Commentary: At long last, Republicans, have you no patriotism?
By Ian Reifowitz
It’s not all that complicated: Donald Trump is unfit to be president. This isn’t about policy disagreements, although his millionaire-favoring tax scheme, his attempts to take health care from millions, his (since-abandoned) policy of separating children from their parents in the case of every undocumented family coming across the Mexican border, and his push to further destroy our environment—just to name a few—are certainly worth opposing. No, this is about the person holding the most powerful office on the planet being someone who any patriot paying attention should recognize as a danger to our democracy, to the rule of law, and to the stability of the world.
Let’s make this perfectly clear. I am not calling for impeachment right now, because impeachment must wait until special counsel Robert Mueller—the prosecutor in this all-important case—has completed his work. Barring something truly unforeseen, one does not indict until the investigation is complete.
As for the 25th Amendment, it is designed to be employed when a president is mentally or physically incapacitated, and thus, according to the text, “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Trump is unable to discharge his powers properly—that much is without question—but we do not have documented, medical evidence at this time that he is incapacitated. He’s just, in the words of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, someone who “acted like — and had the understanding of — a ‘fifth or sixth grader.’” Not incapacitated: just wholly out of his league. And, as the parent of a sixth grader, yes, I’m insulted by that comparison.
What I am calling for is resistance—real resistance. From Republicans. Not the kind provided by some secret saboteur inside the White House who claims to be curbing Mr. 46 Percent of the Popular Vote’s worst excesses, but who nevertheless thinks working for the Trump administration is justified by a series of achievements Charles Pierce summarized as “poisoned water, more of the nation's wealth catapulted upwards, and a massive new Navy in case Yamamoto comes back from the dead.”
Among other examples of Trump’s “contempt for the Constitution”: when the president attacks the U.S. attorney general for indicting congressmen because doing so puts “two easy wins” in jeopardy, a conservative of principle, a conservative patriot—especially one who is speaker of the House—must do more than issue a lame response that does not mention the words “President” or “Trump.” Yes, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse did much better than did House Speaker Paul Ryan. He called on the president to “defend the Constitution and protect the impartial administration of justice.” But America needs more than talk from conservatives who claim to be standing up to Trump.
Such conservatives must recognize the threat Trump poses to America. They must, right now, call on their supporters to defeat any Republican federal elected official who does not fully repudiate Trump, and who does not take an active part in carrying out Congress’ sacred duty to act as a co-equal branch of government charged with checking the authority of the executive branch. For a powerful example of such a statement, here is conservative George Will’s unequivocal call to support Democrats:
The principle: The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.
Equally eloquent and right on was Steve Schmidt, the man who ran John McCain’s 2008 campaign, and left the Republican Party completely:
Establishes internment camps for babies. Everyone of these complicit leaders will carry this shame through history. There legacies will be ones of well earned ignominy. They have disgraced their country and brought dishonor to the Party of Lincoln.
I have spent much of my life working in GOP politics. I have always believed that both parties were two of the most important institutions to the advancement of human freedom and dignity in the history of the world. Today the GOP has become a danger to our democracy and values.
What we heard this week about Trump’s behavior as president from the anonymous “senior White House official” and from Robert Woodward’s new book was not exactly new. But they did provide further confirmation from first-hand sources that the people who work for Trump know exactly how dysfunctional he is. Think about how bad he must be for, according to Anonymous, “many of the senior officials” in his White House to feel it necessary to violate their oaths and secretly sabotage him. But say it again: that sabotage is not enough.
This is the very last chance for conservatives who claim to put country above party to do more than talk, more than act behind the scenes. The time has come for them to stand up and work to protect our country and our democracy by first checking Trump—in this November’s midterms—and then checkmating him in the 2020 presidential election, assuming he’s still in office by then.
The Republican Party sold whatever soul it may have had when it hitched its wagon to Donald Trump. In order to get it back, and to cleanse itself of the stain, it will have to wander in the political wilderness while our country and our democracy puts itself back on course. To start with, that requires defeating and repudiating Donald Trump’s Republican enablers at the ballot box this fall. Those conservatives who recognize this reality and do what is right will be remembered for it.