Uncorked senator versus unhinged president

Sen. Bob Corker is shown talking to reporters in 2013

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., shrugs as he talks to reporters in 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Unless you’re a slavish member of Trump’s dwindling minority — the 32 percent of Americans who think he’s doing swell — you’ve surely noticed that the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now openly warning that the alleged president is a national security menace who could put us “on the path to World War III.”

If you consider this development to be less important than football players taking a knee — in other words, if you’re a sap like Trump stuntman Mike Pence — then perhaps I can persuade you otherwise. Because never before has a prominent Republican with foreign policy oversight declared that a Republican president threatens the peace because he has the temperament of a toddler in a “day care center.”

But that’s what Sen. Bob Corker, from deep-red Tennessee, has indeed done — saying out loud what so many of his reticent Republican colleagues know to be true. Having decided not to run for re-election in 2018, Corker is free to uncork his candor and buttress his words with action. Let’s hope he follows through, because, in his remaining 15 months as chairman, there is much he can do.

When Corker phones The New York Times to say “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” he is openly stating that Trump is manifestly unfit to be commander-in-chief. When Corker says “I don’t think he appreciates that when the president of the United States speaks and says the things he does [in tweets], the impact that it has around the world, especially in the region he’s addressing,” the senator clearly fears that Trump could goad the North Koreans into launching their missiles. Which by itself is evidence of Trump’s unfitness for office.

We’ve heard from Corker before — back in August, he dared to say that Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate for him to be successful” — and that was bold stuff at the time, especially for a Republican who was reportedly short-listed in ’16 as a Trump running mate. But now, fully uncorked, he’s rightly warning us that Trump is no better than General Jack D. Ripper in “Dr. Strangelove.”

The majority of voters knew last November, of course, that Trump was dangerously over his head, back when Corker and his fellow Republicans preferred to be purblind. But now, better late than never, Corker has the power to act. As Foreign Relations chairman, he can — if he so chooses, if he has the courage of his newly articulated convictions — conduct a series of hearings that would expose Trump’s dangerous dysfunction on the world stage.

One of Corker’s most esteemed predecessors, Foreign Relations Chairman J. William Fulbright, held a series of hearings on Vietnam in 1966, taking on a president of his own party, Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson, and giving cover to fellow Democratic senators who had private misgivings about LBJ’s war. As Ken Burns’ documentary reminds us, the Fulbright hearings were broadcast live and helped awaken the general public to the burgeoning disaster.  

Half a century later, Corker can perform the same educational task — targeting a president who’s far more unhinged than LBJ ever was, and light years more ignorant about governance. In essence, Corker has the platform to make the opening case for Trump’s forced removal, by impeachment (“high crimes and misdemeanors” can be defined however Congress chooses) or by the 25th Amendment (which has untested language about unfitness to serve). And I am merely echoing what sane people on the right are saying openly.

Conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin writes, “If the president of the United States cannot be trusted with nuclear codes, he cannot remain in office.” Conservative foreign policy adviser Max Boot writes, “If Corker and the others are genuinely concerned that the president is not up to the job, they have a duty to do more than simply grouse in private or even in public. They should remove him … By not acting, they are violating their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution at a time when the number one threat to the Republic is the occupant of the Oval Office.”

And this quote as well: “Words like Corker’s are fine. But action is the bottom line.”

That was me, writing in August.

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