Reprinted with permission from Roll Call.
From the current administration’s indifference to congressional requests for information on the Mueller report to its hardening policies restricting those seeking asylum from violent homelands, one would think Donald Trump and company cared little for justice. But the president did manage to speak out recently in support of one particular victim he felt was wronged.
In a signature tweet, he said: “The Kentuky Derby decision was not a good one.” (He has since corrected the spelling to “Kentucky.”) “It was a rough and tumble race on a wet and sloppy track, actually, a beautiful thing to watch. Only in these days of political correctness could such an overturn occur. The best horse did NOT win the Kentucky Derby — not even close!”
Yes, Donald Trump reacted in outrage, in defense of a horse.
It is possible to have sympathy for Maximum Security winning and then losing the biggest race in the sport while also wondering how and why the president of the United States, in times challenging for actual human beings, managed to find the energy to trot out bold support of an animal, blaming PC culture, which he pretty much blames for everything.
The Trump administration can always be judged by looking at those it defends and those it attacks.
You can see it in Trump’s coming to the rescue after Facebook and other social media platforms started to ban figures who spread hate speech, including one of his buddies, Infowars founder Alex Jones, the same Alex Jones who persecuted the parents of children murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School with accusations that the tragedy was a hoax.
Trump responded to the ban by attacking social media companies, the press and Democrats (all favorite targets) and spending the weekend retweeting far-right extremists and, presumably, dismissing those on the receiving end of their lies and threats. As long as you support the president and the actions of his administration, he will return the favor.
In fact, he quite admires bullies, domestic and foreign, and saves special ire for those, like the late GOP Sen. John McCain or current Democratic Rep. John Lewis, who have sacrificed much in service to a cause. The report in The New York Times that he managed to lose more than $1 billion and avoid paying taxes, unlike the rest of us, from 1985 to 1994, shows he believes that hewing close to the rules — and the Constitution — is for other people.
It’s amusing to regularly hear those appalled at the political theater and policies that most harm the vulnerable repeat the noble words, “This is not who we are,” when actually, this is exactly who we are, and have always been.
We are a country that has somehow squared liberty and justice for all with buying and selling people and slaughtering others. Surprised that Trump’s bizarre foray into officiating a horse race barely caused a ripple while more pressing matters await? We have always been a country that compartmentalizes, full of folks who may weep over the plight of animals and jump at the chance to pet and pamper them and treat them as almost human but turn a blind eye to the suffering of other actual humans, especially if they happen to be black or brown, or Muslim or Jewish or gay or somehow “different.”
It’s heartening and surprising that even in the worst of times, a few individuals can see the injustice and make a difference. That is how we have moved forward as a country. But are these voices being drowned out by the noise of those willing to compromise principle for a price?
Many of the president’s supporters follow the leader, as seen in the actions of this administration’s most fervent boosters, white evangelicals, who say little about the meek, the merciful and the peacemakers of the biblical beatitudes when gaining coveted conservative judges and limits to abortion and gay rights. Does a pro-life stance carry over to after a child is born, to be met with cuts in Medicaid and food assistance? Why does Franklin Graham tell South Bend mayor and Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg to repent for the “sin” of being gay, also known as being his authentic self, while ignoring the transgressions of the president Graham has never criticized?
Americans are justifiably frustrated at the country’s broken immigration system and the inability of politicians from both parties to pass the comprehensive reform all profess to want. But parents and children have been separated at the southern border by our government in our name, with many still awaiting the promised reunification our leaders never really planned for. That can only happen if the enforcers believe some people don’t love and bond with their children as others do.
The new team at the Department of Homeland Security — with hardliner Mark Morgan, who backs tougher border security measures, newly named as the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement — does not inspire hope of a humane solution, especially now that a federal court has ruled migrants can be sent back to Mexico, despite dangers they may face there.
Republicans in Congress prefer not to reflect on their very different reactions to alleged wrongdoing by Democratic presidents past, when invoking executive privilege — as Trump has done to shield portions of the Mueller report — or merely issuing executive actions would have provoked howls of overreach. Watergate-era Republicans who eventually called out Nixon for his crimes, including Justice Department officials who resigned rather than carry out unethical orders, would not recognize today’s GOP leaders.
With this president and his party, it is only about winning and losing no matter who or what gets hurt along the way, which, come to think of it, makes the president’s horse-racing tweet just about perfect.
Mary C. Curtis is a columnist for Roll Call. An award-winning journalist, she has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.