Monday, May 15, 2017

Today's Republican Party: Party Over Country

As in a previous post, it is incredibly important to stress over and over again that the irresponsible behavior of today's Republican Party bears a sharp contrast to how the leading members of the Republican Party back in the Watergate era.  Back then - a time period that I lived through and remember well - Republicans put the national interest and constitutional government ahead of partisan interests and the mere lust for power.  Sadly, those days are gone and the moral standing of the Republican Party is non-existent.  While bloviating about "Christian values" the party has embraced a thrice married narcissistic serial sexual predator.  So much for supposed Christian morality.  Equally disgusting is the GOP's unrelenting attacks on the poor, sick and less fortunate. Trumpcare, tax cut proposals and the gutting of the social safety net all adds up to one thing: massive transfers of wealth and economic security from the working class and middle class to the very wealthy.  A piece in the New Yorker looks at Watergate in contrast to Russiagate and the failure of the GOP to place the interests of the country over partisan power.  Here are excerpts:
On August 7, 1974, a trio of Republican politicians made a sombre journey from Capitol Hill to the White House. Senators Barry Goldwater and Hugh Scott and Representative John Rhodes had dedicated their professional lives to the conservative movement and to the electoral fortunes of the Republican Party. But, on this occasion, they chose to put the interests of their country ahead of the partisan concerns of the G.O.P. They had come to level with Richard Nixon, their fellow-Republican and the President of the United States. The three men told Nixon that the wounds of Watergate had finally cut too deep. His party was abandoning him. It was time for the President to go. He announced his resignation the next day.
The great question in politics today is when, or whether, any Republican will undertake a similar trip to the White House of Donald Trump. Throughout a hundred-plus days, Trump has proved himself temperamentally and intellectually unfit for the Presidency. . . . . his belligerence and his mendacity have been astonishing even by his standards. 
The firing of James Comey, the F.B.I. director, on the other hand, represents not only an abuse of language but an abuse of power. In 1976, Congress, recognizing the political sensitivity of the F.B.I. post, set the director’s term at ten years. This act was partly intended to preclude lengthy tenures like J. Edgar Hoover’s forty-seven-year reign, but also to provide the director with a measure of independence from the incumbent Administration. The law did allow the President to remove the director, but the prevailing norm called for this power to be used sparingly. Before Comey, only one director had been fired, in 1993, when President Clinton dismissed William Sessions for ethical lapses—a decision that generated little dissent.
Trump all but acknowledged that he had fired Comey because the director had made sure that the Bureau continued to investigate the ties between Trump’s campaign and the efforts by the Russian government and its allies to hand the election to him. This is exactly the kind of investigation that requires the F.B.I. director to have independence; Trump’s short-circuiting of the probe, with Comey’s dismissal, is a grave abuse of Presidential power. The interference in an F.B.I. investigation replicates, with chilling precision, another part of the Watergate story. 
Yet there is one important difference between Nixon’s and Trump’s obstruction of the F.B.I. Nixon had the decency, or at least the deviousness, to do it in secret. Trump, with characteristic brazenness, is conducting his coverup in full view of the public.
The comparison breaks down, however, in that the Republican response to Trump’s lawlessness has ranged from full-throated support to muted statements of concern to, mostly, silence. It is not just that moderate Republicans (and Watergate heroes) like Senators Howard Baker and Lowell Weicker have passed from the Washington scene; it’s that the obsessive partisanship of current leaders like Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Paul Ryan has stunted the conscience of their entire party. It’s a certainty that history will look unkindly upon the moral blindness of contemporary Republicans.
Only the voters, in 2018 and beyond, will have a chance to send the kind of message that today’s cynical G.O.P. will understand. In the meantime, the Trump Presidency will stagger from one crisis to the next. So far, to the good fortune of the nation—and, even, the world—the President has had to confront disasters only of his own making, like firing Comey and promulgating executive orders that discriminate against religious and ethnic minorities. But, in these perilous and unpredictable times, it’s worth pausing to consider how Trump’s recklessness might manifest itself in a national-security emergency.
The Republicans alone have the power to impose limits on this Presidency or to end it altogether. To date, however, no one in the leadership, or even in the rank and file, has displayed the courage to live up to the example set by the honorable Republicans of the past. Daily, and conspicuously, Trump proves the danger of his continued service. His party’s stalwarts won’t be able to say that they weren’t warned.

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