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‘Useful Idiots’: Tonight’s impeachment debate will show how the GOP is now the ‘Grand Old Putin’ party

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David Cay Johnston
David Cay Johnston

When Congress begins debating changes in the articles of impeachment Wednesday night, we will see on full display how Congressional Republicans, to defend Donald Trump, have given up any pretense of principle, the rule of law and loyalty to the country.

House Republicans have embraced Trump’s win-for-Trump-at-all-costs philosophy.

Think of them as the kind of cowards who would never jump on a hand grenade, but would instinctively push the person next to them onto the explosive. This is a political extension of the economic philosophy that we’ve got ours, tough for you, in Republican tax, spend and regulatory policy,

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For Congressional Republicans, lying in defense of Trump is no vice, acknowledging facts is no virtue.

The impeachment hearing Monday made clear that Congressional Republicans have a three-prong strategy to protect Trump and thus themselves from being voted out in a primary for being insufficiently subservient to the man who says–falsely–that our Constitution gives him the power to do anything he wants:

  1. Assume that voters, at least in GOP districts, are so lacking in critical thinking skills that they won’t notice that House Republicans offered no factual defense of Trump’s dishonest and disloyal conduct. As Trump said, “I love the poorly educated.”
  1. For Congressional Republicans, lying in defense of Trump is no vice, acknowledging facts is no virtue, perverting the perverted extremism justification concept put forth by the party’s 1964 standard-bearer, Barry Goldwater. House GOP impeachment lawyer Steven Castor falsely claimed Ukrainians didn’t know military aide was being withheld by Trump to argue there was no presidential extortion.
  1. Regurgitating Kremlin disinformation is fine so long as it helps Republicans win elections. Throughout the Judiciary Committee hearing, we heard Republicans repeat the Kremlin lie that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections.

Taken together this strategy shows that Trump has stripped the Republican party of any semblance of intellectual integrity and skepticism about Russia. Instead, GOP leaders have chosen to make themselves into what the old Soviet called “useful idiots” by spreading the lies of Vladimir Putin, whom Trump says he takes at his word and trusts more than America’s intelligence agencies.

The biggest of these lies is that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump. That lie is easy to sell to people who can’t point to it on a map, much less appreciate the geopolitical significance of Russia seizing Crimea and Ukraine fighting Russian invasion of its Donbas region.

Useful Idiots

That Republicans now carry Kremlin water is an amazing transformation given how for decades GOP operatives accused Democrats of being “useful idiots” who parroted communist propaganda.

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The “better dead than red” Republicanism was your grandfather’s Grand Old Party. Now it’s “better to submit to Donald” than risk losing a primary election.

In Trumplandia,  winning is everything. And winning means Trump gets the money or power or favor he wants.

Integrity, honor and loyalty are values unknown in Trumplandia, while decency is for fools, idiots and schmucks.

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Inviting Russian spymasters into the Oval Office without telling Americans and then disclosing national security secrets, including sources and methods, is A-OK with today’s Republican lawmakers. They would have gone crazy had Obama done the same.

Leopards don’t change their spots. Trump has spent his life cheating business owners, employees, investors, “students” at his fake Trump University, novice roulette players at Trump Castle casino and even his own nieces and nephews out of most of their inheritance.  But to those who have sold their souls to Trump none of that matters. All that matters is that Trump won.

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Win At All Costs

Now, thanks to the perfidy of Capitol Hill Republicans, win at all costs is now the de facto policy of our government.

Putin, who has declared that democratic self-government is a joke, is smiling. Not only does he have an invaluable asset in the Oval Office, he now has the whole of the Republican Party in Congress helping his cause.

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