There are without question congressional Republicans who put country ahead of party and are not named John McCain or Lindsey Graham. And in the coming months, they will have the chance to distinguish themselves, too, by standing up to the president.
Though neither McCain nor Graham won the highest office, their tag-team efforts as public servants willing to say what their constituents do not necessarily want to hear can hardly be overestimated.
Again last week, McCain stepped up, delivering a forceful response to reports that President Donald Trump’s White House had prepared a draft of an executive order that would force the CIA to reconsider torturing terror suspects, even though doing so would violate both U.S. and international law: “The president can sign whatever executive orders he likes,” the Arizona senator said in a statement. “But the law is the law. We are not bringing back torture in the United States of America.”
The 2008 GOP nominee did this perhaps most memorably during that presidential campaign, going so far as to defend his then-rival Barack Obama during a town hall when some in the crowd were screaming “liar” and “terrorist” at the mention of Obama’s name. Most candidates in that situation would have pandered, or at least said nothing that might offend. But after one woman in the crowd told McCain that she didn’t trust Obama, having heard that’s he’s “an Arab,” McCain did not play it safe. “No ma’am,’’ he answered. “He’s a decent family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that’s what this campaign is about.’’ Let’s just say McCain did not get the kind of standing ovation that Trump claims he received at the CIA recently.
Graham, McCain’s friend and colleague from South Carolina, also takes on fellow Republicans with regularity. When Trump recently threatened to slap a 20 percent tax on Mexican imports to pay for a border wall, Graham tweeted this: “Border security yes, tariffs no. Mexico is 3rd largest trading partner. Any tariff we can levy they can levy. Huge barrier to econ growth.” Then he joked in a second tweet, “any policy proposal which drives up costs of Corona, tequila, or margaritas is a big-time bad idea. Mucho sad.”
Republicans, are you going to let these two have all the fun and the glory — as well as the risk that goes with saying true things that need to be said?
The temptation, of course, with the GOP in charge on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, will be to let any troubling presidential actions slide while the party enjoys an unfettered chance to accomplish long-held goals on taxes, entitlements and health care. But with solo control of the reins of power comes the responsibility to hold a president from one’s own party accountable — even under threat of a primary and even though the stock market is up.
Those Republicans quietly chugging either Maalox or margaritas over the president’s unsupported statements on massive voter fraud must summon the courage to speak up in defense of our democracy — and in doing so, discourage future digressions from reality.