At this moment of moral reckoning for the Republican party, it’s still rare to find an elected leader who’s willing to expose the emperor’s dearth of clothes. But we can put our hands together for Bob Corker.
The Tennessee senator, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee and formerly short-listed as a Trump running mate, is normally a guy who keeps his opinions close to the vest. But these are not normal times; we have a fake president who hearts Nazis and threatens nuclear war while on vacation.
Yesterday in Chattanooga, after a meeting with the Rotary Club, Corker spoke with members of the local press corps. When he was asked about Trump’s rhetorical indulgence of neo-Nazis and white supremacists, he committed candor. Given his usual reticence, these remarks were the equivalent of a four-alarm fire:
“I do think there need to be some radical changes. The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order for him to be successful — and our nation and our world needs for him to be successful, whether you are Republican or Democrat.
“He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today. And he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that. Without the things I just mentioned happening, our nation is going to go through great peril.
“Helping to inspire divisions because it generates support from your political base — that’s not a formula for [helping] our nation to advance and overcome the many issues we have to deal with right now … There needs to be radical changes taking place at the White House. The president needs to take stock of the role he plays in our nation, and move beyond himself, move way beyond himself, and move to a place where he wakes up daily thinking about what’s best for our nation …
“Quit fueling the hatred, quit fueling the polarity that exists, and speak to the good things about our nation. White supremacy groups, neo-Nazi groups, KKK groups, are not what’s good about our nation. They’re to be called out for what they are — repugnant. I don’t think that the president has appropriately spoken to the nation on this issue. Sometimes he gets in a situation where he doubles down to try to make a wrong right. He’s done that in this case. I would ask that he take stock of who he is.”
A key Republican senator — normally discreet, someone who’s known for eschewing cheap shots — is now saying out loud that Trump is unstable, incompetent, and ignorant about the aspirational American character. And rest assured, Corker (like his many colleagues who privately share his opinion) knows darn well that Trump will never “take stock of who he is” — and that’s because Trump will always be who he is, this nation (to quote Corker) will indeed “continue to go through great peril.”
It’s a welcome development that Republicans like Corker are finally finding their voice and calling Trump out. But what are Corker and his colleagues prepared to do about it?
If or when Bob Mueller announces that the Trump regime is a crime scene (one Republican congressman says privately, “I hate to say it, but some of us would really like Mueller to find something we can use”); and if Democrats win back the House and launch impeachment proceedings, would Corker and his Republican colleagues vote to fire the defiler of the values that make us great? Failing that, how about confronting Trump with a well-financed Republican challenger in the 2000 primaries – as one prominent conservative suggests?
Words like Corker’s are fine. But action is the bottom line.