Has He No Sense of Decency?

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In the “shithole era,” the Republican U.S. senators who object to the president’s vulgarity have a choice to make.

Carlos Barria / Reuters

(I’m not even talking about the House, where the GOP has a larger majority, where there’s never been as much talk about “world’s greatest deliberative body,” and where the main outlet for Republican concerns about this era in politics has been the rapidly growing list of incumbents deciding to retire rather than run again.)

Even without the House, just two senators could make an enormous difference.

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  • Two like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker who are not running for re-election and have no primary-challenge consequences to fear;
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  • Two like Orrin Hatch and John McCain who mainly have their places in history to think about;
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  • Two like the young Ben Sasse and the veteran Lamar Alexander who pride themselves on being “thoughtful”;
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  • Two like Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski who pride themselves on being “independent”;
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  • Two like Rand Paul and Mike Lee who pride themselves on their own kind of independence;
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  • Two like Rob Portman and John Barrasso who pride themselves on being decent;
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  • Two like Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton with conceivable long-term higher-office hopes;
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  • Two like Tim Scott and James Lankford who jointly wrote a statement on the need for broad-minded inclusion;
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  • Two like Chuck Grassley and Richard Shelby, who like Hatch and McCain are in their 80s and conceivably have “legacy” on their minds (remember that in the Alabama Senate race Shelby took a stand against his party’s odious nominee, Roy Moore);
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  • One like Dean Heller, facing a tough re-election race, plus maybe Lindsey Graham, who used to be among the leaders in blunt talk about Trump’s excesses;

If any of these two, or some other pair from the thirty-plus remaining Republicans, decided to take a stand, they would not change everything about this perilous moment in politics. But they would do something, about the open secret of a destructive presidency that nearly all of their colleagues are aware of and virtually none is doing anything about.

They could remind their colleagues of the Senate’s appropriate check-and-balance function.

And they could spare themselves, in history’s perspective, the question Joseph Welch so memorably asked the rampaging Senator Joe McCarthy, during the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954.

From the Senate’s own historical site:

As an amazed television audience looked on, Welch responded with the immortal lines that ultimately ended McCarthy’s career:

“Until this moment, Senator, I think I never really gauged your cruelty or your recklessness.” When McCarthy tried to continue his attack, Welch angrily interrupted, “Let us not assassinate this lad further, senator. You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency?”

Have you no sense of decency? It is a question worth pondering, in the shithole era.