It's not every day that a new U.S. president seeks to undermine the republic he is supposed to be leading, or is it? President Donald Trump has set a new standard for disparaging the United States and its form of government on a regular basis — while members of his party are establishing a new and equally vile tradition of ignoring these egregious statements at every opportunity.
Example 1. In a taped interview that ran prior to Sunday's Super Bowl, President Trump was asked if he respected Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said that he did but wasn't sure if the two would get along. Interviewer Bill O'Reilly of Fox News responded that Mr. Putin was a "killer." Mr. Trump's response? The U.S. is no better.
"There are a lot of killers," he said. "We've got a lot of killers. What do you think — our country's so innocent?"
Example 2. On Saturday, Mr. Trump took to Twitter to lash out at U.S. District Court Judge James L. Robart, who had temporarily blocked enforcement of the president's executive order banning entry into this country from seven majority-Muslim countries. "The opinion of this so-called judge" is how the president described the order by a man appointed to the federal bench in Washington state by President George W. Bush.
Now imagine that if instead of Donald Trump, those two statements had been made by President Barack Obama. Or, perhaps this is a better comparison — imagine them said by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., the Chicago pastor who made similarly controversial statements that Mr. Obama, a former Wright parishioner, denounced. Had those roles been reversed and the last president been the one cozying up to Russia, flag-waving Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media would be savaging Mr. Obama as a traitor to his country.
To equate Mr. Putin and his authoritarian policies (that have led to journalists being jailed and killed, incidentally) with those of the United States is truly beyond the pale. And while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could at least bring himself to tell reporters there is no "equivalency" between Russian behavior and U.S. policy, the overall reaction of the GOP establishment has amounted to little more than a shrug.
Meanwhile, describing a federal judge as "so-called" might fly in the Archie Bunker world of loose talk on a street corner in Queens, but hearing it from the leader of the free world only serves to undermine an entire branch of government. It's fair to disagree with a legal opinion; it's not appropriate to suggest that a judge isn't really a judge because his ruling was unfavorable to the president any more than it was appropriate for candidate Trump to accuse another federal judge of being incapable of fairly trying a case involving Trump University because he is of Mexican descent.
But wait, there's more. The immigration executive order in and of itself suggests a deep lack of appreciation for this nation's immigrant heritage, and the failure to consult Congress and many in his own branch on such an important matter shows a shameful lack of respect for our government institutions. Over in the West Wing, Mr. Trump's chief political strategist is telling the world that the press should "keep its mouth shut" while firmly planting himself on the National Security Council, thus raising the probability that life and death national security decisions will be guided by political considerations.
The elevation of Stephen Bannon as an NSC principal fits a distressing pattern of Mr. Trump putting concerns about his personal popularity above all else. How else do you define someone who uses a prayer breakfast to fret about TV ratings or describes "negative" polls as "fake news," as the president tweeted Monday morning? President Trump isn't engaged in issues (he continues to show a shocking lack of understanding of most of them as he has since the early days of his campaign); he's focused on his "ratings."
These daily assaults on the United States, its traditions, its residents and its form of government have gotten tiresome, and none more so than his continued fan-boy reaction to Mr. Putin. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is well justified in her renewed call over the weekend for an FBI investigation into Mr. Trump's ties to Russia. The president's loyalty to the Russian dictator who invaded Ukraine is so inviolable — and yet so unjustified — that it would be foolish for any American not to be suspicious.