Liddick: Immigration debate sidelined by potty politics (column)
January 15, 2018
The attack of vapors ongoing over President Trump's putative remark about some immigrants' countries of origin — there's no reason to repeat it here, we all know what he is said to have said — bears a bit more examining than has been given by a coterie of the commentariat who probably use similar language on a daily basis.
Point the first: did he really say it? I wasn't in the room and neither — very probably — were you. So in adjudicating the question one must rely on that old standard of reportage — sources. When the story appeared in the Washington Post, it had the minimum-required-for-verification "two sources." Except close reading indicated that they weren't: one, a "congressional staffer," was not present at the event; he or she was "briefed on the meeting," and was therefore transmitting hearsay. So, who did the briefing? And who called the Post?
The case is not improved by the corroborating witness, Senator Dick Durban. It's not just that he is the only identified source for the statement. It isn't just that he is contradicted in his assertions by two other senators who were in the room, or that other "corroboration" seems either to be third-hand or wishfully interpretive. Senator Durban has a history of playing fast and loose with the truth, to say the best of him. In some ways this story reminds me of games the KGB's disinformation office used to play with the Press Trust of India: plant a juicy falsehood where it would be picked up by the wire service, "confirm" it, and voilà! Instant credibility.
It might be better to follow the lead of Sen. Orrin Hatch, who wrote on Twitter that he "looked forward to getting a more detailed explanation regarding the President's comments." Smart man, he.
Point the second: Stipulating that the comment may or may not have been made, it is accurate? Somalia is not a garden spot. Neither is the Gambia, Guyana, Afghanistan, Haiti nor many others. I've seen some of them and lived in a couple. They tend to have authoritarian and kleptocratic governments; income disparity that would make Andrew Carnegie blush; poor educational systems; nonexistent infrastructure and a paucity of opportunities for anything save brutality and predation. They fit exactly the description the president is purported to have used, one I heard occasionally from other foreign residents who were my neighbors and co-workers in them. Their people may be as striving as anyone, but unless we decide that everyone, everywhere has a right to live in the United States, they're probably not at the top of the list of invitees. So why are Trump's critics terminally concerned about his accurate if profane description?
Point the third: venue, timing and impact. This was supposedly a closed-door meeting between the President and a select group of senators, to discuss a bill involving both DACA and broader questions of immigration and national security. By what twisted calculation was it okay to spread this report, true or false? Remember, most of the people in the room, and most people they know, would likely have used this sort of language in private conversation at some point in time. So what national interest was served by its release? It was guaranteed to spread disquiet at home and abroad, to deepen divisions among Americans and to fan the flames of disunity. It profited no one save the nation's enemies – and the Democrat Party. Which conjunction of interest ought to incite curiosity at the very least.
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In short, timeliness and utility should be at the heart of any discussion of this latest tempest-in-a-teacup. This is only the latest of a series of incidents that seem uncannily to occur when Trump's Administration begins to make headway with its agenda. From the pre-inauguration "dossier" to post-inaugural "collaboration" to nuisance court challenges, quickly overruled but headline-grabbing, to character, mental stability and — gasp — harsh language, the left has no lack of diversions. Some of them are the president's doing. Others are implausible, but remotely possible. Others yet are invention. Telling them apart is increasingly challenging, and most national media outlets, who used to have at least some integrity, are now hopelessly unreliable. This is a precarious situation: an electorate which cannot distinguish truth from lie will destroy its government as fast as wildfire in a wheatfield.
From the evidence at hand, the Democrat Party embraces this threat, goading the hatred of its members into fury against the man who beat their damaged-goods champion; they hope to create an orgy of loathing so hot it will burn their opponents to the ground in November.
And, their actions suggest, if this racist, misogynistic, homophobic, genocidal, gun-and-bible-clinging, criminal country of ours burns with them, so what? That's what it deserves for electing Donald Trump. Which is unbalanced.
And unspeakably dangerous.
Email Morgan Liddick at email@example.com
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