Republican senator suddenly worries about ethics after ignoring them for 4 years

Republican senator suddenly worries about ethics after ignoring them for 4 years
Photo via Gage Skidmore.

In a shocking news development, Senator John Cornyn of Texas has received a revelation: Transparency and ethics suddenly matter in government, after all.

Cornyn, blissfully unfamiliar with this topic for the past four years, has rediscovered his indignation hot button with the help of a New York Times (erstwhile "fake news") story suggesting that some key aides to President-elect Joe Biden might face ethics issues. Cornyn was just beside himself Saturday on Twitter:

Non-negotiable, eh? Cornyn's tweet trended number one for a while, but not so much for the Republican senator's belated discovery that integrity is a thing. Turns out, hypocrisy is a thing, too.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova was among thousands refreshing Cornyn's memory.

That just scratched the surface of Cornyn's mendacity on this topic. As one of Trump's loyalist lap dogs — until about 5 minutes before the November 3 election when it looked like that his fealty to the corrupt president might drag him down — Cornyn was unbothered by "transparency."

He never said a word about Trump's refusal to release his tax returns (and associated lies) nor about the secrecy and coverups over the blackmailing of Ukraine, nor about the hundreds of times that the administration stonewalled both sides of the aisle in Congress in its full-scale assault on the very notion of oversight. Cornyn never said a peep about Trump's trampling of what the president termed the "so-called Emoluments Clause."

Here's how little the Texas senator was troubled by one of the most egregious transparency failures in American history: Trump's dishonesty about the deadliness of COVID-19. After reporter Bob Woodward released tapes showing Trump intentionally downplayed the pandemic, here's what Cornyn said in a phone call with Texas reporters, as covered by the Texas Tribune:

"'I understand the intention that he didn't want to panic the American people,'" Cornyn said. 'That's not what leaders do. But I think in retrospect, I think he might have been able to handle that in a way that both didn't panic the American people but also gave them accurate information.'

"Cornyn nonetheless lauded the Trump administration for its initial actions on the pandemic, including China travel restrictions that he instituted in January.

"'The truth is … we've learned a lot about this virus that we didn't know when it first showed its ugly head, and I think the administration, through their coronavirus task force, has tried to be as transparent as they can,'" Cornyn told reporters. 'But I guess I can understand on a human level why the president did not want to panic the American people and felt like he should try to calm fears rather than to stoke them."

Now we can all understand on a human level why former Congressman Beto O'Rourke called out Cornyn as Trump's "single biggest enabler." Cornyn also carved out the distinction as one of the most disingenuous of those enablers: When his race was tightening in October, Cornyn flat out lied –and was outed for doing so by Senate opponent M. J. Hegar — over his prior support of Trump's slimy effort to move military funds to rebuild some border wall:

But to fully appreciate the depths of Cornyn's hypocrisy on the subject of ethics, consider this passage from a 2019 story on him in the Texas Observer:

"Cornyn was tasked in 2017 with securing the largest spoil: Trump's massive tax cut package. Behind closed doors, Cornyn masterfully cut deals with senators to ensure that the bill would pass. The result was a transformational redistribution of wealth to corporations and the ultrarich that Republicans promised would be paid for with magical levels of economic growth (it is actually expected to add at least $1 trillion to the federal debt).

"Along the way, Cornyn ensured that his friends in the Texas oil and gas industry who have lavished him with more than $3.5 million in political contributions over his career would get their fair share. Seventeen major oil and gas corporations, most based in Texas, would receive a combined one-time jolt of $25 billion. Republicans promised that money would trickle down to average Americans through pay increases and bonuses, but that hasn't happened. In the months after the tax cuts were enacted, Houston's major energy companies pumped a collective $9 billion into stock buybacks that enrich investors and executives. ConocoPhillips and Phillips 66 said the tax cuts had, as the Houston Chronicle reported, "no effect on employee wages, bonuses, or investment plans." Cornyn also slipped in a provision at the last minute that ensured oil and gas pipeline operators—a sector composed of many GOP mega-donors—would maintain their preferential tax advantage. He was rewarded in 2018 with nearly $80,000 in contributions from pipeline companies—more than any other senator."

So there you have Cornyn's idea of "transparency" when it applies to himself. It's also one more reason for Cornyn's next top priority to be rejected as "non-negotiable":


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