All These Republicans Coming Forward Now To Say Trump Is Unfit... Did They Ever Think He Was??

He Hasn't Changed-- This Is Who He's Always Been

Last night, Liz Cheney spoke at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, where she talked about what a disaster Trump has been for America. The media takeaway was “We are confronting a domestic threat that we have never faced before-- and that is a former President who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional Republic. And he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man. Even after all we’ve seen, they’re enabling his lies… No party and no people and no nation can defend and perpetuate a constitutional republic if they accept a leader who's gone to war with the rule of law, with the democratic process, or with a peaceful transition of power, with the Constitution itself… Republicans cannot both be loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution.”

I don’t recall ever turning to the Washington Examiner for advise. Their editorial board is extremely right-wing. Yet yesterday this headline caught my attention: Trump proven unfit for power again. They started by acknowledging that Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony “ought to ring the death knell” for Trump’s political career. “Trump is unfit to be anywhere near power ever again… Hutchinson’s testimony confirmed a damning portrayal of Trump as unstable, unmoored, and absolutely heedless of his sworn duty to effectuate a peaceful transition of presidential power. Considering the entirety of her testimony, it is unsurprising that Hutchinson said she heard serious discussions of Cabinet members invoking the 25th Amendment that would have at least temporarily evicted Trump from office. Trump is a disgrace. Republicans have far better options to lead the party in 2024. No one should think otherwise, much less support him, ever again.”

Before dawn today, Politico editor John Harris noted that Trump seems to understand better than most people how interrelated the two biggest stories of the week are— the select committee and the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade. Harris pointed out that Trump “has complained publicly that pro-Trump House Republicans erred in boycotting the committee, leaving no one on the panel to defend him or dilute the impact of a well-documented and devastating narrative about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. He has also let it be known, in ways he evidently expected to be publicized, that he fears the overturning of Roe will have a negative political rebound for Republicans… [T]here is a specific way the Jan. 6 revelations, and even more so the Roe v. Wade repeal are different than scores of earlier uproars and obsessions. Both represent clear forks in the road on matters of fundamental national policy. People are being asked to walk one path or the other, with a vivid awareness that to walk down one path or the other will have large and lasting consequences for the nation, and even for themselves as individuals. This was not true for most of the controversies of the Trump years. It was often said— usually as a metaphor but increasingly as a literal comparison— that Trump and Trumpism put the nation in a ‘new Civil War.’”

The signature of the Trump era is that it produced indignation and contempt without, in most cases, a concrete question of national policy that was plainly to be resolved by the outcome of the conflict. The question of border crossings, and the spectacle of children being detained in cages, was one exception. But for many of the arguments of Trump’s presidency, the argument itself—and the way it divided one tribe from the other— was the primary point. Were you thrilled by Nancy Pelosi ripping up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union address, or appalled by it? Were you more outraged by Trump’s galling effort to tie aid to Ukraine to his personal political ends, or by the fact that Hunter Biden was making lots of money in Ukraine trading on his family name? On and on and on.
The two issues now before the country are unmistakably in a different category.
The Supreme Court’s declaration that there is no longer a constitutional right to abortion now puts the issue squarely in the political realm, where it is likely to remain for years to come. About one in five pregnancies in the United States ends in abortion. The country is now in the midst of a debate involving basic questions of rights and values in an intimate sphere of everyday life. What’s more, the fact of this national debate is understood, by all sides, to be a central part of Trump’s legacy— it would not have happened without the three justices he appointed contributing to a 5-4 decision.
The outrages Trump perpetrated in the wake of the 2020 election, leading to the Jan. 6 violence at the Capitol, do not intersect with everyday life in the same intimate way as the abortion issue. But they do similarly present a vivid national choice, of a sort that can’t be easily dismissed by blurring the question or asserting that it is all just politics as usual. Any schoolchild knows that a departure from the peaceful transfer of power is not usual. There are very few Trump supporters eager to support the argument that it is okay for a president to continue asserting fraud when his own Justice Department appointees have told him they looked and found none. The root of Trump’s appeal was that his diverse outrages were all part of “owning the libs,” and driving opponents to distraction. White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified this week of an enraged Trump hurling a plate in the wall. She cleaned the ketchup stain off the wall. Trump will not so easily erase the image of impotent rage— the opposite of the blustery self-confidence that was the essence of his appeal to supporters.
One way to measure Trump’s predicament is to view it through the eyes of someone who supports his ostensible agenda. If you are a sincere opponent of abortion rights, you might be grateful for what Trump did to change the Supreme Court. But would you regard Trump— who for years boasted of his promiscuity, who once asserted “I am very pro-choice” and who is now uneasy about the ramifications of the court’s ruling— as the right person to carry the fight forward into its next, long-term phase? Let’s say you are genuinely concerned that efforts to make voting easier through vote-by-mail could dilute election integrity. Is Trump, with his reckless allegations and obvious self-absorption, really your ideal spokesman?
Two breathtaking developments— one at the Supreme Court, the other across the street at the House select committee— have sent American politics into a whole new realm. By experience and temperament, this is not a realm in which Trump is well-equipped to prosper.

And yet, almost all Republican office-holders are still working to prop Trump up. Some— misfits and morons like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, Paul Gosar and Mary Miller— genuinely worship him. Most though are afraid he could damage their careers. Cowardly, self-serving empty suits like Kevin McCarthy are as responsible for what Trump is doing as Trump is himself. Without them, he would shrivel up. A few days ago, David Frum writing about the eagerness of the Republicans to shut down the select committee’s investigation of the attempted coup asserted that “The Republicans do not have to be the cover-up party. That’s a choice. In fact, the story of the hearings has been the courage and integrity of many individual Republicans, culminating most spectacularly with the heroic testimony of the former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson. But as an institution, the party has, to date, made a pro-Trump cover-up its policy. This policy of protecting the ex-president involves excusing the worst political crime in the history of the presidency— what looks more and more like a fully planned attempt to hold on to the highest office in the land, first by fraud, then by force. A coup d’état.” He wants to make sure Kevin McCarthy shares plenty of the blame.

One of the things we’ve learned about his administration is that Donald Trump did not get much value from his true believers. They usually turned out to be too crazy, too crooked, or too stupid to gain and exercise power for him. He got most value from the weak and the supine who could wield some power more or less competently. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy is on record and on audio condemning Trump’s coup at the time that it happened. Since then, he has shriveled into the enabling role he has played over the past 18 months.
As we saw with Senator Mitch McConnell’s willingness to let a gun-safety bill advance through the Senate, even cold-blooded politicians are not always wholly amoral actors. They are also not wholly indifferent to their future reputations. That’s one of the reveals of these hearings: that even many people who were prepared to walk a long way down Trump’s corrupt and authoritarian road were not willing to go along with a violent overthrow of the Constitution.
So Americans must start asking and keep asking: Leader McCarthy, will you be part of the cover-up? Will you try to protect Trump when the matter is handed over to the Department of Justice?
When all of this is finished, a few heroes will stand out: Hutchinson and Cheney, at the top of the list. Some downright villains, too. And the many dupes and fools. But most apparent of all will be the people who were weak and venal until the hour of decision— president’s wrongdoing, as Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, staring and then either went along with a helplessly into his phone, or sided with the Constitution under violent attack, as Vice President Mike Pence did.
Is there any of that last flicker of decency and independence alive in the Republican who may soon lead the House majority? Or is McCarthy a worm through and through?
We’ll know soon, when voters mark their ballots. The future of American democracy may turn on the answer.