The Silence of the Many

Published: January 15, 2018

By Jim Lichtman
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In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last Thursday, during a bipartisan meeting on immigration, President Trump asked lawmakers, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”

He was referring to immigrants coming into the U.S. from Haiti, El Salvador and African nations.

According to Sen. Dick Durbin, who attended the meeting, Sen. Lindsey Graham was quick to respond to the president.

“[Graham] spoke up,” Durbin told reporters, “and made a direct comment on what the president said. For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it.”

Durbin confirmed to reporters that “[Trump] said these hate-filled things and he said them repeatedly.”

Seven lawmakers attended the meeting: Sen. Tom Cotton (R), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R), Sen. Dick Durbin (D), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R), and Sen. David Perdue (R).

The reaction from others in attendance:

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, no comment.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, no comment.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, no comment.

Republican Senators Tom Cotton, and David Perdue, “do not recall the president saying those exact words.”

Here’s what Sen. Lindsey Graham recalls:

“[I] said my piece directly to [Trump]. The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel. I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.”

Clearly, Graham was troubled by the president’s remarks enough to comment directly, at the time.

On Sunday, however, Perdue “forcefully denied,” The New York Times writes (Jan. 14), that Trump used the words, “shithole countries” during his meeting with lawmakers.

If that’s true, why didn’t Perdue and Cotton make that clear in their original statement?

Why haven’t Representatives Diaz-Balart, McCarthy and Goodlatte come out in support of their colleagues’ statement of denial? Why didn’t they counter Durbin’s original Friday statement? Why didn’t The White House immediately deny Durbin’s statement? What words did Trump use that caused Lindsey Graham to respond the way he did at both the Thursday meeting and later to the press? And why did Sen. Tim Scott tell The Post and Courier that his fellow South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, told him the reported comments were “basically accurate.”

Friday morning, Trump tweeted:

“The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made – a big setback for DACA!” — Donald J. Trump, January 12, 2018

“The words used by the President,” Republican Sen. Jeff Flake said in a tweet, “as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not ‘tough,’ they were abhorrent and repulsive.”

Once again, we have a president who not only demonstrates a lack of civility and respect, but avoids all personal responsibility for his actions.

If this were a one-time occurrence, a slip of the tongue, and something for which he apologized, you might make an allowance. However, this is a man who has publicly made clear his beliefs that a Federal judge born in the U.S. cannot be fair because he’s Hispanic; that Muslims should be banned from the U.S.; and that Mexicans are “rapists.”

Is Trump the first president to make racial comments? Of course not.

Newsweek reports that President “Eisenhower told Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren white Southerners ‘are not bad people. All they are concerned about is to see that their sweet little girls are not required to sit in school alongside some big overgrown Negroes…”

“President Lyndon Johnson,” Newsweek adds, “would routinely use the ‘N’ word and called civil rights legislation ‘n****r’ bills.”

However, that was then, and this is now, and political leaders, particularly presidents, are supposed to demonstrate to citizens and the world the kind of tolerance and respect upon which the country was founded; that we’re better than our past.

What is the response from Republicans in Congress?

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt MO, “…clearly… unacceptable.”

Republican Sen. John Boozman AR, “No matter where people come from, they all deserve dignity and respect.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins ME, “The president should not denigrate other countries.”

Republican Sen. Charles Grassley IA, “All people ought to be treated with respect.”

Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch UT, “I look forward to getting a more detailed explanation.”

Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson GA, “…he owes the people of Haiti and all mankind an apology.”

Republican Sen. Ron Johnson WI, “Totally inappropriate… he should apologize.”

Republican Sen. James Lankford GA, “…disappointing.”

Republican Sen. Mike Lee UT, “…insulting and distracting.”

Republican Sen. John McCain AZ, “Respect for the God-given dignity of every human being, no matter their race, ethnicity or other circumstances of their birth, is the essence of American patriotism. To believe otherwise is to oppose the very idea of America.”

Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski AK, “What the president said is offensive and doesn’t reflect who we are as a country.”

Republican Sen. Rob Portman OH, “…wrong and indefensible.”

Republican Sen. Pat Robert KS, “…most unfortunate.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio FL, “…we should evaluate immigrants based on WHO they are & not on the problems that exist in the nation of their birth…”

Republican Sen. Tim Scott SC, “…disappointing.”

Republican Sen. Patrick J. Toomey PA, “I hope the president retracts the suggestion…”

Republican Representative Mia Love, whose parents come from Haiti said, “The [President’s] comments are unkind, divisive, elitist, and fly in the face of our nation’s values. “This behavior is unacceptable from the leader of our nation.”

Love demanded an apology from Trump.

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan: “I read those comments… the first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful.”

Unfortunate, unhelpful,”?

I wonder what Ryan would say to his two teenage sons if they were taken out of school for calling some nations “shithole countries”?

And this is the problem with Trump’s constant drumbeat of racial comments. Whether it’s calling Mexicans “rapists,” or the Charlottesville White Nationalists, “some of whom are very fine people,” this president continues to normalize reprehensible rhetoric, lowering the bar of basic human decency.

However, (as of this writing), here’s a list of those Republicans who have made no public comment:

Senator Lamar Alexander, Tennessee

Senator John Barrasso, Wyoming

Senator Richard M. Burr, North Carolina

Senator Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia

Senator Thad Cochran, Mississippi

Senator Bob Corker, Tennessee

Senator John Cornyn, Texas

Senator Michael D. Crapo, Idaho

Senator Ted Cruz, Texas

Senator Steve Daines, Montana

Senator Michael B. Enzi, Wyoming

Senator Joni Ernst, Iowa

Senator Deb Fischer, Nebraska

Senator Dean Heller, Nevada

Senator John Hoeven, North Dakota

Senator James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma

Senator John Kennedy, Louisiana

Senator Mitch McConnell, Kentucky

Senator Jerry Moran, Kansas

Senator Rand Paul, Kentucky

Senator James E. Risch Idaho

Senator Michael Rounds, South Dakota

Senator Ben Sasse, Nebraska

Senator Richard C. Shelby, Alabama

Senator Dan Sullivan, Alaska

Senator John Thune, South Dakota

Senator Thom Tillis, North Carolina

Senator Roger Wicker, Mississippi

Senator Todd Young, Indiana

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Louisiana

Today, marks the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. As a federal holiday, teachers and community leaders use this day to remind all of us of the importance of equal rights. In that spirit, Senator Lindsey Graham’s public words after that Thursday meeting best summarize who we are as Americans:

“The American ideal is embraced by people all over the globe. It was best said a long time ago, E Pluribus Unum — Out of Many, One. Diversity has always been our strength, not our weakness. In reforming immigration, we cannot lose these American Ideals.”

Can I have an “Amen”?


  1. Amen!

    Glad some have ethical character and happy you could add quotes like Senator Boozman’s: “No matter where people come from, they all deserve dignity and respect.”

    Hoping this “house of cards” will tumble soon and we can all unite and continue improving this wonderful USA!

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