5 Republicans Who Were No Less Awful Than Trump This Week
Less than 50 days into Donald Trump's presidency, the warp-speed decline of American empire continues apace. This week's scandal assumed the elfin outline of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who the Washington Post revealed Wednesday lied during Senate confirmation hearings about his contact with Russian officials.
Sessions would ultimately recuse himself from any probe into the Trump administration's ties to the Kremlin, but the Republican Party could not escape the week without further debasing itself and the country. On Friday, we learned that not only did Vice President Mike Pence use private email as governor of Indiana, but that his account was hacked. Surely Republican voters will be calling for his immediate arrest any day now.
Donald Trump will dominate the headlines for the foreseeable future, but his party is every bit as diseased as he is. Here are five Republicans who were especially odious this week.
1. Jeff Sessions
While the Trump administration's collusion with Russia during the 2016 election remains an allegation, a few things are known: Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign manager, was in regular contact with Russian intelligence officials over the course of the year; Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who resigned last month in disgrace, mischaracterized the nature of his calls with Sergey Kislyak; and Sessions, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, lied about his communications with the Russian ambassador as well.
But did he commit perjury? Here's what the attorney general had to say about Bill Clinton during the latter's impeachment hearings in 1999:
Leading Democrats, from Sen. Al Franken (D-MIN) to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), have called for his resignation. Sessions recused himself from further investigation on Thursday, but not before enraged demonstrators serenaded him with calls of "lock him up."
2. Paul Ryan
House Majority Leader Paul Ryan (R-WI) could be a permanent fixture on these lists, but the Wisconsin congressman distinguished himself this week by insisting that there was no need for Sessions to recuse himself, despite all evidence to the contrary. As has been the case throughout the primary, election and Trump's turbulent presidency, Ryan has demonstrated that he is willing to tolerate all manner of scandal so long as there is a draconian tax cut waiting at the end of the news cycle.
3. Mike Pence
The vice president wants you to know that his email scandal is nothing like the one that followed Hillary Clinton for almost two years, and he's not wrong. Pence did not exclusively use his private account as Clinton did, and there's no evidence to date that he shared any classified information. Yet the hypocrisy of his attacks on the Democratic candidate during the election is readily apparent. And after riding a wave of Wikileaks into the White House, Pence demanding an apology from the Associated Press is nothing short of obscene:
When we requested they take it down, they refused. The @AP owes my wife an apology. https://t.co/LdMmnewnWF— Vice President Mike Pence (@Vice President Mike Pence) 1488664409.0
4. Roger Marshall
Odds are you've never heard of Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS), but he's the kind of anonymous politician who helps men like Ryan and Trump realize their dark visions. This week, the Republican congressman told STAT that he doesn't support Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. "Just like Jesus said, the poor will always be with us," he explained. "There is a group of people that just don't want health care and aren't going to take care of themselves."
We must have missed that gospel.
5. George W. Bush
There was nothing outwardly offensive about what George W. Bush had to say to Jimmy Kimmel on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" Thursday night. He expressed his affection for Michelle Obama and laughed off Will Ferrell's impressions on "SNL," gestures that seem almost revolutionary in our current political climate. And earlier in the week, Bush extolled the virtues of a free and independent press — a thinly veiled shot at the sitting president, though he insists it wasn't.
And yet. The myriad failures of the Bush administration need not be enumerated here, but it's safe to say that if Trump is in fact building an autocracy, he's following the blueprint W and his gang of neoconservatives helped compose. That Bush is now enjoying the warm embrace of liberals and the media is a testament to just how decrepit our democracy has become.