythology, easily bent to fit any political agenda. It is centered on the state, not the people, and certainly not any concrete community in which we are thoroughly engaged.

.. Big patriotism is a top-down phenomenon, anchored in the self-declared glory of government and the idolatrous liturgies of civil religion.

  • When small patriotism thinks of America, it conjures an image of some local vista and the people who populate it.
  • Big patriotism pictures the hulking forms of federal monuments and the grim grandeur of war.

.. “Once you have realized that the Frenchmen like café complet just as we like bacon and eggs — why, good luck to them and let them have it,” C.S. Lewis wrote in The Four Loves.

.. “[h]ow can I love my home without coming to realize that other men, no less rightly, love theirs?” Their love in no way detracts from mine, for we are not in competition.

.. Big patriotism is always a matter of comparison. It is, as Lewis put it, “a firm, even prosaic belief that our own nation, in sober fact, has long been, and still is markedly superior to all others.” Big patriotism is incapable of appreciating our home’s good qualities except at the expense of other places. Foreign lands and people must be put down if we are to be held up.

.. It is the foundation of jingoistic American exceptionalism and a constant siren song to empire — for why shouldn’t the world be ruled by the best?

..

Small patriotism is humble and open to constructive critique. Just as we would welcome an exterminator telling us our house has termites, so in small patriotism we can give a hearing to those who see some problem with our home. Big patriotism cannot hear a word against country, however gentle or wise. The best, by definition, cannot be wrong.

.. It does not ask to be valued above more significant loyalties, like those to God or family or concrete community. Big patriotism demands pre-eminence.

.. Big patriotism is incessantly self-serious and therefore always on the brink of offense.

.. But however natural it can feel, big patriotism is poisonous, and it leads to the type of shallow outrage we now see over these athletes’ attempt to respectfully call attention to a grave concern.