We have said before that the Republican Party of today is not the respectable and reasonable party with character and sense of ethics that it was in the past. The GOP Senate’s handling of the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., to be attorney general showed it also has lost its soul.
This is the same party that in 1986, when it also was in the majority, had at least two members who voted for their country and not their party and joined Democrats in defeating his nomination to be a federal judge. The votes were based on the same evidence presented this time in his attorney general hearings. This year, however, Judiciary Republicans voted lockstep for their party and not their country.
That evidence showed that Sessions was a racist—once a racist, always a racist, and most racists don’t believe they are. It included statements from people who had worked for him, alleging he described the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP as “Communist-inspired” and “un-American” for forcing “civil rights down the throats of the people. He was said to have told a staffer that he supported the Ku Klux Klan until he found out they smoked marijuana, and that he called a black aide “boy” and warned him against criticizing whites.
That Judiciary Republicans voted unanimously for confirmation was bad enough, but It got worse when the full GOP-controlled Senate took up the nomination, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, one of the weaseliest men ever to serve in the Senate that once included Joseph McCarthy. McConnell knew he had enough votes to confirm Sessions, but, in character, he couldn’t let well-enough alone.
As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., read from the same evidence of racism presented in 1986, including statements from the late Coretta Scott King and Ted Kennedy, who once held Warren’s seat, McConnell interrupted her and said she was violating an obscure Senate rule that bars a senator from imputing to another senate conduct “conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a senator.” Warren persisted and McConnell called for a vote on a formal rebuke, i.e., telling her to sit down and shut up.
McConnell’s predecessor in 186, Bob Dole of Missouri, was capable of doing some mean things, but it is hard to imagine him invoking that rule in the Sessions situation. In fact, McConnell himself has not invoked it in the recent past even when a fellow Republican, Ted Cruz of Texas, called him a liar during public debate on the Senate floor.
Nonetheless, Senate Republicans, who had planned before the day’s debate to invoke the arcane rule if Sessions was criticized (even though he was in the position of giving up his Senate seat to become attorney general), voted lockstep again to rebuke Warren and keep her from participating further in Sessions debate. (Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., voted with the Republicans when he was clear his vote would not be needed, a sop to his Trump-loving constituents.)
At least Sessions had the decency not to vote for his own confirmation. But, who knows what he would have done were there one fewer Republican in the Senate.
Apparently, today’s Republicans are lockstep okay with not only with Sessions and his beliefs, they have stomachs of iron and will take whatever Trump throws at them. No wonder he was able to steal their party.
It also may be that the party that sides with racists was still upset that the black president’s attorneys general also were black.
Within 48 hours of Trump’s swearing-in , it became clear that Donald J. Trump does not intend to serve as President, but rather as Petulant of the United States.
We are going to give Sean Spicer, White House press secretary and communications director (usually two jobs) the benefit of the doubt. Only this once will we give him that benefit; it was his first full day on the job. But, it was the most petulant, pathetic, putrid and pointless performance on that stage that we have ever seen.
He didn’t just insist, he ranted that what we estimate to be far fewer than 400,000 in attendance at the Trump inaugural was larger than the official estimate of 1.8 million who attended Obama’s first.
We’re going to allow, just this once, that Petulant Trump shoved him out there to deliver his delirious diatribe against his wishes, and too new in the job to resist doing something so stunningly stupid. (His appearance was followed the next morning by Chief Counselor Kellyanne Conway’s incredible claim to have “alternate facts.”)
His combative hate-filled performance was not that out of character; that was his style in the same jobs in the campaign and for the Republican National Committee, working directly under Reince Priebus, who didn’t know which way to jump after the party lost control of its primaries. Now, he is the new White House chief of staff. That experience belies the benefit of a doubt we offer Spicer.
Ironically, one of his biggest lies was delivered a little over two weeks earlier when he said that he could not do his job as press secretary if he had to lie because it would hurt his credibility.
In his first appearance on the job, the fool asserted that the inauguration the previous day was attended by the largest crowd ever. Petulant Trump estimated the attendance at “a million, million and a half people.” He and Spicer hatefully denounced news media and other reports that the crowd was far smaller than that.
Estimating crowds actually is not that hard. As a Washington, D.C., journalist, once as UPI reporter in charge of covering frequent anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and similar events, we learned the art early on. In my case, I would section off the crowd into a certain size, count the number of people in that section and then walk around and count the sections on out to the periphery and multiply the results. My estimates were never far off the official ones that used to be announced later.
We did not attend Trump’s inaugural, but the press published comparative photos (of the same size, taken from the same window at the top of the Washington Monument) of the Obama’s first inaugural in 2009 when the official crowd count was put at 1.8 million people attending on the mall between the monument and the Capitol where the ceremony took place for both men.
We printed out the Reuters photos, each taken between one-half hour and an hour before the ceremony, and sectioned off the same city blocks in each. In the Obama inaugural photo of not all of the 1.8 million we divided part of the mall in the photo into 10 sections, and cautiously limited the crowd size in each to be no more than 150,000. In that photo, all the blocks were jammed with people.
Not even close in Trump photo; several of the blocks were less than half full. In the first one west of the Smithsonian Museum Castle appeared the first sizeable crowd of people, bunched in an eighth of the block. We generously gave that block 20,000 people. Counting that way on up to the Capitol, and still being generous, we arrived at our estimate of far short of 400,000.
Similar photos of the women’s march the following day look more the Obama crowd than Trump’s, thus the estimate the women drew more.
We will pontificate in another article here later on the dangerous road that Trump’s media effort, including the threat to remove the press from the White house, is not just to the press corps or journalism, but the nation as a whole.