You are what your record says you are

In his closing statement to his committee’s hearing of Michael Cohen, Rep. Elijah Cummings said “We are better than this. … We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.” Sadly we are not. I was disgusted at the sight of Republican representatives attacking the credibility of Mr. Cohen rather than trying to get to the bottom of what he had to say. The charges he made are serious ones for our president and our country. Congress should have been doing as Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes did and looking for the evidence that would prove or disprove Cohen. Instead of trying to protect us and our country the Republican committee members were trying to protect the president, their party and their own access to power, influence and money. They were about circling the wagons to protect their team and resorting to one of the oldest strategies: if you cannot refute the argument, attack the person who made it. In logic this is called an ad hominen argument. They embarrassed themselves by using a black woman as a “prop” as Representative Rashida Tlaib called it, and not even allowing her to speak. This demonstrated their racism rather than refuting the president’s. Was John McCain the last Republican with any integrity?

To disagree with Representative Cummings (who should have done more to defend Rep. Tlaib by the way) I quote Bill Parcells long ago statement”You are what your record says you are.” As an historian I know that the list of people who enrich themselves at the public’s expense, seek and abuse power, and will sell their souls for money, is an endless one. However let us just confine ourselves to the period since 2016. Trump advisers indicted, convicted or plead guilty in the Mueller investigation: Roger Stone, Paul Manfort, Michael Cohen, W. Samuel Patten, Rick Gates, Alex Van der Zwaan, Richard Pinedo, Michael Flynn, George Papadapoulos. Trump administrators alleged corruption: Scott Pruitt former EPA head, Wilbur Ross Commerce Secretary, Ryan Zinke former Interior Secretary, Tom Price former Health and Human Services Secretary, Mick Mulvaney acting White House Chief of Staff and Budget director, Ben Carson Housing secretary, Betsy DeVos Education Secretary, Steven Mnuchin Treasury secretary, Brock Long FEMA administrator, Elliot Broidy former RNC deputy finance chairman. To be fair some of these people have admitted abuses of power, but some have not and have not been convicted in court of wrong doing. However I think they are enough to prove Parcell’s realism and disprove Cummings’ optimism about what our government now is.

There is nothing wrong with taking Cummings’ statement as an exhortation to be better. To become better however we must “drain the swamp.” There was nothing more poignant in the hearings to me than when Cohen told the Republicans defending the president that he used to be right where they were. He said,

“I did the same thing that you are doing now for ten years. I protected Mr. Trump for ten years, …and I can only warn people the more people that follow Mr. Trump as I did blindly are going to suffer the same consequences that I’m suffering.”

Just as in the Watergate hearings the tide will not turn against the Republican president until Republican legislators admit that their president has done wrong. The bar to reach that point seems further away today than it has ever been. The 2020 elections are closer than ever, but as long as the Republicans can scare people into thinking they have something to lose from immigrants, people different from them, or “socialists,” they will continue to win public office and rob the country blind. CPAC, the conservative political action group, calls anything left of Attila the Hun socialism and too many people believe them. Most people who fear it don’t even know what it is. I just ask the 60 million Trump voters to vote not based on ethics or morality, I’m not sure our definitions of those would be the same, but based on the question “Has your life improved under Trump?” If no, don’t vote for him. It’s that simple. If you continue to live in fear then “you are what your record says you  are.”

 

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