The fact that President Donald Trump will inevitably, and without fail, embarrass and shame those who have chosen to hitch their wagons to his demented horse is no surprise.
For Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Chief Economic Advisor Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, that moment came on Tuesday, when they, along with a gaggle of White House aides and officials, stood idly by for minute after racist minute while their boss insisted that the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville this past weekend was actually full of “some very fine people.”
It’s an indignity that, like so much of the Trump administration, has left a mark on those who voluntarily climbed aboard this ship of fools. Gary Cohn, who is Jewish, was reportedly “disgusted” and “upset” by the president’s Nazi defense. Mnuchin, also Jewish, was described by the New York Times as having “stood by uncomfortably” while the president carried water for a crowd of protesters who’d chanted “Jews will not replace us” during their rally.
Despite the fact that both men are key government officials, though, neither has given any indication that standing alongside a now-indisputably Nazi-sympathizing president was, for them, a bridge too far. Cohn, while reportedly “unhappy” with Trump’s white supremacist rhetoric, has allegedly chosen to stay on in his role within the White House. And, while Mnuchin has yet to speak publicly about the past several days, there’s been nothing to suggest that the president’s remarks crossed a red line for him, either (in fact, according to member’s of Trump’s staff, who spoke with the Times, Tuesday’s remarks were simply “voluble articulation of opinions that the president had long expressed in private”).
For her part, Chao insisted after Trump’s speech that “I stand by my man. Both of them”—a reference to both the president and to her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has been feuding with Trump.
Had these Trump officials been forced at gunpoint to stand there and take this continued humiliation, I’d feel sorry for them. But the truth is, Chao, Cohn, and Mnuchin—along with the rest of Trump’s enablers—are there of their own free will, participating in the ongoing degradation of the office of the president for seemingly no reason other than greed, or ego, or both. And by standing with Trump, they display their own fealty to racism and white supremacy.
Of course, each and every one of them could quit at any moment. Just wipe their hands of this whole mess and say “enough is enough.”
The fact that they haven’t tells us everything we need to know.