Profiles in cowardice: The congressional Republicans’ red line

President Donald Trump reacts to the crowd while speaking at a campaign rally for Republican Rick Saccone in a hangar, Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Moon Township, Pa. Saccone is running against Democrat Conor Lamb in a special election being held on March 13 for the Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District vacated by Republican Tim Murphy.

President Donald Trump reacts to the crowd while speaking at a campaign rally for Republican Rick Saccone in a hangar, Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Moon Township, Pa. Saccone is running against Democrat Conor Lamb in a special election being held on March 13 for the Pennsylvania 18th Congressional District vacated by Republican Tim Murphy. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Just for the record, an historic event occurred last Wednesday. Congressional Republicans — 107 of them, anyway — took a stand against Trump. For one brief shining moment, they surgically reattached their spines and signaled in a letter that they can no longer remain silent while he wreaks havoc … on the issue of tariffs.

That’s the extent of it, folks. Despite all the Trumpian havoc of the past 14 months, the House GOP has roused itself to express “deep concern” about the “negative consequences” of 25 percent steel import tariffs and 10 percent aluminum import tariffs. Therefore, they “urge” him “to reconsider.” Way to be bold! It’s often said that one’s moral courage is truly tested in times of crisis; leave it to the Republicans to dwell exclusively in the realm of dollars and cents.

Here’s a small sampling of the letters to Trump that supine Republicans have not written thus far:

“We are writing to express our deep concern about your refusal to take an unequivocal stand against the racist and anti-Semitic rhetoric in Charlottesville. Your insistence that the marchers included ‘very fine people’ was morally unacceptable, and could have negative consequences for this country. We urge you to reconsider what you said.”

“We are writing to express our deep concern about your consistent refusal to release your tax returns. Every president dating back 40 years has honored this tradition. The American people deserve to know that their president has nothing to hide, but your decision has negative consequences for the crucial issue of transparency. We urge you to reconsider your stance.”

“We are writing to express our deep concern about your rhetoric. A presidents is tasked with the bringing Americans together, but that challenge becomes more difficult when political opponents are personally insulted and demeaned. A president is also tasked with expanding the appeal of the party he leads, but highly divisive rhetoric could have negative consequences. We urge you to reconsider your policy with respect to social media.”

“We are writing to express our deep concern about your persistent attacks on journalists. We have our differences with those who cover us in the press, but the Founding Fathers recognized their vital role, and enshrined it in the First Amendment. Describing a network anchor as a ‘sleepy son of a bitch,’ and referring to an entire network as ‘fake as hell, the worst, so fake, fake news’ could have negative consequences for our democracy. We urge you to reconsider your tone.”

“We are writing to express our deep concern about the damage you are inflicting on the credibility of your office. You reportedly told more than 2,000 lies during your first year, and that behavior is more characteristic of dictators who deem it a matter of policy to mislead the public. It is a disservice to your office, for example, to claim that you won 52 percent of women voters in 2016, when, in truth, you won only 41 percent; or to claim that you actually won the popular vote, when, in truth, you have no evidence that three million ‘illegals’ voted for Clinton. Lying every day has negative consequences for the presidency. We urge you to respect the truth.”

“We are writing to express our deep concern about the danger of security breaches in your White House. It is unprecedented for a second-year administration to be staffed by dozens of people with only interim security clearances. America holds many of the world’s most crucial secrets, and we need to be assured that they will be secured by people with fully adjudicated clearances. Rest assured that if a Democratic administration was staffed the way yours is, we would have been vocal long ago. We fear the negative consequences for our national security. We urge you to speedily tighten your procedures.”

“We are writing to express our deep concern about your attacks on law enforcement and the rule of law. Your decision last spring to fire FBI director James Comey, in the midst of his Russia investigation, and your reported decision last summer to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, a decision that was ultimately derailed by one of your White House lawyers, appear to suggest that you believe a president is above the law. That belief runs contrary to our checks and balances, as stated unequivocally by the U.S. Supreme Court. Any acts or statements that undermine the integrity and independence of law enforcement could have negative consequences for our democracy. We urge you to stop.”

“We are writing to express our deep concern about your refusal to recognize or counteract the looming threat of Russian intervention in future American elections. It is the consensus of your own intelligence officials that Russia meddled in 2016 and are preparing to do so again, yet you have consistently failed to address this unprecedented cyber-war, which is a clear and present danger to our national security. We fear the negative consequences for the America we love. We urge you to lead.”

That’s a small sampling of unspoken concerns, rendered mum by their moral and political cowardice.

As conservative commentator and ex-Republican White House aide Michael Gerson sarcastically remarked yesterday, “Republicans have really come together, 107 of them, to resist the president … But when you look at all the previous provocations where they might be critical of the president, it is tariffs? It is not misogyny? It is not, you know, nativism and racism? It reveals something about the Republican Party that this is their red line. I am reminded of Saint Augustine, who talked about the order of the loves. This is the order of their loves. This is what they dearly value in life.

And unless they’re tossed from office, they will continue to abet Trump’s devaluation of America.

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