As the federal government shut down as Friday night turned to Saturday morning, the White House issued a formal written statement that referred to Senate Democrats as “obstructionist losers.” One might ordinarily expect to see such rhetoric on a far-right Twitter feed, not official statements from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Soon after, the White House changed its voicemail message. “Thank you for calling the White House,” the recorded voice said. “Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate.”
In Donald Trump’s America, standards have clearly fallen. Indeed, it’s important to understand just how low this president is prepared to go.
After the government shutdown went into full swing this weekend, Trump’s campaign operation released a brutal advertisement slamming Democrats as “complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants” if they stand in the way of the administration’s attempts at curbing illegal immigration.
I’m not aware of any previous instance in which a sitting president accused a major political party of being “complicit” in murders. Indeed, the fact that Trump World’s new, 30-second ad isn’t a massive national outrage is evidence that we’re all getting a little too inured to this president debasing the political discourse and destroying American norms.
What’s more, on a substantive level, the point of the ad isn’t just to attack Democrats; it’s also to persuade the public to be afraid of immigrants. Vox explained, “It’s important to note that despite the White House’s fear-mongering on the dangers of illegal immigrants, there is no proof immigrants raise crime rates in America or are particularly prone to crime. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary showing immigrants — both legal and unauthorized — are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans. There is not extensive data on the exact number of homicides committed by undocumented immigrants.”
But to fully appreciate the absurdity of the circumstances, one had to have seen “Meet the Press” yesterday.
NBC News’ Chuck Todd showed the right-wing ad to White House Legislative Affairs Director Marc Short and asked how it helps negotiations during a shutdown to launch an ad that calls Democrats accomplices to murder.
“Well,” Short replied, “you know that that ad is produced by an outside group.”
The host was incredulous, and for good reason: the attack ad didn’t come from some random super PAC, unaffiliated with the president and his political operation; the ad was launched by Trump’s own re-election campaign. It quite literally features the president saying, “I’m Donald Trump and I approve this message.”
Worse, Short, after suggesting Trump/Pence 2020 is “an outside group,” went on to defend the attack ad on the merits. Pressed on whether it’s helpful for the president to treat his opponents this way, especially during a shutdown, the White House’s legislative affairs director said he believes it’s helpful “to continue to raise awareness.”
In other words, American should expect more of this, not less.