Again and again, we’ve pleaded with Republican Kansas and Missouri lawmakers to put country before party. Instead, they’ve mostly stayed silent — oh, but with such sad faces — about increasingly brazen affronts to our democracy by our own president.
Naturally, even with one arm tied behind his back by brain cancer, it was up to Sen. John McCain to fully call out President Donald Trump’s odious display of submission to Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant,” the Arizona Republican said in a statement, while 2012 GOP nominee and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney called Trump’s toadying “disgraceful and detrimental to our democratic principles.”
And our own brave men and women in Washington? Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran pitifully swaddled his own wee worry that Trump had somehow “missed an opportunity” to publicly condemn Putin in the bubble wrap of praise that “the president is right that dialogue and diplomacy are necessary.” Rep. Billy Long of Missouri’s 7th District also lamented this supposedly “missed opportunity.”
That implies that the twisted display of Trump taking Putin’s side over ours on election-meddling and more was some kind of oversight. When no, Trump has consistently defended the Russian dictator, both before and after his election. Last February, when Bill O’Reilly told Trump that “Putin’s a killer,” the then-new president answered, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What do you think? Our country’s so innocent?”
Now, of course, Trump insists that he actually said the opposite of what he intended to say in Helsinki. Only, what he did say is what he’s said many times before, and will no doubt say again, too. Did he also not intend to say that “we are all to blame” for Russian aggression?
Putting aside his usual alpha-dog insistence on growling at friends, and even hip-checking the 92-year-old head of state of our closest ally, Trump once again drooled all over Putin, and with the world watching, took his side over ours.
Congressional Republicans have a duty to stop striking poses and do the job so urgently required of them by the U.S. Constitution, but will they? To prove he would fit right in if elected, likely Missouri Republican Senate nominee Josh Hawley once again took top honors in obsequiousness. “It’s time for Democrats and the media to move on” a Hawley spokeswoman said, “and the president should keep on being forceful with Russia.”
Now that Trump has said he misspoke in Helsinki, Hawley will no doubt praise him for doing that so powerfully, too.
When Trump was sworn in as president, we promised to give him a chance, and did. We looked for points of agreement and signs of learning on the job, as every president has to do. We praised his first address to Congress and his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and asked Democrats not to “seek revenge” by filibustering.
But we also said on his first day in the White House that “Trump’s personal ethics remain a concern. His many conflicts of interest are clear and unacceptable. Some legal experts believe he has already violated a part of the Constitution prohibiting payments and gifts from foreign governments. His cozy relations with Russia demand further examination.”
That’s imperative now. Congress must at least show enough good faith and independence to pass the long-delayed bill protecting Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in our democracy — and into what was either the Trump team’s collusion or a really fine imitation of it.