- Jay Bookman The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
For U.S. Sen. David Perdue, memory works in a very odd way. Or so he claims.
Last Friday, Perdue and a colleague, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, told the world that they “do not recall” racist comments made a day earlier by President Trump in an immigration meeting.
That lack of recollection seemed astonishing. In that meeting, Trump had dismissed all of Africa as “shithole” or maybe “shithouse” countries, suggesting that immigration from those and other countries such as Haiti ought to be stopped, the theory being that “shithole” countries produce “shithole” human beings. Instead, Trump said, he wanted immigration from European countries such as Norway.
According to multiple accounts, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham took great offense at the comments, to the point of lecturing the president that America must be a country based on ideals, not on race.
“For (Graham) to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it,” said U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a participant in that meeting.
Perdue and Cotton were also in that meeting. To have witnessed such a dramatic scene, yet not recall it, seemed unlikely in the extreme. But by Sunday, when he appeared on “This Week,” Perdue’s memory had improved significantly. Suddenly, “we do not recall” clarified into a full-throated denial that the comments occurred at all, and an accusation that Durbin had committed a “gross misrepresentation.”
Which is even more odd.
Durbin is a Democrat, which in the eyes of some makes his account suspect. However, Graham has issued a statement saying that he appreciates Durbin’s comments and support. “Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him,” Graham recounted. “The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel.”
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, a fellow Republican from South Carolina, says that Graham privately confirmed to him that Durbin’s account is “basically accurate.” According to media accounts, including from conservative sources, Trump has even bragged to friends about the confrontation, believing it to be good for him politically.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy also witnessed the exchange, as did U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican, and U.S. Rep. Robert Goodlatte, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. If Durbin’s accusations against Trump were false, one can assume that McCarthy, Diaz-Balart and Goodlatte would have rushed to the president’s public defense.
Instead, they have instead maintained an eloquent silence, an option that the sycophantic Perdue should have taken as well. (In the past, the Georgia senator has demonstrated his blind loyalty to Trump by describing him as some kind of American Churchill, which I suppose makes Churchill some kind of British Trump. It’s a thought that would horrify the British, given that they have made it clear that Trump is not welcome within their borders.)
To his credit, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is having none of it. “I did not hear it, but if it’s true, (Trump) owes the people of Haiti and all mankind an apology,” Isakson said. “That is not the kind of statement the leader of the free world ought to make, he ought to be ashamed of himself.”
Civil rights veteran Andrew Young took a softer approach. Asked whether Trump is a racist, Young said that “you don’t help someone who has an alcohol problem by constantly calling him a drunk. You have to deal with the sickness.”
You also don’t let a drunk drive the car.