Editorial: More in GOP must stand up to Trump

  • Sen. John McCain AP

Sunday, October 29, 2017

There has never been a nuclear war – a war, that is, between two nations that used nuclear weapons against each other. Now, because the commander in chief is a temperamental man-child, there is talk at the highest levels of loosing the dogs of atomic war.

So far this month, two former presidents – Barack Obama and George W. Bush – and three U.S. senators – John McCain, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake – have given scathing assessments of Trump and his presidency. All five all but called him unfit to serve.

All five could be candid because, in terms of electoral politics, they had nothing to lose.

Corker and Flake announced their retirements and McCain, at 81, has an aggressive form of brain cancer. But their assessment of Trump, expressed in what may be the most eloquent speeches of their career for McCain and Flake, were accurate. The president is unfit to serve.

He proves it every day with salvos of tweets, the most shameful of which are his ongoing war of words with a Gold Star widow. He is a national embarrassment.

Contrast Trump’s tweets with this excerpt from McCain’s Oct. 16 Liberty Medal speech: “To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

This president has alienated and confused allies, given tacit support to enemies, and strives to divide the nation into angry camps. He has debased public discourse. The question of whether the Trump family is profiting financially from his presidency remains unanswered. Worst of all, his cryptic and menacing threats to other nations may be, as Corker, the conservative chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, warned, putting the world on a path to World War III.

So what are Republicans doing?

Virtually all, save for a courageous few, are going along with Trump and his antics in order not so much to get along but to avoid becoming the target of his ire and a primary challenge from the far right.

Republican members of Congress are either in hiding or sitting on their hands.

War with North Korea is no longer unthinkable, nor is a nuclear-armed Iran, or a failure to address climate change before it further endangers the planet.

And what are Republicans talking about? The need to stick together, support the president and reduce taxes for the wealthy under the guise of so-called tax reform.

Trump’s war with members of his own party may doom that partisan effort. But it’s long past time for Republicans who care about democracy, civility and principle over politics to speak up and, when appropriate, refuse, in Flake’s words, to be complicit in Trump’s excesses.

“It is often said,” Flake said in his retirement speech, “that children are watching. Well, they are. And what are we going to do about that? When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say?”

New Hampshire has no Republican member of Congress and its Republican governor has, at times, taken issue with the president’s proposals. But where do the Republicans considering a run for Congress stand? Why have prominent Republicans, always eager to speak up in presidential primary years, been silent as Trump divides and damages the nation?

What will they tell their children?