Last summer, after President Trump had been implicated in illegally trying to influence an election (by making hush-money payments to a porn star and then lying about it), I asked a searching question of his party:
“Hello, Republicans? Are any of you from the Grand Old Party still out there?”
It wasn’t that I thought Trump necessarily deserved impeachment. But as with the GOP’s pursuit of Bill Clinton in the 1990s, it was already clear that some censure, some sanction, at least some denunciation, was required. Or else his behavior would only get worse.
Now, the GOP response to the conclusion of the Mueller investigation into Russian election meddling has been even more sycophantic, if that was possible.
Most news coverage in the past week has been about how Democrats are divided on what to do next. But far more concerning is that Republicans are totally united — on doing absolutely nothing.
Locally, U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, got the collective inaction ball rolling by pretending nothing happened.
“The American people can see for themselves that there was no collusion or obstruction of justice by President Trump,” he said.
That isn’t at all what the report found. It said that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to try to put Trump in the White House. The Trump campaign was, at a minimum, aware of this foreign effort and welcomed it. And it said that Trump over and over sought to block the investigation, including trying to get his chief counsel to lie on his behalf.
Oh well, at least Newhouse said something.
“To me, the most important piece of the Mueller report was, it’s time to move forward,” bleated Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas.
“In the coming days, I look forward to reviewing it,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, said of the report on April 18. Then on April 23, at a town hall in Walla Walla, she was asked by a citizen if that day had come.
“I’m working on it,” she answered.
I mean, who even has the time? It’s only the integrity of democracy we’re talking about here.
I got my answer to the question from last summer. No, the Grand Old Party, the one that used to say it cared about things like honor and the rule of law, isn’t out there. It’s more like the silence of the lambs.
But then one popped up — the last one from around here, apparently.
This past week, after the Mueller report was released, a group calling itself Republicans for the Rule of Law began running TV ads arguing that it was now clear that Trump, though cleared of conspiring with Russians, had also conspicuously lied and obstructed. So he should be held to account in some way, just as Clinton and Richard Nixon had before him.
“Republicans, your silence is deafening,” scolded one ad. “President Trump obstructed justice. Speak up for the rule of law.”
On the board of this group is the last Republican to hold federal statewide elected office from our state — former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton.
Two things are crucial to know about Gorton. One is that he’s no party defector. In the past two-year election cycle, he donated more than $21,000 to 28 federal and state candidates and party organizations. All were Republican.
The other is that he probably has as much lived experience with the issue of high crimes and misdemeanors as any politician in America. When he was Washington state Attorney General, in the 1970s, he was one of the first Republicans to call for Nixon to resign for obstruction of justice. Then in the 1990s, as a U.S. senator he voted to remove Clinton for … obstruction of justice. And today his group is calling for some sort of accountability for Trump’s similar misdeeds.
“President Trump lied to the American people, including his supporters, and encouraged others to cover for him. It was wrong when the Clintons lied and it’s wrong when Trump lies,” the group declared.
Consistent, nonhypocritical, putting principle above party — who acts like this anymore?
What’s sad about this story is that the only one left who does is 91 years old, and has been out of office for nearly two decades. Which also means that his effort to speak some reality to his party’s present-day madness is probably futile.
Incredible that it’s now down to just one. But more power to him: He’s still trying.