Kudos to Reed Galen - a lifelong Republican, veteran of three presidential campaigns, son of former Republican operative Rich Galen - for articulating the obvious truths that his cowardly party breathren loath to admit.
After hearing the bombshell news that dim princeling Donald Trump Jr. gleefully emailed “I love it” at the prospect of getting Russian intel about Hillary, and took the meeting with Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort, Galen cut loose.
“The Republican Party I was born into and worked in for two decades is nearly gone...Far from (advocating) a strong national defense, far too many members of the GOP appear ready and willing to die on the hill for a president who certainly would not do the same for them,” Galen wrote. “How long will Republican leaders on Capitol Hill continue to defend the president, his family, and the strange actions related to one of our foremost foreign opponents?...How much longer will they man the ramparts for him?”
How much longer indeed. Because even now, even after top Trumpsters have finally been caught copping to collusion with the enemy, elected Republican leaders are still refusing to speak out. What’s their definition of a smoking gun - a video of Trump sleeping with Putin’s hackers?
What we got from senators of the party that once prided itself for being tough on Russia was denialism and silence. Orrin Hatch said the emails are not “relevant to the administration.” John Cornyn, the Republican whip, said, “I don’t really have a reaction.” Tom Cotton took refuge behind a closed door. Charles Grassley tried to praise Jr. for releasing the emails, somehow forgetting that he released the emails only because The New York Times was poised to do it first, and that Junior’s coerced transparency came after two days of lies about his meeting with the Kremlin-connected lawyer.
Basically, they’re still fine with Russia penetrating our sovereignty, and with Russia’s chumps running the White House into the ground, as long as they can cling to their wet dream of getting Trump’s signature on a bill that slashes taxes for the wealthy and zaps health coverage for 20 million people.
Politically, Republicans do have a dilemma. If they stood tall and denounced Trump, and called for the impeachment proceedings that are so richly warranted, the Trumpkins back home would go bat-crazy. They’d stay home in the 2018 congressional midterms, convinced that Trump was being railroaded by “the Republican establishment.” If I were to give Republican leaders the benefit of the doubt, I’d guess that they’re waiting for a sufficient share of Trumpkins to wake up to reality - something that could conceivably happen when the revelations become too explosive to dismiss.
As Reed Galen acknowledges, “Only when the questions shift from, ‘How can you take away my healthcare?’ to ‘How can you support a president in league with the Russians?’ will we start to see any movement. Only when their home town newspapers, television and radio stations and local grandees start calling them out for their defense of indefensible behavior will Republican members stand up.”
It would be nicer, of course, if Republican leaders behaved like leaders instead of followers. And there are plenty of people in the conservative commentariat to help stiffen their spines. On Fox News, right-wing pundit Charles Krauthammer remarked on Donald Junior’s emails: “To say ‘I love it’ contradicts six months of stories (denying any links to Russia). I defended them because, up until today, there was no there there. Now there is a there.”
Do Republicans on the Hill not think it’s significant that Trump’s eldest son took the meeting, and brought two other insiders to the meeting, without having checked out and vetted the Russian with whom they were meeting? In Junior’s own words, he “was not told the name of the person I would be meeting with beforehand.” That’s worse than amateur hour; that’s a security risk. What a disgrace that no Republican yesterday saw fit to condemn it.
And who’s filling their moral vaccum? Trump. He tweeted madly this morning, most notably this gem: “Remember, when you hear the words ‘sources say’ from the Fake Media, often times those sources are made up and do not exist.” Alas, his tiresome agitprop has been trumped by the words of his high-quality son.
All told, says Reed Galen, “Every new angry tweetstorm pushes us further down the road to instability. President Trump is facing a crisis likely of his own making and certainly of his own behavior. Republicans need to be Americans first and tell him enough is enough: Put the country first; or let someone govern who will.”
“Country first.” At the end of the day, how is that not a no-brainer?
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at NewsWorks/WHYY in Philadelphia (newsworks.org/polman) and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at email@example.com.