For a few moments on Thursday I felt as if the velocity of disinformation from the Republican National Convention had dulled me into a concussive, pharmacological blur and then I remembered Donald Trump is somehow president and what I was seeing was not an aberration induced by narcotics or numbskulls.
As Hurricane Laura began to devastate communities along the Gulf Coast, including here in Texas, a FEMA briefing on the disaster was pushed back over half an hour to accommodate Trump, who was running late.
It wasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic, rising unemployment or racial tension that delayed the president. In news that should absolutely disgust every American but still manages to surprise absolutely none of us, Donald Trump was late because he was busy pontificating for his donors at a $10 million dollar fundraiser.
If that isn’t enough to make you vomit, the fundraiser was held at his own hotel, which as it happens is located in the former headquarters of the U.S. Postal Service. Which of course, Trump has been trying his best to either maim or kill to prevent voters sick of his ineptitude from voting by mail.
But even that indignity didn’t seem to be enough for Trump, who proceeded to sit with his arms crossed and a bored expression throughout the briefing.
There were always things that ranked higher for American presidents than politics, and disaster response has traditionally been one of them. Even if they were ineffective or mistakes were made, when Amaricans were hurting they knew their president would put their own self interest aside to address the situation at hand.
That’s at the heart of what we want and expect from the person that occupies the highest office in our country: an understanding that they call it the resolute desk for a reason and that the awesome responsibility they bear to our nation will forever be more important than them or their re-election.
We don’t live in that America anymore. We live in an America where the president would dare to denigrate the sanctity of the White House, the People’s House, by turning it into the backdrop for not just a political rally but an entire convention so filled with lies no serious journalist could report on it without making those falsehoods the headline.
Donald Trump was never going to drain the swamp because he is the swamp itself. A self-dealing, draft-dodging narcissist who cheated on his wives as readily as he cheated on his taxes and hasn’t been within two city blocks of an honest paycheck in his life.
And what’s worse is that his ignorance and failing isn’t a new bug in the fabric of the Republican Party, it’s a feature that’s become embedded in their fabric through decades of arrogant neglect. Local leaders like Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo and Mayor Sylvester Turner spring into action to prepare their residents for the worst and lead our communities with courage and empathy. John Cornyn has managed to go to Washington for 17 years and couldn’t begin to tell Texans when they’ll finally build the Ike Dike. And Ted Cruz? Forget it. He’s too busy daydreaming about his next presidential campaign to do anything useful.
There was a time when Republicans understood and in some cases exemplified what it meant to be a check and balance on presidential power. Whether it was John McCain reaching across the aisle to work for immigration reform or Bill Ratliff here in Texas bringing parties and legislative chambers together to do the people’s business.
But sadly bipartisanship is as precious a commodity as courage in Trump’s GOP. Over the last six months; tens of millions of Americans have filed for unemployment, nearly six million Americans have been infected by COVID-19 and the death toll has topped 180,000. And Republicans in Congress seem no more willing to stand up to Trump than they were before the pandemic or before his impeachment.
This is the personification of moral turpitude. If Republicans can’t even get Trump to show up on time for emergency management briefings how can we possibly expect them to get him to focus on anything other than his Twitter feed when American lives are at stake?
If we want to write another chapter in the Americans experiment, we need to rid our house of these serpents. The stakes for our safety, for our security, for our health and our future are far too high if we don’t.
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