President Donald Trump denies having used the term “shithole countries” to refer to Haiti, El Salvador, and some African nations in a negotiation about immigration policy with Senators from both parties in the Oval Office on Thursday.
And CNN’s Jake Tapper, of all people, says that his source backs the president’s claim, at least regarding Haiti, over the story told second-hand to the Washington Post (probably by one of the Democrats in the meeting).
But regardless of whether Trump used the phrase, and how, he has learned the hard way about the danger of even talking to the political opposition in the poisonous climate that Democrats and the mainstream media have created in Washington. Both are determined to bring down the Trump presidency and to nullify the 2016 election.
And for Democrats, the opportunity to do so was more important than the chance to help “undocumented” immigrants.
Think about it this way: a remark like “shithole countries” would have been just as potent after the Democrats and Republicans had reached a deal to resolve the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. If the Democrats really cared about saving the so-called “kids” of DACA from losing their work permits on March 6, and possibly being deported, they could have held onto that juicy tidbit, and leaked it after the deal was done.
The fact that someone — and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) is the likeliest culprit — decided it was more important to run straight from the meeting to the Washington Post, or to go-betweens who could preserve plausible deniability, is a sign of where Democrats’ priorities are.
Alternatively, Democrats were looking to back out of a negotiation in which Republicans were making tough, credible demands, and accusing Trump of racism offered a perfect escape.
Most presidents, and other politicians, swear all the time — and they apply that profanity in exactly the way Trump is alleged to have done.
In March 2016, the Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg reported that President Barack Obama had referred to Libya as a “shit show” in private: “It became a shit show, Obama believes, for reasons that had less to do with American incompetence than with the passivity of America’s allies and with the obdurate power of tribalism.”
Obama never suffered leaks from closed-door meetings with Republicans — because he almost never held them. The 44th president was notorious for avoiding congressional leaders, even when his party controlled both houses. And he rarely spoke to, much less met with, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) or Speakers of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Paul Ryan (R-WI). He did more than anyone to create today’s partisan divide.
President Trump did what Obama once promised to do, but never did, when he held a freewheeling negotiation at the White House with members of both parties on Tuesday in front of the television cameras. (Obama’s theatrical meeting with Republicans to discuss Obamacare at Blair House in February 2010 only happened after the bill had been written and had passed the Senate. Moreover, Obama simply ignored Republican suggestions and criticisms.)
Everyone was on their best behavior Tuesday, with the cameras on. What Democrats have done by allegedly leaking Trump’s comments is to ensure meaningful bipartisan negotiations never happen again.
Trump and the GOP now have little choice but to govern as Obama and the Democrats did — i.e. unilaterally and in their own interest, just like a “shithole country.” There is no longer a sense of shared responsibility. There is only the lust for power.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.