News & Politics

Paul Krugman: The GOP Has No Moral Character to Speak Of

The Parkland school shooting marks a new low for the president and his party.

Photo Credit: swisseconomic/Flickr Creative Commons

Over the weekend, President Trump used the Parkland, Florida, school shooting as an excuse to attack the FBI, and went on an extended rant about Russian meddling in the 2016 election. As Paul Krugman writes Tuesday, this outburst after the murder of 17 people was hurtful even to those who have come to expect the worst from the president.

As the New York Times columnist points out, "The sad content of modern Republican character is a symptom of the corruption and hypocrisy that has afflicted half of our body politic—a sickness of the soul that manifests itself in personal behavior as well as policy."  Republicans have abandoned common decency, taking responsibility, and other lessons the rest of us learned in kindergarten. 

Krugman is also adamant that this has not always been the case. "Don’t say that it has always been that way, that it’s just the way people are," he admonishes us. "On the contrary, taking responsibility for your actions—what my parents called being a mensch—used to be considered an essential virtue in politicians and adults in general."

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He also notes that, "not all Democrats are honest and upstanding; but as far as I can tell, there’s almost nobody left in the G.O.P. willing to take responsibility for, well, anything." 

The entire administration is afflicted. Trump has surrounded himself with people like Scott Pruitt, who continues to fly first class at taxpayer expense for fear of being criticized in public. Remember that "the next time someone talks about liberal 'snowflakes,'” Krugman continues. Then there's John Kelly, "who made false accusations about Representative Frederica Wilson and refused to retract those accusations even after video showed they were false." 

Krugman has been writing about Republicans' inability to admit defeat, take responsibility for their mistakes and make amends—what he refers to as the "mensch gap"—since the Bush administration. In his estimation, it's only growing wider and the reason is purely political

The modern G.O.P. is, to an extent never before seen in American history, a party built around bad faith, around pretending that its concerns and goals are very different from what they really are. Flag-waving claims of patriotism, pious invocations of morality, stern warnings about fiscal probity are all cover stories for an underlying agenda mainly concerned with making plutocrats even richer.

Krugman doesn't see things improving any time soon, leaving us on this bitter note: 

America in 2018 is not a place where we can disagree without being disagreeable, where there are good people and good ideas on both sides, or whatever other bipartisan homily you want to recite. We are, instead, living in a kakistocracy, a nation ruled by the worst, and we need to face up to that unpleasant reality.

Read the entire column

Ilana Novick is an AlterNet contributing writer and production editor.