How did this happen? How did the Republican Party descend from the moral heights of Ronald Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall,” to this apologist sewer filled with the weak trying to reassure the weaker that weakness is a virtue?
For the first time in American history we have meticulously detailed evidence that a hostile foreign power attempted to influence the choice of an American commander in chief, and the collective Republican response is apparently, “Our side won, move on.”
The beating heart of America is courage. This is the nation born of the courage of a few who made the impossible appear inevitable. The 75th anniversary of D-Day is upon us, and yet Republicans don’t seem capable of summoning some mix of courage and decency to put country over their next primary. Courage is not standing up to Donald Trump. Courage is getting out of the boat when the man in front of you was just shot. That’s the legacy these Republicans are squandering and it should be called out for what it is: shameful.
The congressmen and senators of the party whose unofficial slogan is now “Lock her/him up” have a constitutional duty to defend our country and they are failing. It’s not an elective they are auditing for no credit at night school, it’s a sworn oath:
"I, ______, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”
It baffles me that any member of Congress or senator can read the Mueller Report, describing how the Russians referred to their campaign to help elect Donald Trump as “information warfare,” and not respond as if America was under attack. The modern Republican Party that has pushed the Pentagon budget to over $700 billion a year, that supports American military personnel in over 150 countries, those same Republicans have suddenly decided that Lenin’s “useful idiots” are their new role models.
Why? These are not stupid men and women, though more than a few do a fair imitation. Each will have their own justifications that amount to a personal Faustian bargain predicated on the self-delusion that some particular issue or cause is more important than their oath of office. But equally powerful will be the reinforcing group mentality that Rep. Justin Amash describes:
“My colleagues tell me all the time—in fact, you wouldn’t believe how many phone conversations I’ve had, or conversations in person with colleagues... A lot of them think I’m right about the Mueller Report. And they just won’t say it. A lot of Republicans. What they’ll say to me is, Justin, you know, going out publicly with that, you know the Democrats will never support you. You know that they’re hypocrites on this stuff. And I say, you know, some of them are and some of them aren’t. It doesn’t matter to me. Because you have to look at what you’re doing first. You have to care about what you’re doing. If you have a society where all we care about is that the other side is bad, and therefore we don’t have to do the right thing, that society will break down, and you will have no liberty. I refuse to be a part of that.”
At the heart of the Trump presidency is a lie: almost every Republican elected official in Washington knows Donald Trump is unfit to be president. They knew it on Nov. 9, 2016, at 7 p.m., when they were planning on how to rebuild the party from the disaster of a nominating a know-nothing racist for president; and they knew it at midnight, when they were all frantically calling the oddballs and kooks Trump had assembled into a campaign to lavishly praise their brilliance.
The Republican Party stood by a candidate who ran on a religious test to enter the United States. They knew it was unconstitutional and indecent, but they were silent. All through 2016 I had conversations with what passes for leadership in the Republican Party on the need to stand up to Trump. Most of their responses went like this: “Trump is a disaster and a disgrace. But we have to let him lose on his own. If we, the Establishment, put our thumbs on the scale, when he loses it will be our fault and not the fault of his racism, the alt-right, those idiots at Breitbart. We will have elected Hillary Clinton. We have to let him lose and rebuild.”
To which I always responded, “But what if he wins?” Truth was, though, I didn’t think he would win, and I wasn’t great at making the case for something I didn’t believe. What these Republican leaders were saying wasn’t crazy. It just proved to be wrong. And in that miscalculation began the surrender of any sense of self to Donald Trump. So now the nation is in full possession of the reality that Russians—Russians, for cryin’ out loud—worked on the same side as every Republican volunteer, donor, elected official and Trump voter. When you learn that the bank you borrowed money from was actually owned by a drug cartel, should your first reaction be, “Well, we got a good interest rate”? The simple reality is that the Republican Party was in business with Russian intelligence efforts, what used to be known as the KGB, and precious few leading the Republican Party seem to give a damn.
I’ve spent decades waking up every morning eager to fight Democrats, trying to gain every bit of advantage for every battle. God knows we made mistakes and played too often on the Dark Side. But I never woke up knowing that somewhere out there a Russian agent was waking up with the same job I had.
My dad was in the FBI when Hoover ordered the roundup of Asian Americans. He hated it and quit, joined the Navy and spent the next three years fighting in the South Pacific. Like so many, he didn’t talk a lot about the war but when it came to leaving the FBI, he told me once, “You can always say no.”
And that’s my question to all those Republicans who are more worried about defending Donald Trump than defending America: Is this why you went into politics? Is this why you put up with all the bullshit and stupidity that is integral to our political system, so you can be on the same side as the Russians?
You can always say no. Try it.