Where is the outrage? The question was posed to a TV pundit about the consistently muted Republican response to the indignity defining the Trump presidency. The puzzlement haunts me still.
There is no good answer to explain the maddening silence from federal GOP lawmakers when their party’s standard bearer goes off the deep end in a tweet, executive order, or budget proposal. It’s one thing to not speak ill of a fellow Republican; it’s another to refrain at the risk of the republic.
While political self-preservation is of the utmost importance to elected officials, there are seminal times in our history when public interests must take precedence. This is one of those times.
Congressional Democrats can cry about the ominous affairs of state, but they are impotent to stop the totalitarian tide threatening the country without help from Republican outliers. Congressional Republicans control Capitol Hill, but they are cowed by President Trump.
The Oval Office boss is exceedingly thin-skinned and prone to impulsive vengeance. Republicans facing re-election in 2018 expect a primary punishment if they cross him.
So members of the GOP mostly keep their mouths shut and do as they’re told. The Tweeter in Chief stays happy even if constituents howl.
Despite an avalanche of phone calls from Ohioans overwhelmingly opposed to a disturbingly unqualified nominee for education secretary, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio didn’t hesitate to vote for the president’s pick.
His lame explanation was that Betsy DeVos — an ardent proponent of privately run charters and parochial school voucher programs — had committed to strongly support public education during the confirmation process. Weeks later, the Trump administration released a budget proposal that slashed the Education Department’s budget while shifting huge increases in funding to charter schools, private-school voucher programs and other alternatives to traditional public schools.
The senator also voted to confirm Scott Pruitt — a longtime opponent of the Environmental Protection Agency — as EPA administrator. Portman said Trump’s nominee had “committed to continue the work we’ve started to protect Lake Erie from harmful algal blooms and invasive species and to fully implement and fully fund my legislation to reauthorize the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”
Weeks later, the Trump budget targeted the EPA for its steepest cuts, zeroing out federal dollars allocated for cleaning and protecting the Great Lakes. In a statement, Portman said he was still “committed to continuing to do everything I can to protect and preserve Lake Erie.”
But when push comes to shove, Ohioans have seen how “committed” this Republican is to his party and the demagogue leading it. I’ve always known where the loyalties of my congressman lie in the ridiculously gerrymandered 4th District.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan is based in Champaign County, or roughly three hours from the rest of his district near the shores of Lake Erie. The redrawn 4th stretches from Lima to Lorain.
The uber-conservative Jordan votes nearly 100 percent of the time to support Trump administration priorities —with the possible exception of the president’s health care plan. Jordan’s reaction to the draconian Trump budget was predictably upbeat, commending the president and his budget director for “their fiscally responsible approach to setting priorities for federal spending.”
He also stood with the president when Trump nullified a federal regulation that restricted coal companies from dumping mining waste into streams and waterways. Ditto for another voided regulation that addressed waste generated during oil and gas production.
The Freedom Caucus crusader won’t react negatively to jaw-dropping revelations about Trump and Co., and neither will Portman. But there must be some Republican, besides U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has the courage to put the fate of the nation before the fate of political career.
The FBI is conducting an ongoing investigation into ties between Russia — an enemy of the United States — and all the president’s men. The intelligence community has unanimously concluded that Russia launched a cyberattack on the United States to deliberately influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.
High-ranking members of the Trump administration and campaign have been caught in lies about their links to Russian emissaries. The president has been caught lying about his predecessor wiretapping Trump Tower and even spread baseless claims of British involvement in that surveillance.
The Republican chair of the House Intelligence Committee, ostensibly seeking the truth about suspected collusion between Russians and Trump associates, has zero credibility after running to the White House to collude with those under scrutiny. This is far too serious for the GOP to brush aside for the sake of maintaining a monopoly on power.
Surely, to borrow from David Bowie, Republicans can be heroes, just for one day. Surely for America, they can choose patriotism over partisanship, just for one day.
Johanek is a veteran print and broadcast journalist.