Would you rather live in Norway or Haiti? That’s how the right tried—and failed—to defend Donald Trump’s indefensible comments. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” the president asked a bipartisan group of lawmakers yesterday, while lamenting that the United States doesn’t have more immigrants from Norway.
National Review’s Rich Lowry posed that choice to me on CNN, as he tried to pretty up Trump’s insults with commentary on “merit-based immigration.” Lowry thought his point was self-evident, and it was, but not the way he’d hoped. When you pit Norway, the whitest of white countries, vs. Haiti: We see you. We see your racism. It’s that simple.
Trump was being Trump: a racist. But Lowry’s reaction was perhaps more revealing, as yet another example of the transformation of the GOP into a white-nationalist party. Lowry’s magazine won kudos for coming out “Against Trump” two years ago; it turns out the publication’s stance was “Against Trump Until We Need Him.” When you can’t aggressively rebuke your president for declaring Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries “shitholes”; when you instead resort to looking for the proverbial pony at the bottom of the pile of shit (to cross a legendary Ronald Reagan joke with Trump’s crude language)—well, the end result is obvious. You come out covered in manure, even if you try to define the manure as a high-minded debate over “merit-based immigration.” Nobody’s buying it.
The White House essentially confirmed Trump’s comments in a statement Thursday night. “Certain Washington politicians choose to fight for foreign countries, but President Trump will always fight for the American people,” spokesman Raj Shah said. On Friday, Trump denied that he used those particular words, or that he suggested that he wants Haitians out of the country. But nobody’s buying that either.
Senator Dick Durbin, who attended the Oval Office meeting, immediately called Trump a liar. “It’s not true. He said those hateful things, and he said them repeatedly.” Durbin then played a wonderful trick, praising his colleague Senator Lindsey Graham for standing up to the “hate-filled, vile and racist” remarks while in the room with the president. Now it’s time for Graham to confirm Durbin’s account and rebuke Trump publicly. So far, we have silence from the South Carolina senator.
The real political story here is that the president, trying to prove he’s competent to hold the office he should not have, invited reporters to witness a bipartisan meeting on immigration reform—specifically, a solution to the problem of the so-called Dreamers, whose deportation protection, granted by Obama, was rescinded by Trump last year. Trump got some of what he wanted; some reporters were impressed that he didn’t drool, drift off, or swear. The mainstream media’s soft bigotry of low expectations for this charlatan never seems to fail.