Slate compared the Trump administration to the radical leftist terrorist group that kidnapped Patty Hearst in 1974 in a piece on its website on Thursday.
“In February 1974, the Symbionese Liberation Army … kidnapped the 19-year-old daughter of media mogul William Randolph Hearst,” wrote William Saletan of Slate at the beginning of “The Government Shutdown Is Like a Hostage Situation” – subhead: “Trump and his fellow Republicans are using the same tactics as criminal captors demanding ransom.”
“The SLA claimed to represent ‘all oppressed people,’ ‘self-determination,’ and ‘human and constitutional rights.’ It ‘requested’ that Hearst show ‘good faith’ by providing hundreds of millions of dollars in food aid to the poor. ‘The people are awaiting your gesture,’ an SLA leader told Hearst. ‘We will accept a sincere effort on your part.’”
Saletan then wrote this abduction “was violent and far removed from the genteel halls of Congress.” But that did not compromise its informational value.
“If you want to understand the behavior of Republicans in the current government shutdown, you have to understand kidnapping,” he wrote. “The tactics of President Donald Trump and his congressional allies – taking hostages, using them as messengers and blaming their suffering on the people who could ransom them – echo the tactics of criminal captors like the SLA.”
Saletan wrote that the hostages are the public employees, veterans and others who depend on federal payments, and the ransom is the $5 billion President Trump has requested to build a wall on the southern border.
“Like other ideologues, the Republicans claim to have a good cause,” he wrote. “But morally, the bottom line is the same: You can’t hold people hostage, even if you think your cause is worthy. The question at stake isn’t border security. It’s whether the government will shut down and stay closed every time extremists demand money for a pet cause.”
But even Saletan admits in the next paragraph that this is no pet cause. President Trump said what he would accept to reopen the government, the Democrats continue to insist he will get nothing, and that is where we stand.
“Trump forced this debacle,” he wrote. “… But now Trump is trying to hold congressional Democrats, from whom he has demanded ransom, responsible for dragging their feet. ‘Look, this shutdown could end tomorrow, [or] it could go on for a long time,’ Trump told reporters on Saturday. ‘It’s really dependent on the Democrats.’”
He also objected to Republicans “trying to recast their extortion as ordinary negotiation. ‘We’re asking for $5.6 billion. They’re given us zero,’” he quoted acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as saying. “The least Democrats can do, according to the White House, is ‘come to the middle.’”
Saletan said “some abductors try to use their hostages as messengers,” and the White House was doing precisely that with federal employees “caught in the shutdown.” He noted the response of Mercedes Schlapp, White House director of strategic communications, to a question from a reporter: “What’s the White House’s message to the federal workers who are on track to miss their first paycheck?”
Schlapp, he wrote, “urged these furloughed workers to ‘call the Democrats’ and basically tell the Democrats, ‘Stop the delay tactics; let’s negotiate.”
Continuing with his kidnapping theme, Saletan said kidnappers often escalate their threats when the ransom is not paid. The fate of the hostage is up to the family.
The whole thing “is a charade,” Saletan wrote. Democrats have passed bills they knew did not meet Trump’s specifications, and they don’t have the power to enact them without his or the Senate’s approval. They say they won’t reopen the government without border funding, but they can’t “explain the connection, because there isn’t one. The Republicans just don’t want to give up their hostages.”
He doesn’t think the Democrats should give up theirs. “If you pay ransom for hostages, you’ll get more hostages,” Saletan wrote. “That’s true of kidnappings. It’s true of shutdowns too.”