Members Only | December 13, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Republican Kids Count. Yours Don’t
What’s good for Barron Trump isn’t good for Greta Thunberg.
Greta Thunberg is a 16-year-old climate change activist. She’s from Europe and has autism. She’s been traveling the earth for the earth. On Thursday, Time announced it named her “Person of the Year.” The reason, as an activist said: “She symbolizes the agony, the frustration, the desperation, the anger—at some level, the hope—of many young people who won’t even be of age to vote by the time their futures are doomed.”
You’d think the president and his party would consider Thunberg off limits. After all, she’s a child. After all, Donald Trump, Melania Trump and most of the House Republicans seemed very upset when a law professor last week “denigrated” Barron Trump, the Trumps’ teenaged son. As the First Lady put it: “A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics. Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”
Turns out what’s good for Barron Trump isn’t good for Greta Thunberg.
The most powerful person in the world implied Thursday that Time’s choice was “ridiculous” before attacking Thunberg’s character. He exhorted her to seek “anger management” in order to act like a normal teen. Trump said: “Chill Greta, Chill!”
The Republicans are telling us who they are.
His campaign went further. It posted an image on Twitter of Time’s cover with Trump’s head superimposed over Thunberg’s. The point was to flatter the president, suggesting he’s the one who rightfully deserves the honor of being Time’s “Person of the year.” But all it did was reveal a grown man’s piddling jealousy a deserving child.
More importantly, not one of the Republicans who expressed outrage over Pamela Karlan’s “denigration” of Barron Trump has said anything about the president’s behavior. The Post’s David Nakamura called them all “to see if they were as offended by Trump’s attack on Greta Thunberg as they were last week when a professor mentioned the president’s youngest son during the impeachment hearing.” Answer: crickets.
Maybe they didn’t really mean it. After all, Karlan didn’t denigrate Barron Trump. She said a president can’t act like a king. She said a president can named his child Barron, but he can make Barron a baron. But knowing the truth didn’t detract from the utility of lying. The Trumps, the Republicans and their right-wing media allies spent 24 hours creating a picture of Democrats so demonic they’re willing to savage an innocent boy.
Brian Beutler, the editor of Crooked Media, said David Nakamura’s smart reporting illustrates “why we need new, better discourse norms for dealing with people who operate relentlessly in bad faith. Allowing them to set the news agenda when it’s plain they don’t mean what they say has gone a long way toward wrecking the country.”
I think Beutler is right. The Republicans do operate relentlessly in bad faith. But I also think Beutler’s critique tends to give the Republicans too much benefit of the doubt. We might ask whether Trump and his allies mean what they say, but in the questioning, we’re still held hostage. Moreover, I don’t know if “bad faith” is accurate. It seems to me there’s a simpler way of understanding Republican behavior, a way of understanding it as more sinister than it seems, especially as it pertains to kids. It’s not about hypocrisy. It’s not about bad faith. The Republicans are telling us who they are.
Their children count. Other people’s don’t.
That Republican kids count and other people’s don’t would explain the president’s sadist policy requiring the confiscation of thousands of children at the southern border in order to “deter” Central American immigrants from entering illegally.
That Republican kids count and other people’s don’t would explain how the Trump administration can eliminate food stamps for some 700,000 families with kids, citing the need for budget cuts even as the government provides tax relief for Americans who don’t need assistance, thus compounding our national debt for many decades to come.
That Republican kids count and other people’s don’t would explain how a senior Trump administration official actually had the gall to explain to hungry kids that they’re hungry because their parents are lazy and a drag on a booming economy.
That Republican kids count and other people’s don’t would explain how 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez died of fever while in custody. According to a Pro Publica report: “His agony was apparent, even in grainy black and white , making clear the agent charged with monitoring him failed to perform adequate checks, if he even checked at all. The coroner who performed an autopsy on Carlos said she was told the agent occasionally looked into the cell through the window.”
That Republican kids count and other people’s don’t would explain why the House Republicans have nothing to say when the president of the United States bullies a 16-year-old girl but won’t tolerate the president’s critic mentioning the president’s son.
That Republican kids count and other people’s don’t illustrates what’s happening more simply than wondering about bad faith. There are two systems of justice and morality here. One for Republicans. One for everyone else. They are separate, but not equal.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition open and available to all. Find him @johnastoehr.