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In this combination image from left; Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., July 10, 2019, Washington, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., March 12, 2019, in Washington, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., July 12, 2019, in Washington, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., July 10, 2019, in Washington. In tweets Sunday, President Donald Trump portrays the lawmakers as foreign-born troublemakers who should go back to their home countries. In fact, the lawmakers, except one, were born in the U.S. (AP Photo)
In this combination image from left; Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., July 10, 2019, Washington, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., March 12, 2019, in Washington, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., July 12, 2019, in Washington, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., July 10, 2019, in Washington. In tweets Sunday, President Donald Trump portrays the lawmakers as foreign-born troublemakers who should go back to their home countries. In fact, the lawmakers, except one, were born in the U.S. (AP Photo) (AP photos/AP)

Most Americans are probably appalled by President Donald Trump’s now-infamous Sabbath day tweet calling on four freshman women of color to “go back” to their countries, which he described as “broken” and “crime infested.” Given that three of the four were born in the United States and all are U.S. citizens, this can only be interpreted as one thing — unadulterated racism. And just in case anyone thought this was a slip of the thumbs, he was back at it Monday, calling on “Radical Left Congresswomen [to] apologize to our Country.”

So please spare us from portraying this as a matter of Democrats perceiving xenophobia, which is like attributing the morning’s sunrise to popular opinion. Facts are facts. Looking at Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, for example, a woman born in Cincinnati, raised in Chicago and who served on the Boston City Council as a foreigner living in the U.S. can only be the product of one thing — her skin color. She is African-American. You didn’t hear Mr. Trump telling Paul Ryan to “go back” to his country.

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Are we shocked by President Trump’s unapologetic racism or his double-down response, his Monday tweet calling on them to apologize — seriously, apologize — “for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said”? No, we are not. We can scream at the top of our lungs all day on this subject, and we know where it leads us. Just where the White House wants us to be. Mr. Trump sees fear and loathing of immigrants as his ticket to reelection. This is a deliberate tactic. It is surely no coincidence that this vile tweet landed on the weekend of the threatened immigration raids. Stoking fear and resentment of people of color is this administration’s raison d’etre, and any chance to tap that anger is seldom overlooked. Never mind that his targets actually come from Boston or Brooklyn. They are not white like him. And if he gets called on it? He always has his go-to schoolyard response of “I know you are but what am I?”

What is more alarming is how his fellow Republicans have so little to say about this. It took a long time to find a GOP member of Congress willing to express even the mildest criticism of the president’s incendiary comment. Even now, as of this writing, only a handful of Republican critics have emerged like Texas Republican Rep. Chip Roy who said it was wrong to say that any U.S. citizen had a “home” besides this country. Not exactly a profile in courage. And then there’s Maryland Rep. Andy Harris who went on WBAL bright and early Monday morning to tell listeners of Baltimore’s AM news radio station that Mr. Trump hadn’t been racist at all and that, perhaps, he really meant the four members, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ilham Omar of Minnesota and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York in addition to Ms. Pressley should “go back” to their congressional districts.

“Well, ask the president what he meant by it, but clearly it’s not a racist comment. He could have meant go back to the district they came from, to the neighborhood they came from,” Dr. Harris told host Bryan Nehman in a moment so detached with reality that his license to practice medicine ought to be reviewed for reasons of mental competency.

Now, we will grant you that it’s perfectly acceptable to criticize and disagree with any or all members of “The Squad." The freshman women are probably more liberal than many Americans, perhaps most Americans. They have certainly been at odds with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, most recently over a compromise on border funding. But the “go back” remark is something else entirely. It’s not a dog whistle, it’s a more like a Ku Klux Klan recruitment billboard. Republicans who aren’t denouncing such tactics are complicit in them. The extended silence is surely among the most shameful moments of this congressional term.

This is what Republican candidates will be saddled with in 2020. They own this behavior, lock, stock and smoking pile of anti-American, hateful rhetoric. Like it or not, blaming all your woes on dark-skinned people, calling members of Congress foreigners, putting kids in cages at the border, it’s all part of the Republican brand — at least it is until President Trump’s enablers find their lost souls.

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