Memory refreshed, Tom Cotton now disputes that Trump made "shithole" comments | Arkansas Blog

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Memory refreshed, Tom Cotton now disputes that Trump made "shithole" comments

Posted By on Sun, Jan 14, 2018 at 5:11 PM


I'm honestly a little confused why anyone is bothering to lie about President Donald Trump's controversial "shithole" comments at this point.

Some of Trump's allies (Rep. Steve Womack included) have defended the substance of the comments, but there hasn't been much dispute that the president referred to immigrants from "shithole countries" (that would be Haiti and certain African nations). Both Sen. Dick Durbin and Sen. Lindsey Graham, who were in the room, have confirmed that Trump in fact said what he said. Sen. Jeff Flake has stated that he heard it from people who were at the meeting immediately after it was over. The White House issued no denial on Thursday despite staffers being in the room. Trump reportedly called around to friends and advisers that night to gauge what they thought of the "shithole" rhetoric, arguing that it would play well with the base — an argument also made to reporters by White House staffers.

On Friday, Sen. Tom Cotton and Sen. David Perdue, also in the room said, "we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically." So, okay. Mealy-mouthed memory failures are what politicians do when they don't want to admit that something happened. Other than Trump's meek pseudo-denial the next morning, no one in the room issued a denial. If the reports had simply been made up, it's pretty hard to believe that no one would bother to say so for several days. And it's hard to believe that the fiery Cotton would have gone with the amnesia excuse!

But now, three days later, Cotton and Perdue (memories apparently now refreshed) say everyone is lying and it didn't happen at all! Here's the surreal exchange on Face the Nation this morning:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Durbin has been very clear. Senator Graham has told others that the reports were basically accurate. Are you saying the president did not use the word that has been so widely reported?

DAVID PERDUE: I'm telling you he did not use that word, George. And I'm telling you it's a gross misrepresentation. How many times you want me to say that?

JOHN DICKERSON: Senator, your view on the use of this one?

TOM COTTON: Yeah, John, I didn't hear that word either. I certainly didn't hear what Senator Durbin has said repeatedly. Senator Durbin has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings though, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by that. Here's what I did hear. And here is the point.

JOHN DICKERSON: Sorry to interrupt. You didn't hear the word, or it was not said? Because Senator Graham also told Senator Scott, your Republican colleague, that this is what happened. Senator Flake was in a subsequent meeting right afterwards where he was told by people in the meeting this happened. So just to button that up, you're saying it did not happen or you just don't recall?

TOM COTTON: I didn't hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was. And I know—

JOHN DICKERSON: But—

TOM COTTON: And I know what Dick Durbin has said about the president's repeated statements is incorrect.

Obviously the only one who truly knows whether Cotton heard Trump say what he reportedly said is Cotton. I'm going to opt not to go too far through the looking glass here. Most reasonable observers, Trump supporters included, have concluded that Trump said it. If Cotton thought otherwise, I think it's pretty obvious he would have said so unequivocally as soon as the reports came out. It hardly seems worth litigating; hardcore Trump supporters aren't going to change their mind about him no matter what he says. Certainly not this — Trump's political brand is precisely degrading comments about immigrants from places he deems undesirable! That's why Trump was bragging about the "shithole" bit to his buddies Thursday night. And Cotton's rigid ideological opposition to an immigration deal will not be swayed one way or the other by whether Trump says outrageous or offensive things, which obviously Trump does all the time, this kerfuffle aside. Republican lawmakers have long since decided that's okay, so why even contest one more trip down the shithole?

And yet, Cotton and Perdue feel compelled to offer up this fawning show of loyalty. They're lickspittles for a liar. It's a degrading and embarrassing business, but it's been that kind of year. To supplicate to Trump, you must trumpet the implausible. That's just part of the deal. Sean Spicer told us not to believe our lying eyes and Kelly Conway explained that we were governed by "alternative facts" and now here's Cotton, with highly selective hearing. What is the truth, anyway? Whatever Dear Leader says it is.

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