Doug Thompson: A waste of whitewash

Not every ditch is worth defending

Posted: January 20, 2018 at 1 a.m.

Suppose the president was a duck. Suppose he had walked, swum and quacked throughout his campaign and his first year in office.

Now suppose he waddled in to a high-stakes meeting on the budget with congressional leaders and quacked. Here, pretty much, is what would happen:

The opposition party: "He quacked. He's a duck."

The majority party: "He did not quack. We were at the meeting and heard no such fowl language."

The opposition: "Oh, yes he did."

The press: "OK. If he did not quack, what did he say?"

The majority: "We do not recall, but it definitely was not 'quack.' The very idea that he said 'quack' is a distraction. While we do not remember the exact term used, we know the president was raising the issue of whether our policy on migration should consider a flight south for the winter and, if such an option is pursued, whether we should use some other flying formation besides the tight 'V.' We should consider other formation options that allow for more individual initiative and flexibility. That way, the best flyers would naturally advance to the front. So while we do not remember the word used, we clearly understood in great detail what he meant. Perhaps the wording was unfortunate."

The press: "Good grief. We quote people for a living. If someone -- anyone -- had or had not said 'quack' at a meeting, someone would remember it. Get real, folks. What did he say?"

A couple of volunteers from the majority party: "He said 'kwaq.'"

The only thing to make this more of a farce is to have the Wall Street Journal report that the president's lawyer paid $130,000 in hush money to an adult film actress and have that sidelined by the "quack" debate.

Of course, the real "quack" controversy of the past week was the meeting in which the president supposedly argued for individualized, merit-based immigration as part of any agreement on a budget. During the course of this lofty debate, he declared a preference for Norwegians while calling much of Africa a cesspit. The argument over what term he used for cesspit has gone on ever since.

Sometimes, trying to defend something the president says is just a waste of whitewash. The president has lost every voter he will ever lose by offending or embarrassing people. For him, further outrage is redundant. The damage he does to his party and its supporters all flows downhill now. Republicans downhill from the president really should look up to see what is coming and step out of the way if they can.

That is just the way the president talks, his defenders say. OK. The way someone talks is usually a very good indicator of how he thinks. See the earlier point about having already lost all the voters he can.

There is a difference between supporting the president's policies and taking a bullet for him every chance you get. To be fair, the converse is also true. Supporting the president's policies does not mean every Republican is willing to take a bullet for him.

Any Republican president would have nominated conservative judges including Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court. Any Republican would have applauded unraveling former President Barack Obama's executive actions. Any Republican would have voted for a tax cut, although I believe a President John Kasich, for instance, would have signed one far more balanced and responsible.This is why I do not buy the "yeah, but" arguments that every Republican must be a collaborator if he or she votes for one of the president's policies. Republicans will be Republicans.

By exactly the same logic, it is silly for Republicans to brag about "all the things" the president has done. Every "accomplishment" he boasts of is something any Republican president would have done. That includes gloating while riding the upside of the business cycle. Anyone else would have done it without the collateral damage, too.

If this president proves nothing else, he proved this: Anyone with an "R" beside his or her name would have won the 2016 general election. The United States is a "Republican Lite" country. Any Democratic success depends on the GOP botching things. That is what happened in 2006 and 2008, and appears to be what the Democrats are counting on in 2018 and 2020. All the majority party needs is a president to follow who has a conscience and a clue.

Commentary on 01/20/2018