Why the GOP establishment won’t stand up to Donald Trump (Commentary)

1

The warnings being offered to President Donald Trump’s enablers and defenders keep growing, keep becoming more pointed.

History is going to judge you harshly, they’re being told. Your grandchildren are going to be ashamed of you.

NBC News political analyst Anand Giridharadas said that very thing on air over the weekend.

Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Kellyanne Conway, Reince Priebus and the rest of the Trump spin team, he was talking to you.

But not only to you.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, you’re not immune to history’s baleful stare. Sure, even Democrats, pleased there would be some grown-ups in the room, applauded when you agreed to join the administration. But you’ve now witnessed months of lies and questionable actions from the president you serve. You are now complicit.

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, history is watching you too. Why do you have so little to say about Russia’s attempts to undermine the 2016 U.S. election or the administration’s ham-handed cover-up of its Russia connections? Why do you shrug at the president’s idiotic, insulting tweets that degrade the country’s reputation 140 characters at a time?

There is an easy, knee-jerk answer. The late Ronald Reagan, the GOP’s most iconic modern president, liked to talk about the “Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of another Republican.”

But that sentiment was based on shared values, which included straight-talking, a sense of decency and patriotism. President Trump does not share the values that animated Reagan’s political career.

Pulitzer Prize-winning conservative columnist George Will has abandoned the Grand Old Party because of its willingness to give up its long-standing principles and overlook Trump’s character flaws. So has congressman-turned-MSNBC talker Joe Scarborough, who, along with his fiancee and co-host Mika Brzezinski, has had a running public battle with Trump.

One suspects that John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse and a few other high-minded Republican senators secretly wish they could walk away from the party as well. Having given up so much to gain power — and, unlike the man in the Oval Office, not being narcissists — they’ve discovered how empty power feels when wielded only for the sake of it.

Trump had the backing of very few Republican Party leaders during the primaries last year. But when he jumped out to an all-but-insurmountable lead by pulling in disaffected voters — including racists and conspiracy theorists who usually sit out elections — the GOP’s poobahs buckled under the demands of courage. Rather than stand up for their party and turn away the interlopers who were stealing it from them, they embraced Trump. They refused to block him at the convention, then refused to run away from him on the campaign trail.

And that meant, points out Jennifer Rubin, author of the Washington Post’s conservative Right Turn blog, they’ve had to “wave off Trump’s racist attacks on a federal judge, blatant lies about everything from 9/11 to his own involvement in birtherism, replete evidence of disloyalty to America (i.e. Trump’s ‘Russia first’ policies), misogyny, Islamophobia, ongoing potential violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause (along with a mass of conflicts of interests), firing of an FBI director, and now, evidence that the (Trump) campaign was willing to enlist a foreign power to defeat (Hillary) Clinton in the presidential election.”

They’ve had to wave all of that off, while trying to govern a country that, thanks in part to both their actions and their refusal to act, hasn’t been so divided since the Civil War.

Having given up the moral high ground for the promise of the White House and a governing majority, the GOP’s old guard now quietly, desperately hopes that Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who’s investigating the possibility of a conspiracy involving Russia and the Trump team, will save them from their own failure.

— Douglas Perry

SOURCEOregonLive.com
SHARE