If you want to understand just how morally bankrupt and spineless Trump-era Republican politicians have become, consider this: Not even Howard Baker's protege, WHO IS NOT EVEN RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION, has the guts to vote for witnesses…
I’m talking, of course, about Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander.
If you expected Alexander to follow in the tradition of Baker, a Tennessee Republican, who as ranking Republican on the special Senate committee investigating the Watergate break in, chose loyalty to the truth over loyalty to Richard Nixon, you’d be wrong.
It’s stunning to me that a 79-year-old retiring senator wouldn’t choose to exit politics by ensuring that his legacy is a similar profile in courage. But I guess this shows you just how powerful the Trump virus has become.
Whether it’s obsessing over outing a whistleblower, threatening to call Hunter Biden as a witness, or suggesting that it doesn’t matter if Trump committed a quid pro quo, today’s Republicans are pathetic, embarrassing, and disappointing.
Alexander was never going to be the future of the GOP. Unfortunately, almost every Republican, save for Mitt Romney, is now on the wrong side of an issue that transcends policy preferences. Mike Lee, Ben Sasse, and James Lankford are now, presumably, on the wrong side of what is a character issue--a moral issue. If courage is the most important virtue, then the fact that I may agree with them on taxes is sort of beside the point.
Let's say Trump loses in 2020... How can I trust or respect these conservatives (whose policy ideas I generally endorse)? I can’t. And you can’t. And that’s what’s so disappointing, here.
Some are more disappointing than others.
Take Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, a serious conservative who once headed the Club for Growth. Taking a page from others, like Arizona’s Martha McSally and Josh Hawley of Missouri, Toomey came out against calling witnesses, saying, “We don’t need to drag this out any longer.”
I’m not sure why Toomey wouldn’t want more information and evidence. What’s the rush? What does he have to do that is more important?
I’m disappointed in Toomey.
Likewise, I was really holding out hope for Tim Scott of South Carolina. Scott, a Republican I once greatly respected, now says that “it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that the president is actually innocent of an impeachable offense.”
I give up. There is nobody left in the GOP to believe in.
This realization might seem obvious to you, but having hope wasn’t always so crazy. Not long ago, there existed, somewhere between the moderate establishment and the crazy fringe, a pocket of thoughtful, young conservatives who might’ve led the party into the future..
Remember the “Benetton commercial” featuring a diverse mix of conservatives like Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, Trey Gowdy, and Scott?
In their infinite wisdom, Republican voters chose to promote a septuagenarian, former Democratic vulgarian named Donald Trump as the party’s standard-bearer instead.
Still, there was hope that this remnant of principled conservatives might wait out the Trump era—and even help mitigate its damage. Running for re-election in Florida, Marco Rubio pledged to “act as a check and balance on whoever the president is even if it is a president from my own party."
His status as a “check” on Trump lasted about as long as the Miami Marlins’ pennant chances. Likewise, Haley was eventually co-opted by Trumpsim, and Gowdy was even briefly tapped to be on Trump’s defense team.
And then there’s Scott. He never made Rubio-esque promises of independence. Still, for whatever reason—I suspect it's partly based on his likeability—Scott largely managed to avoid getting bogged down in the Trump controversies.
His opposition to calling witnesses in the impeachment trial is proof that he, too, has succumbed to the Trump virus, just like his Benetton brothers and sister.
To be clear, Scott’s precise stance is that the Senate shouldn’t hear from witnesses who didn’t testify in the House. But that’s an invented theory that is based on no law, rule or even precedent that I’m aware of.
Sure, it might have been nice if the House had done more to compel witnesses to testify. But John Bolton, the main witness everyone is talking about, resisted overtures to testify in the House before stunning everyone by announcing that he would comply with a subpoena to testify in the Senate.
If your goal is to find the truth, there is no good reason not to have Bolton testify.
Indeed, the only reason that you would choose not to hear from this relevant and credible witness is you prioritize protecting the president over discovering the truth, can’t handle the cognitive dissonance of hearing evidence and then voting against your conscience (and violating your oath), or both.
Neither of these reasons are worthy of respect.
When it comes to the future of the GOP, the worst thing about Trumpism isn’t that it initially attracts and promotes the bottom-feeders, but that it also seduces and corrupts the best, like Rubio, Scott, Haley, and Gowdy.