Damn near every elected member of the Republican Party failed another easy test this week as Donald Trump lost his grip on reality and spent days attacking the late Sen. John McCain. They tripped over their own dicks in the face of Trump’s egregious bullying, racing for political cover and sacrificing their few remaining shreds of dignity because they fear this mad president more than they love their own honor.
Starting this weekend, Trump has tweeted six days’ worth of escalating insults on Twitter and in person at a rival who died seven months ago. Like I said, it’s an easy test: As elected leaders, as Republicans, as conservatives, as Americans, this was a moment to honor McCain and to call out the president by name for failing to do so.
Party loyalty isn’t a suicide pact… or is it?
Just two members of the Senate RINO caucus spoke with clarity and direction. Mitt Romney, hated by the Trump faction for, well, everything, said what was needed.
Johnny Isakson of Georgia, himself a Vietnam-era veteran, took the strongest and most courageous stand, telling The Washington Post:
“America deserves better, the people deserve better, and nobody—regardless of their position—is above common decency and respect for people that risk their life for your life. When the president is saying that he doesn’t respect John McCain and he’s never going to respect John McCain and all these kids are out there listening to the president of the United States talk that way about the most decorated senator in history who is dead. It just sets the worst tone possible.”
The rest of the Republican Senate caucus, men and women who served with John McCain, in some cases, for decades, did nothing better than make vague mumblings.
In the House, Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, spoke clearly and strongly—his voice resonating even more given the silence around it from most of his Republican colleagues there.
Let me help the rest of our supposed leaders. Here’s what you say to Donald Trump as he continues to Ahab McCain’s legacy:
John McCain was an American hero with more courage and decency than you will ever have. You are wrong and your behavior is despicable, Mr. President. For the good of the country, please shut the fuck up.
Too much? Try:
John McCain is a role model and example for every American. His heroism was a service to our country or a light in a dark time and I am honored to follow his example of public service and commitment to the nation before politics, and people before party. You would be best served by shutting the fuck up.
You cowards aren’t even acting in your own political interests. Here’s a clue:
When Trump began attacking McCain at the U.S. Army Tank Plant in Lima, Ohio, on Wednesday, there was no cheering, no clapping. Trump knew it, felt it, and still kept rolling, though he was obviously off his stride.
This wasn’t a meeting of the East Asscrack MAGA Fan Club, but blue-collar men and women, many of them veterans. They greeted his attack on one of the most revered veterans of our era with icy silence. Even Trump’s usual practiced japery and stage antics didn’t penetrate.
Senators, even those of you who sincerely believe Trumpism is the only path forward for the GOP, a few simple questions remain:
Have you no honor? No loyalty? No dignity?
Even in this new regime where we always live in Year Zero, does nothing that came before Trump matter?
Are there no heroes, victories, or role models where you’ll draw a bright line against Trump? Is there not one echo of the past you still find worthwhile or deserving of respect and honor as you talk about making America great again??
Silence or soft words amount to a defense of a president who cheated the draft to avoid service in Vietnam as he belittles and dishonors a man, no longer alive to respond for himself, who volunteered for both service and combat, flew from the heaving decks of aircraft carriers to bomb enemy targets and was shot down, captured, and tortured beyond imagination.
All because you’re afraid of a mean tweet, senators?
Is that all you are? Is that all you have left? Fear, silence, and humiliation? If that’s your thing, get a dominatrix, but don’t pretend you’re any kind of leader.
Praising McCain isn’t enough. Praising his memory and example doesn’t draw the bright line of moral clarity on which a real leader would stand firm.
Your genuflection to Trump’s Twitter feed, your assent to his petty beefs and soaring insecurities will never save you; the bonfire of his ego must be stoked every day for the rest of your political lives. You can praise him and agree with him a million times, but the moment you stray he will destroy you.
You ran that first race, whether it was for Congress or the county commission or dog-catcher and you sit in Congress or the Senate, but now act as if you’re a junior manager at a third-tier Trump golf resort.
If you haven’t noticed—and it would take someone who has lived deep in a bunker without cable TV or an internet connection for the last three years—he will turn on you like the rabid cur he is. Everything you’ve ever done for him will be cast aside in that hot moment you disagree with him. You’re afraid he will destroy you politically and personally? He will, regardless.
With your silence and assent, he will ravage your party and your country.
Keeping your mouth shut may keep Trump’s vicious, grunting, prole army on your side for now, but you live on in history as cowards so divorced from the American ideal your accomplishments will be lost and your names remembered only as a cautionary tale to others aspiring to lead, and serve.