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The Corker Kickback, or How to Destroy Your Own Reputation

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My oh my, how quickly things change in politics!

Jus months ago, Bob Corker was getting a ton of mileage from criticizing Trump. The Tennessee Republican Senator, who is not running again, has accused Trump of making “a reality show” of the presidency; has called the White House “an adult daycare center,” and accused Trump of risking World War III.

He was all over the media, and seemed to enjoy the newfound attention that backbenchers rarely get. That was back in October, around the same time Corker promised to oppose any tax-cut bill that would raise the deficit. “I’ve stated that clearly,” Corker insisted. Calling himself “a deficit hawk for years,” he swore he could not “lose my integrity” and vote for a deficit-making bill “that could “actually hurt our nation.”

Well, so much for integrity! Everybody agrees that Trump’s tax plan will cause the deficit to soar to $1 trillion next year, with even Paul Ryan admitting that the Republican theory of economic growth is pure bunkum. Asked if growth will balance out the tax cuts, Ryan answered, Nobody knows the answer to that question because that’s in the future.” In other words, who cares? At least Republicans were able to give their billionaire donors a Christmas present.

And Corker? His “stated that clearly” of two months ago was clearly a lie; he voted for the Trump tax plan, in a switcheroo that’s bound to become a poster child for political flip-flopping.

Why did he do it? One theory is that Corker himself stands to gain financially from the new tax scheme. The “Corker kickback” theory, however, is not popular with Corker himself, who vigorously denies it.

Finding himself under a skeptical media spotlight is something Corker is uncomfortable with, and unused to. In his home state, the Times Free Press newspaper, out of Chattanooga, bashed Corker for the vote, pointing to his hypocrisy and suggesting that the $1.2 million in taxes Corker might save under the new law might have influenced his stunning turnaround. And in Tennessee’s capital, Nashville, even the conservative Tennessean newspaper came down on Corker, hard, for supporting the Trump tax plan despite his concerns that it could still blow a trillion-dollar hole in the deficit.”

The resulting controversy has turned Corker—once one of the Republican Senate’s most ardent Trump critics—into a new and most unlikely fan of this current president. What happened? The criticism. It got under Corker’s thin skin—because it hit home. He says he told Trump he now has “empathy” with the president over the issue of “fake news”; in his view, the Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, NBC and other media rushed to judgment on the Corker kickback without checking their facts. He “now understands the problem” Trump constantly complains about, which is that the media reports the truth as it actually is, not as Trump wishes it to be portrayed.

For year after year, Corker accepted the truthfulness of the media—until that same media reported something unfavorable to him. I guess that’s how it goes in D.C., with spineless politicians like Corker, who can dish it out, but are unable to take the heat when it’s directed his way. Look, Corker has chosen to lay down in bed with Trump. Although he will not run for re-election, his reputation is thoroughly trashed. His name, “Corker,” is forever tied to the ugly word, “kickback.” The Corker kickback hashtag will embarrass him for the rest of his life. He lied to everybody, was caught in flagrante delicto, and nothing he can do will let him squirm out of it.

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