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Is Trump a racist? Sometimes he sounds like one

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

The president denied making those remarks and most of the Republican lawmakers in the room either said they didn't hear the reported words or didn't remember them. Republican Sen. Cotton and Sen. David Perdue of Georgia denied the reported remarks on Thursday, the day of the meeting, but the next day they shifted to saying they did not recall exactly what the president said. By Sunday, Perdue and Cotton were flatly denying that Trump used the vulgarities.

But Durbin, the only Democrat in the room, stood by the reported quotes word-for-word, and Graham, who had confirmed the reported words to South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott, told a South Carolina newspaper on Monday, "My memory hasn't evolved."

Still, if President Trump was upset by the reports of his language, he took his time in responding to it -- enough time to call around to friends see how well the reports of his slurs were playing with his base.

"It's weird that people in the room don't remember Trump using that word when Trump himself was calling friends to brag about it afterwards," conservative columnist Eric Erickson, who has in the past been critical of Trump, said in a tweet. "I spoke to one of those friends. The President thought it would play well with the base."

If so, Trump probably was right about that. He has devoted his presidency, so far, to pandering to his most conservative minority of supporters, while paying a more reasonable-sounding lip service to the rest of us.

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This drama would be more entertaining were it not for the 800,000 immigrants whose fate under the protections of President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program hangs in the balance. That's the serious side of politics. It affects real people's lives, regardless of their party or background. The nation's president, of all people, must never be confused about that.

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(E-mail Clarence Page at cpage@chicagotribune.com.)

(c) 2018 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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