Fightin’ Time

Democratic Senators Must Press Nominees on Donald Trump’s Bigotry

They may not be able to defeat any nominees, but Democrats can do something important this week and put these future Cabinet members on the spot about their boss’s bigotry.

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Senate Democrats don’t have the power to block any of Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees on their own given they control only 48 seats. But here’s one thing they not only can do but must do: use the confirmation hearings as a platform to prevent the whitewashing of Trump’s sexism, racism, and bigotry. How can they do this? Simple. Ask each and every nominee under oath and in front of the national media if they agree with the vile crap Trump spewed during his campaign.

Look, I don’t care how much Mitch McConnell complains that in 2009 the Senate Republicans were “deferential” to then President-elect Obama’s Cabinet nominees. Trump is not Obama. In fact Trump is not George W. Bush nor any other modern day president—Republican or Democrat. Trump is unique—and not in a good way.

Trump is a man who trafficked in hate. He literally began his campaign by demonizing Latinos with false claims that Mexico is sending rapists. From there he served up a buffet of rancid red meat to his base including demonizing Muslims, mocking a disabled reporter, and defending his white supporters beating up a Black Lives Matter protester.

And maybe the worst thing Trump did—if it’s possible to rank his vileness—was in the closing days of the campaign when he publicly shamed victims of sexual assault. That’s when Trump called the numerous women “liars” who had courageously come forward to reveal how Trump had reportedly sexually assaulted each of them. Trump even vowed, to the applause of his rabid supporters, “All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.” (To date, Trump has filed zero lawsuits against these so-called liars.)

But thankfully the Senate Democrats have a golden opportunity with the upcoming confirmation hearings to ensure that Trump’s history of hate is not buried.

In fact there’s no better place to do this than at the hearings of Trump’s two most visible nominees scheduled for this week: attorney general nominee Senator Jeff Sessions and secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson.

Now I’m not suggesting that the Democratic senators ignore asking questions to probe each nominee’s personal fitness to serve in the Cabinet. For example in the case of the stunningly horrific Sessions, the senators must address his history of racist comments such as reportedly calling a white civil rights lawyer a race traitor and smearing the NAACP as “un-American” for trying, as he put it, to “force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them.” And Sessions must be called out for voting against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act in 2012 and his opposition to the Matthew Shepard Act that extended federal hate crimes protections to those attacked for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But in addition to questions individually tailored to each person, each and every nomine—after they raise their right hand swearing to tell the truth—should be asked if they agree or disagree with Trump’s hateful comments.

Here are few sample questions I’d like the Senate Democrats to put to the nominees:

1. Do you agree with Donald Trump shaming victims of sexual assault by publicly calling numerous women “liars” who came forward to report being sexually assaulted by him?

2. Do you believe that the disabled in America should be belittled and mocked in the way Donald Trump publicly ridiculed a disabled reporter during the campaign?

3. Do you support Donald Trump’s statement that a black protester who was called a “monkey” and the “n-word” by Trump’s white supporters when they were beating him “should have been roughed up”?

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4. Do you believe that Mexico is actually sending rapists to America and if you do, how exactly is the government of Mexico accomplishing that?

5. Do you think “Islam hates us” as Donald Trump declared during the campaign, or do you view this as an irresponsible comment that stokes the flames of hate against an American minority group?

You get the idea. Now if the nominees tell us they agree with Trump’s bigoted crap, it could cause some Republican senators—especially in swing states—to vote against them. Since Republicans control only 52 Senate seats it would just take three to decide to oppose the nominee to stop that nominee, assuming Democrats are united.

But if the nominee tells us he rejects each and every hateful comment by Trump, then the question must be asked on national TV: Why would you serve in an administration headed by a man who has exhibited such despicable conduct? Sure, they will likely give us some BS answer like they are serving America not Trump but who are they kidding?! They are agreeing to serve in a highly visible position in the Trump administration headed by Donald J. Trump. And by doing so they are validating his bigotry and sexism unless they publicly denounce it and him.

My hope is that the Democratic senators also ask each nomine about their view of Steve Bannon—the former head of the “alt-right” publication whom Trump named as his chief strategist. Since Bannon doesn’t have to be confirmed, the Senate Democrats won’t have a chance to question him. But the senators can ask each nominee for their opinion about being in an administration with Bannon, a man who transformed into a platform for white supremacy that also provided a home for vile anti-Muslim bigots to write countless articles demonizing Muslims.

As long as Trump is President, the hate he spewed to win the White House must neither be forgotten nor whitewashed. And now the senate Democrats have an opportunity to do just that with the nation watching. Here’s hoping they rise to the challenge.