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GOP Silence: Spin or Spineless

Terry H. Schwadron

March 21, 2018

Each of us has asked in one way or another: Why won’t the Republican leadership in Congress make clear to President Trump that he cannot move to fire Special Counsel Robert S Mueller III?

Indeed, the broader question is why won’t these same Republican congress members act to stop the president’s bullying, public insults, and ethical lapses, to say nothing of his pushing of bad, improperly grounded executive orders and legislation?

Just to help my thinking, I watched Fox TV for a while, to compare the coverage with the hyper anti-Trump commentary on MSNBC.

The answer is too obvious and too easy to forget. Obviously, the red meat stuff on Fox is about a different Washington than that reflected on MSNBC or even on the pages of The Washington Post, The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. But watching for a while, which I don’t usually do, Fox is spending much of its airtime still pursuing email issues facing Hillary Clinton and reports of “corruption” in the FBI and intelligence agencies, agencies that have been run for more than a year by Trump appointees — anything else in the news but what keeps popping up as the main event.

Even as the political conversation was turning to the issues raised by use of private Facebook information — presumably an equal opportunity political target from all sides — the discussion immediately gave way repeatedly to pro-Trump, anti-Trump feelings on different channels. This is an issue that should focus on how easy or available big private data can be and how malleable the electorate can prove itself.

Of course, I could say the same thing about many of the social issues of the day. We ought to be able to actually discuss reasonable gun controls, or ways to help a society adapt to same-sex marriages or what we can do to lessen wage inequality. Those do not have to be fodder for this endless I-need-to-win, you-people-suck debate that we are carrying on.

But, of course, in Washington, Republican members of Congress are worried about getting re-elected, unless they have opted out altogether to avoid unpleasant primaries. And so, making public statements or voting on bills to protect the national interests of a special counsel investigation are seen as just inviting bad reactions from an ego-centric, impulsive president and head of party.

That silence is somehow safer is a shame on them and on our inability to hold real conversations.

Other than Senators John McCain, R-AZ, Lindsay Graham, R-SC and Jeff Flake, R-AZ, and Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, there is almost nothing substantive from Republicans on stopping Trump from crossing over all lines of an independent Justice Department. Graham said aloud that firing Mueller without cause would be an impeachable offense. Speaker Paul Ryan finally said that Mueller and team should be allowed to do their work, sure, but the comment came through as completely flat. And it came as his chief deputies were endorsing calls for a second special counsel to pursue missteps in the FBI, Justice and intelligence agencies. Sen. Mitch McConnell , R-Ky, asked by reporters, managed to say Mueller should be allowed to finish his job, adding that he did not believe Congress should pass a law to protect the special counsel.

Presumably, few disagree that the president bullied Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions to force him to fire Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI, that Trump tweets out insults about corruption in the FBI and Justice, that his lawyer, John Dowd, is calling for an end to the special counsel’s probe; they just disagree over whether it Is justified.

Indeed, the Republican response is to attack the investigators, and those in the Trump camp see this as long-overdue cleanup of that department. In retrospect, Republicans connect the oddities of otherwise steady James B. Comey Jr. as FBI director during the Hillary Clinton email issues, the personal email notes of two smart-alecky FBI agents talking trash about the president, and McCabe’s “leaking” of information to a reporter that actually was more harmful than not about the Clinton Foundation probe as widespread political corruption in the FBI, topped by the use of a largely unproved opposition research dossier among the documents used to gain approval of a secret court to issue a warrant to surveil Carter Page, a Trump associate.

Again, Democrats see the same events and offer the exact opposite reading on each. There is no room or interest here in dialog, only in partisan party advancement.

One panelist on the running conversation noted that Republican congress members are expected to support Trump through all of this by an electorate that sent them to Washington to disrupt the status quo. But no one, including Trump loyalists, said that Republican congressional members were supposed to close their eyes to bad behavior.

The loser in all this is American justice.

Slate political journalist Jamelle Boule argues that Republicans are taking on a risky gamble — hoping behind the scenes that Trump does not move against Mueller while maintaining public support for whatever Trump says. If Trump does indeed try to have Mueller dismissed, they fear a huge backlash at the polls in November; but to win in November, Republicans seem to want Trump to campaign in their districts.

As with many of us, I suspect, I dislike the gamesmanship of partisan politics, in which words don’t mean anything, in which only money talks, and in which partisans make up plots and cabals among their party foes just for the sake of winning.
Whatever one might think about the righteousness of the origins of this Mueller inquiry, the investigation has become multi-headed, has already landed prosecutable cases relating to characters in the center of the probe, and seems headed for serious questions that may involve the president. It needs to continue unimpeded.


Gutless claims of partisan loyalty should not be deciding justice in this country.


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