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Mike Littwin

"The pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."

Littwin: GOP rebels were in full voice, but that doesn’t mean you should expect a revolution

Littwin: GOP rebels were in full voice, but that doesn’t mean you should expect a revolution

It’s not clear if what we have here is the beginning of the revolution or — and this is my guess — the lonely surrender of those few Republican officials who have been willing to speak the truth that Donald Trump’s presidency is a danger to America and to the world.

Whatever it turns out to be, the day was extraordinary. I don’t remember anything quite like it. Of course, I don’t remember any president even remotely like Trump.

It began with Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, saying that Trump is  “utterly untruthful,” a dangerous liar who is “debasing” both the job and America’s place in the world, who has “devolved” instead of evolved, who lacks the “desire” to make the effort to be a competent leader, whom he would never support again — “no way” — and “who is obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president.”

Trump responded, in his fashion, by reminding everyone that Corker was short, or as Trump tweeted, “liddle.” Also a “lightweight” who couldn’t be elected dog catcher.

That was pretty extraordinary in and of itself. Of course, Corker had already said that Trump could be leading us to World War III and that the White House was basically an adult daycare center. So his anti-Trumpism, which Corker took to every network camera he could find, may not have been all that surprising, but it was still shocking.

What Corker — who is retiring in 2018 — didn’t do was call out his Republican colleagues as the Trumpian enablers that they are. He left that task, apparently, to Jeff Flake, who later in the day stunningly announced he wouldn’t run for re-election in 2018 either, because, he said,  to do so would mean his “complicity in this alarming and dangerous state of affairs” that is the Trump administration.

”It is time,” he said, “for our complicity and our accommodation of the unacceptable to end.”

The unacceptable is, of course, Trump. The complicit are Republican officials. The accommodation is, as Flake put it, Republicans “pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal…Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as ‘telling it like it is,’ when it is actually just reckless, outrageous, and undignified.”

He said Republicans would never accept that in a Democratic president and must not “meekly” accept it in a Republican president.

It was definitely extraordinary. You can read the speech here. You can watch Flake, whose voice shook with emotion, here. You can wonder, as I did, whether Trump’s feud with Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow, Myeshia Johnson, is what pushed Corker and Flake over the edge.

There were only a few Republicans in the room when he gave the speech. John McCain, Flake’s fellow Arizonan and Trump critic, was one. Corker was another. They reportedly gave him a standing ovation in the mostly empty chamber. Mitch McConnell was also there and thanked Flake for his service. It’s hard to know what McConnell is thinking, but it was probably about the need for 50 votes on tax cuts because, you know, what else really matters.

The problem is that the rebels aren’t manning any barricades. Corker and Flake are basically taking the next bus out of town. Flake was facing a Republican primary in which he already trailed badly in the polls. In his speech, he lamented that there seemed to be no space in Trumpworld for Republicans like him. Ezra Klein pointed out in Vox that Flake’s decision to quit was a victory for Trump, who couldn’t be happier. Steve Bannon said it was another “scalp” for his team. Yes, that’s what he said.

Corker, who supported Trump in the 2016 campaign, didn’t bring himself to become a full-time Trump critic until he had announced his retirement. Trump has insisted — almost certainly untruthfully — that Corker was retiring because Trump had refused to endorse him. Corker says Trump begged him to come back. But the point is still the same. Bravery, at this stage, comes only when the political stakes disappear.

John McCain, meanwhile, is battling brain cancer, and his fight with Trump may be his last one.

The question is who comes forward next, if anyone. We can be sure it won’t be Cory Gardner, who is the anti-Corker. Gardner slammed Trump during the campaign, calling him a “buffoon.” Once Trump was elected, though, Gardner pretty much fell into line, and now as chair of the NRSC, he is working to get Trumpist Republicans, like, say, the anti-Muslim, anti-gay Roy Moore elected. Moore is so much a Trumpist that he even offended Trump, who opposed him in the Republican Senate primary.

Flake is among the few Senate Republicans who has come out against Moore. Flake also wrote a book about his issues with Trump. He has bravely risked his career. And for those who say he still votes with Trump, that’s because Flake is a conservative. Being anti-Trump didn’t change his politics. It changed everything else.

As Flake said in his speech: “When we remain silent and fail to act when we know that silence and inaction is the wrong thing to do, because of political considerations, because we might make enemies, because we might alienate the base, because we might provoke a primary challenge, because ad infinitum, ad nauseam, when we succumb to those considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.”

It was a remarkable moment. And now we sadly wait for the moment to pass.

Photo by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr: Creative Commons. Congressman Jeff Flake and Senator John McCain speaking to the media after at a rally in Goodyear, Arizona.

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About the Author

Mike Littwin

He has covered Dr. J, four presidential inaugurations, six national conventions and countless brain-numbing speeches in the New Hampshire and Iowa snow.
mlittwin@coloradoindependent.com | Twitter @mike_littwin

3 Comments

  1. Steven Alvarado on said:

    Trump won’t stop and can’t be stopped as depending on the day of the week his credibility is either slightly less or slightly more than the media and politicians in general.

  2. Byron on said:

    The “adult” day care center is now at 1600 Pennsylvania and the psych ward is the repub caucus in Congress.

    repubs may have broken the government so badly that it cannot be put back together again.

    But that is what the folks who brought us the War of Treason want – no Federal government or regulation from the Federal government. They want a return to the Old South – with slaves, overlords and all the rest. When a white man could do what he wanted to his women, children, human “property” and all the rest because it’s his prerogative.

    That is the alt-right for you.

  3. Don Lopez on said:

    Elections have consequences.

    “Hiding news that doesn’t fit an ideological or a partisan agenda is perhaps the worst form of media bias. And it’s one more reason the public holds the press is such low esteem.” – Investor’s Business Daily

    “(Mr. Trump) won’t be president. He was sliding in the polls before the video, and the video now means that he has no way to climb back. Which independent voter, which suburban woman, which Main Street Republican on the fence is going to vote for Trump now?” – Mike Littwin

    Magical thinking: The belief that one’s own thoughts, wishes, or desires can influence the external world. It is common in very young children. – GoodTherapy.org

    }{

    “…few Republican officials who have been willing to speak the truth that Donald Trump’s presidency is a danger to America and to the world.” – Mike Littwin

    There he goes again, fear-mongering.

    It’s important to remember that the above quote is merely a truncated version of this hyperventilating gem Mr. Littwin wrote in February“…what I’m arguing, is that Trump’s presidency is a danger to the country and to the world and that to pretend otherwise is to be a part of that danger.”

    Are Sen. Corker and Sen. Flake heroes or, as Mr. Littwin suggested earlier this year, “pretenders” who are part of the danger to the country and the world? To be fair, Mr. Littwin appears to have ruled out hero status when he pointed out, “Bravery, at this stage, comes only when the political stakes disappear.” That leaves only “pretenders”.

    And what does Mr. Littwin make of Sen. Flake’s refusal to answer whether he wanted Mrs. Clinton to be in the Oval Office instead of President Trump? We know what Sen. Flake thinks of President Trump and since for Sen. Flake all the political stakes have disappeared does it mean he believes Mrs. Clinton would have been an even worse president?

    Sen. Flake believes in principles, “when we succumb to (political) considerations in spite of what should be greater considerations and imperatives in defense of our institutions and our liberty, we dishonor our principles and forsake our obligations.”

    How would Sen. Flake view Mr. Littwin’s on-again/off-again situational principles? In 2013 Mr. Littwin was an outspoken critic of Senate filibusters, “If the (Senate) filibuster is gone — or mostly gone — that’s a good thing. It’s a good thing if it’s bad for Republicans. It’s a good thing if it’s bad for Democrats. Either way, it’s still good for good government.” But a mere four years Mr. Littwin had a change of heart, “And while I’m generally anti-filibuster, I make one exception for any and all years in which Donald Trump is president.”

    Anytime Mr. Littwin embraces a Republican, as he has with Sen. Flake, it automatically triggers a flip-flop alert to determine how consistent this relationship has been.

    Few would be surprised to learn that, as suspected, Mr. Littwin has not always held Sen. Flake in such high esteem but what is surprising is that he, gently of course, admits it although he does so in the column’s penultimate paragraph pointing out that Sen. Flake not only “voted for all three iterations of the cruel Obamacare repeal bill” he is also part of the “danger to the country and the world”. Either of those would have, in the past, inspired an entire column but not today because, well, today he and Sen. Flake are BFFs.

    But it is interesting to note that Mr. Littwin did not embrace Sen. Flake in 2013 even though Sen. Flake refused to support Republican efforts to defund Obamacare by shutting down the government. According to the Weekly Standard Sen. Flake said, “Those who are pushing this (shutdown) proposal are telling people that it’s going to defund Obamacare, and it just won’t if you want to know why we’re in such low regard with the country, it’s that they don’t believe us when we tell them something.”

    Mr. Littwin, of course, has no abiding principles or allies, he updates them daily and while Sen. Flake is, for today at least, an ally tomorrow is a new day.

    November 08, 2016

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” –
    Tina Turner

    Flags of Valor
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation

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