It’s been almost 24 hours. Let’s settle on the spin, please. Did Trump (1) speak with refreshing everyman candor in describing third-world sh*tholes as “sh*tholes” or (2) never say any such thing, and is now being framed as a racist by the fake news media?
When I went to bed last night it seemed like the White House was prepared to plant its flag behind door number one. But then something changed. Trump denied that he’d used the exact language attributed to him by WaPo. And now here come Republicans Tom Cotton and David Perdue to help him try to walk it back.
COTTON & PERDUE put out joint stmt: "we do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system…" pic.twitter.com/asINkO9t84
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) January 12, 2018
Cotton and Perdue are two of Trump’s closest allies on immigration. They appeared with him at the White House a few months back to promote their RAISE Act, which would scale back chain migration. They’re piping up now in his defense, most likely, because they know that it’s a delicate moment in DREAM negotiations. Trump has made lots of pro-DREAM noises and clearly wants a deal, but the deal offered to him yesterday amounted to a handful of magic beans in exchange for amnesty. With various Democrats plus some Republicans like Mia Love knifing him over the “sh*thole” comment, they’re seizing the opportunity to show him who his real friends are. They’re border hawks! He wouldn’t sell out border hawks after this, would he?
Note the phrasing in their statement, though. They’re not denying that Trump said what he’s accused of saying. All they’re claiming is that they don’t remember it that way. Which is prudent, since attendees at meetings with the president have apparently been known to record them. We may yet see audio emerge of Trump discussing “sh*tholes” with Cotton and Perdue.
For what it’s worth, Lindsey Graham apparently told Tim Scott that the “sh*thole” allegation was accurate — more or less:
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott said he talked to fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham about hearing President Donald Trump’s “shithole countries” comment and Graham confirmed to him the president said it.
Graham, Scott said, told him the reported comments are “basically accurate.”
“If that comment is accurate, the comment is incredibly disappointing,” Scott also told The Post and Courier on Friday morning.
That jibes with Jake Tapper’s reporting this morning, which claimed that Trump did refer to some countries as “sh*tholes.” Not Haiti, though; it was African nations that received the presidential S-bomb. Basically accurate, just like Graham said.
Back to the question up top, though. What changed? Why was Trump reportedly taking a “victory lap” last night, phoning friends to get their takes on how awesome Sh*tholegate is, then running away from it this morning? The likely answer: The hosts of his favorite TV show in all the world gave him a belated thumbs down.
When the diehard loyalists at “Fox & Friends” are telling him to walk it back, he has a political problem. It could be that there’s more going on behind the scenes, of course: Maybe McConnell phoned him and told him the overnight internal polls are poisonous in battleground states, or maybe he got an earful from some influential diplomats abroad. But, Trump being Trump, it was probably “Fox & Friends.” Let’s hope Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade never decide that it’s time to nuke North Korea.
Update: Graham has now issued a statement of his own. He doesn’t specifically confirm that Trump said what he’s accused of saying, but he strongly implies that he did.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) January 12, 2018