The GOP’s all-out assault on justice

The GOP’s all-out assault on justice

The Washington Post
By Dana Milbank
Image courtesy of Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Thursday was Pearl Harbor Day, the anniversary of one of the deadliest attacks on American soil and perhaps the most unifying day in American history.

This year some of us marked Pearl Harbor Day by attacking America from within.

For five hours on Thursday, President Trump’s partisans delivered a reckless and sustained attack on the FBI and the special counsel. They amplified Trump’s claim that the FBI’s “reputation is in Tatters — worst in History” and that Robert S. Mueller III’s Russia probe, which has already secured guilty pleas from two Trump campaign officials and the indictments of two more, is part of a system that is “rigged,” “phony,” “dishonest” and using a “double standard.”

Shamefully, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee launched an all-out assault on the special counsel and the FBI — choosing to protect Trump at the cost of Americans’ faith in the justice system and the rule of law.

Mueller is a longtime Republican who was appointed FBI director by George W. Bush. He was named special counsel by Rod J. Rosenstein, also a Republican, who was appointed by Trump himself to be deputy attorney general. Comey, a Republican who served in Bush’s Justice Department, made political contributions to John McCain, Mitt Romney and other Republicans. Wray, a Republican who also gave to GOP candidates, was appointed by Trump.

The G.O.P. is rotting

The G.O.P. is rotting

The New York Times
By David Brooks
Image courtesy of Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

A lot of good, honorable Republicans used to believe there was a safe middle ground. You didn’t have to tie yourself hip to hip with Donald Trump, but you didn’t have to go all the way to the other extreme and commit political suicide like the dissident Jeff Flake, either. You could sort of float along in the middle, and keep your head down until this whole Trump thing passed.

Now it’s clear that middle ground doesn’t exist. That’s because Donald Trump never stops asking. First, he asked the party to swallow the idea of a narcissistic sexual harasser and a routine liar as its party leader. Then he asked the party to accept his comprehensive ignorance and his politics of racial division. Now he asks the party to give up its reputation for fiscal conservatism. At the same time he asks the party to become the party of Roy Moore, the party of bigotry, alleged sexual harassment and child assault.

There is no end to what Trump will ask of his party. He is defined by shamelessness, and so there is no bottom. And apparently there is no end to what regular Republicans are willing to give him. Trump may soon ask them to accept his firing of Robert Mueller, and yes, after some sighing, they will accept that, too.

That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.

The rot afflicting the G.O.P. is comprehensive — moral, intellectual, political and reputational. More and more former Republicans wake up every day and realize: “I’m homeless. I’m politically homeless.”

The Republican war on children

The Republican war on children

The New York Times
By Paul Krugman
Image courtesy of Mark Makela for The New York Times

Let me ask you a question; take your time in answering it. Would you be willing to take health care away from a thousand children with the bad luck to have been born into low-income families so that you could give millions of extra dollars to just one wealthy heir?

You might think that this question is silly, hypothetical and has an obvious answer. But it’s not at all hypothetical, and the answer apparently isn’t obvious. For it’s a literal description of the choice Republicans in Congress seem to be making as you read this.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, is basically a piece of Medicaid targeted on young Americans. It was introduced in 1997, with bipartisan support. Last year it covered 8.9 million kids. But its funding expired more than two months ago. Republicans keep saying they’ll restore the money, but they keep finding reasons not to do it; state governments, which administer the program, will soon have to start cutting children off.

What’s the problem? The other day Senator Orrin Hatch, asked about the program (which he helped create), once again insisted that it will be funded — but without saying when or how (and there don’t seem to be any signs of movement on the issue). And he further declared, “The reason CHIP’s having trouble is that we don’t have money anymore.” Then he voted for an immense tax cut.

What if Mueller catches Trump — and it isn’t enough?

What if Mueller catches Trump — and it isn’t enough?

The Washington Post
By Eugene Robinson
Image courtesy of Christopher Gregory/Getty Images

We need to prepare for the eventuality that the Mueller probe catches President Trump, family members and associates red-handed — and Republicans in Congress refuse to do anything about it.

This is beginning to look like a possible or even probable outcome. With a cravenness matched only by its arrogance, the GOP is Trump’s party now. It no longer has any claim to be Lincoln’s.

Witness the cowardly about-face on the subject of Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Senate. The party initially took a position in line with its purported values: that a credibly accused child molester, who haunted the local mall seeking dates with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, is unworthy of the high office he seeks.

But then Trump endorsed Moore — given that more than a dozen women have accused the president of sexual misconduct, the phrase “birds of a feather” comes to mind — and Republicans changed their tune. The flow of money from national party coffers to Moore’s campaign, briefly interrupted, was resumed. Moore’s fitness became a matter that no longer troubled the GOP’s moral conscience, or what was left of it; only “the people of Alabama” could decide the difference between right and wrong.

Here is the distinction between our two major parties in 2017: Democratic leaders are forcing Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) and Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), both accused of harassing women, to resign. Republican leaders are trying to put Moore, accused of harassing teenagers and molesting a 14-year-old, in the Senate.

Given that context, it is naive to assume that anything special counsel Robert S. Mueller III uncovers will lead Republicans to choose principle over political advantage. Trump boasted during the campaign that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose support. As far as the GOP majorities in Congress are concerned, he may be right.

Mueller is doing his job. Ours is to elect Democrats and independents next year who will hold this appalling presidency to account.

Republicans are failing the Roy Moore test

Republicans are failing the Roy Moore test

The Washington Post
By Michael Gerson
Image courtesy of Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The prospect of Sen. Roy Moore has been both horrifying and clarifying. It would be difficult to design a more controlled, precise test of the moral gag reflex in politics.

In this political lifeboat dilemma, Republicans are being asked what principles they are willing to throw overboard in the interest of power. A belief that character matters in politics? Splash. A commitment to religious and ethnic inclusion? Splash. Moral outrage at credible charges of sexual predation against teen girls? Splash.

Those remaining in this lightened boat display a kind of shocking clarity. They value certain political ends — tax cuts, a conservative judiciary — more than ethical considerations. When it comes to confirming judges who oppose Roe v. Wade, the vote of a statesman is no better than the vote of a sexual predator — or, presumably, of a drug dealer or a murderer. This type of calculation admits no limiting principle.

So, in this view, it does not really matter that there is (as Ivanka Trump put it) “no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts” in Moore’s case. It does not matter that Moore’s explanations have been shifting and slippery. It does not matter that Moore has said that homosexual behavior should be illegal, or that he compared resisting gay marriage to resisting the Holocaust, or that he referred to Asians as “yellows,” or that he doesn’t believe former president Barack Obama is a natural born citizen, or that he believes there are communities living under shariah law in Illinois and Indiana.

Those willing to swallow all this — all the ignorance, cruelty, creepiness and malice — have truly shown the strength of their partisan commitment. A purity indistinguishable from mania.

The hope for American politics is found in the reverse, the photographic negative, of all these trends. In leaders who affirm and exemplify the nobility of the political enterprise. In arguments that elevate principle above expediency. In institutions that shape character, confront corruption, take the side of the exploited and echo the newly pertinent question: “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

We can’t take any more of 2017, so we’ve turned to the Hallmark Channel in desperation

The Washington Post
By Monica Hesse

Consider the Hallmark Channel in December.

No, but really.

“I cannot stop watching the Hallmark Channel,” says Mac Cohn, proprietor of a sports website in Ohio. “Usually to unwind I would watch football, but even watching football has become a political thing. The Hallmark Channel has none of that.”

Hallmark, which often seemed to exist just so you had something to fold laundry to, is now deep into its biggest annual event — “Countdown to Christmas,” a series of several dozen fresh-from-the-oven seasonal made-for-TV movies. And it is an event.

“The Christmas Train” — with a plot that is vaguely “Murder on the Orient Express,” if one replaces “murder” with “festive spirit” — reached 4.9 million viewers when it aired the Saturday after Thanksgiving weekend, the most-watched cable program in the country that day. Meanwhile, the actual “Murder on the Orient Express,” a feature film starring two Oscar winners and several nominees, recently made $10.7 million on its opening day in theaters. Impressive — but divide by roughly $10 a movie ticket, and that means there were five times more people watching Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Dermot Mulroney poke around a mystical polar express on Hallmark than multiplex-goers watching Johnny Depp and Dame Judi Dench.

“The Hallmark movie that is my favorite is ‘A Christmas to Remember,’ ” Cohn continues. “It’s a TV personality — I believe she has a cooking show? — and she needed to get away for the holidays, and she ended up wrecking her car in a snowbank, and she got amnesia. Have you seen it?”

Yep.

Franken’s resignation shows that only one of our two great parties has any integrity

Franken’s resignation shows that only one of our two great parties has any integrity

The Washington Post
By Paul Waldman

Al Franken announced his resignation on the floor of the Senate today, a development that makes abundantly clear that the Democratic and Republican parties have never been more different in modern American history than they are right at this moment.

Franken’s speech started off on a surprisingly defiant note, going much farther than he had up until this point in asserting that the charges made against him are not true. But that only reinforces the point I’m making about the two parties.

As I argued in a piece today at The Week, when it comes to sex scandals, it’s usually the most guilty, least repentant politicians who wind up surviving, whether it’s Bill Clinton or Roy Moore or Donald Trump. Those latter two have seen their party go through the same cycle: At first the party (or at least significant portions of it) is outraged at revelations of their misbehavior and withdraws its support for their candidacy. But then, when it appears that the offender is not politically doomed, they come back to stand behind him.