USA Politics: The Crisis of the Republican Party – New York Times Editorial

NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL – 18 October 2019 

In the summer of 1950, outraged by Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist inquisition, Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican senator from Maine, stood to warn her party that its own behavior was threatening the integrity of the American republic.

“I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the four horsemen of calumny — fear, ignorance, bigotry and smear,” she said. “I doubt if the Republican Party could — simply because I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest. Surely, we Republicans aren’t that desperate for victory.”           

Senator Smith surely knew her “Declaration of Conscience” would not carry the day. Her appeal to the better angels of her party was not made in the expectation of an immediate change; sometimes the point is just to get people to look up. In the end, four more years passed before the bulk of the Republican Party looked up and turned on Senator McCarthy — four years of public show trials and thought policing that pushed the country so hard to the right that the effects lasted decades. The problem with politicians who abuse power isn’t that they don’t get results. It’s that the results come at a high cost to the Republic — and to the reputations of those who lack the courage or wisdom to resist.

The Republican Party is again confronting a crisis of conscience, one that has been gathering force ever since Donald Trump captured the party’s nomination in 2016. Afraid of his political influence, and delighted with his largely conservative agenda, party leaders have compromised again and again, swallowing their criticisms and tacitly if not openly endorsing presidential behavior they would have excoriated in a Democrat. Compromise by compromise, Donald Trump has hammered away at what Republicans once saw as foundational virtues: decency, honesty, responsibility. He has asked them to substitute loyalty to him for their patriotism itself.

Mr. Trump privately pressed Ukraine to serve his political interests by investigating a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as by looking into a long-debunked conspiracy theory about Democratic National Committee emails that were stolen by the Russians. Mr. Trump publicly made a similar request of China. His chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said publicly on Thursday that the administration threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine if it did not help “find” the D.N.C. servers.

These attempts to enlist foreign interference in American electoral democracy are an assault not only on our system of government but also on the integrity of the Republican Party. Republicans need to emulate the moral clarity of Margaret Chase Smith and recognize that they have a particular responsibility to condemn the president’s behavior and to reject his tactics.

Some have already done so. On Friday, John Kasich, the former Ohio governor, said that Mr. Mulvaney’s comments convinced him that the impeachment inquiry should move forward. Representative Justin Amash of Michigan had already called for impeachment, though he felt it necessary to leave the party as a consequence.

There was a time when Republicans like Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said that soliciting foreign election assistance would be improper. But most congressional Republicans have taken to avoiding such questions as the evidence against Mr. Trump has piled up. Mr. Trump still feels so well-protected by his party that he has just named his own golf resort as the site for the next Group of 7 summit in 2020, a brazen act of self-dealing.

Yet Republicans will not be able to postpone a reckoning with Trumpism for much longer. The investigation by House Democrats appears likely to result in a vote for impeachment, despite efforts by the White House to obstruct the inquiry. That will force Senate Republicans to choose. Will they commit themselves and their party wholly to Mr. Trump, embracing even his most anti-democratic actions, or will they take the first step toward separating themselves from him and restoring confidence in the rule of law?

Thus far in office, Mr. Trump has acted against the national interest by maintaining his financial interests in his company and using the presidential podium to promote it; obstructed legitimate investigations into his conduct by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and Congress; attacked the free press; given encouragement to white nationalists; established a de facto religious test for immigrants; undermined foreign alliances and emboldened American rivals; demanded personal loyalty from subordinates sworn to do their duty to the Constitution; and sent his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, around the world to conduct what could most charitably be described as shadow foreign policy with Mr. Trump’s personal benefit as its lodestar.

Some Republicans have clearly believed that they could control the president by staying close to him and talking him out of his worst ideas. Ask Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — who has spent the last two years prostrating himself before Mr. Trump in the hope of achieving his political goals, including protecting the Kurds — how that worked out. Mr. Graham isn’t alone, of course; there is a long list of politicians who have debased themselves to please Mr. Trump, only to be abandoned by him like a sack of rotten fruit in the end. That’s the way of all autocrats; they eventually turn on everyone save perhaps their own relatives, because no one can live up to their demands for fealty.

The Constitution’s framers envisioned America’s political leaders as bound by a devotion to country above all else. That’s why all elected officials take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. By protecting Donald Trump at all costs from all consequences, the Republicans risk violating that sacred oath.

Senator Smith’s question once again hangs over the Republican Party: Surely they are not so desperate for short-term victory as to tolerate this behavior? We’ll soon find out.

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Comments

  • kamtanblog  On October 23, 2019 at 2:49 am

    Power corrupts
    Ultimate power change corrupts
    ultimately. Gods take over !

    Go figure

    Kamtan

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2019 at 3:40 am

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2019 at 4:01 am

    The problem with politicians who abuse power isn’t that they don’t get results. It’s that the results come at a high cost to the Republic — and to the reputations of those who lack the courage or wisdom to resist.

    Donald Trump has hammered away at what Republicans once saw as foundational virtues:

    Decency, Honesty, Responsibility.

    He has asked Republicans to substitute loyalty to him for their patriotism itself.

    Trump’s chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said publicly that the administration threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine if it did not help “find” the D.N.C. servers.

    Thus far in office, Mr. Trump has acted against the national interest by maintaining his financial interests in his company and using the presidential podium to promote it;

    obstructed legitimate investigations into his conduct by the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and Congress;

    attacked the free press;

    given encouragement to white nationalists;

    established a de facto religious test for immigrants;

    undermined foreign alliances and emboldened American rivals;

    demanded personal loyalty from subordinates sworn to do their duty to the Constitution;

    and sent his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, around the world to conduct what could most charitably be described as shadow foreign policy with Mr. Trump’s personal benefit as its lodestar.

    In 1950, Margaret Chase Smith, a Republican senator from Maine, stood to warn her party that its own behavior was threatening the integrity of the American republic.

    Senator Smith’s question once again hangs over the Republican Party:

    Surely, they are not so desperate for short-term victory as to tolerate this behavior?

    The New York Times Editorial

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2019 at 5:36 am

    The Demolition of U.S. Diplomacy

    NOT Since Joe McCarthy Has the State Dept. Suffered Such a Devastating Blow

    William J. Burns | Foreign Affairs

    In my three and a half decades as a U.S. Foreign Service officer, proudly serving five presidents and ten secretaries of state from both parties, I’ve never seen an attack on diplomacy as damaging, to both the State Department as an institution and our international influence, as the one now underway.

    The contemptible mistreatment of Marie Yovanovitch — the ambassador to Ukraine who was dismissed for getting in the way of the president’s scheme to solicit foreign interference in U.S. elections — is just the latest example of President Donald Trump’s dangerous brand of diplomatic malpractice. His is a diplomacy of narcissism, bent on advancing private interests at the expense of our national interests.

    Ambassador Yovanovitch is NOT the first professional diplomat to find herself in political crosshairs in the history of the State Department. Trump is NOT the first demagogue to bully career personnel. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is NOT the first secretary of state derelict in his duty.

    But the damage from this assault — coming from within the executive branch itself, after nearly three years of unceasing diplomatic self-sabotage, and at a particularly fragile geopolitical moment — will likely prove to be even more severe to both diplomatic tradecraft and U.S. foreign policy.

    THE NEW McCarthyism

    Almost 70 years ago, in the early years of the Cold War, Senator Joseph McCarthy conducted a savage campaign against “disloyalty” in the State Department.

    Partisan investigators, untethered to evidence or ethics, forced out 81 department employees in the first half of the 1950s. Among them was John Paton Davies, Jr., an accomplished China hand.

    His sin was to foresee the communist victory in the Chinese Civil War. Davies was subjected to nine security and loyalty investigations, none of which substantiated the paranoid accusation that he was a communist sympathizer. Nevertheless, in a moment of profound political cowardice, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles fired him.

    Purging Davies and his colleagues was NOT ONLY WRONG but also foolish. The loss of such expertise blinded American diplomacy on China for a generation and had a chilling effect on the department and its morale.

    One of the United States’ most distinguished diplomats, George Kennan, was also pushed out of the Foreign Service during this era. He tried to defend Davies, who had served with him in Moscow and on the Policy Planning Staff, to little avail.

    Years later, Kennan wrote in his memoirs that McCarthy’s onslaught and the department’s failure to defend its employees was the most “sobering and disillusioning” episode of his long career.

    That Senator McCarthy’s chief counsel, Roy Cohn, was also Donald Trump’s lawyer and mentor is one of history’s sad ironies.

    Trump’s scorched-earth tactics, casual relationship with truth, and contempt for career public service bear more than a passing resemblance to the playbook that Cohn wrote for McCarthy. And when Trump cried out for a “new Roy Cohn” to replace the late original, it was hardly a surprise that former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared — or that he dove into the muck of the Ukraine scandal and agitated for the removal of a career ambassador whose integrity and expertise proved to be an obstruction.

    One might imagine that the State Department’s leadership would stand up to the president and for its personnel — so many of whom are doing hard jobs in hard places around the world. If only that were the case.

    INSTEAD, TODAY’S LEADERS HAVE SHOWN NO MORE SPINE THAN DULLES DID.

    Secretary Pompeo apparently worked around the embassy in Kiev to advance the president’s private agenda, allowed specious opposition research about Yovanovitch to circulate around the department, and sat on his hands as Trump slandered Yovanovitch on the infamous call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and warned ominously that “she’s going to go through some things”. —–THE GHOST OF ROY COHN IS SMILING SOME WHERE.

    Even before the Ukraine mess, the Trump administration had been waging a war on diplomacy for nearly three years. The White House regularly pushes historic cuts to diplomacy and development spending, which is already 19 times smaller than the defense budget.

    Career diplomats are sidelined, with only one of 28 assistant secretary-rank positions filled by a Foreign Service officer, and more ambassadorships going to political appointees in this administration than in any in recent history. One-fifth of ambassadorships remain unfilled, including critical posts.

    Not coincidentally, applications to join the Foreign Service have declined precipitously, with fewer people taking the entrance exam in 2019 than in more than two decades. The pace of resignations by career professionals is depressing, the pernicious practice of retaliation against individual officers just because they worked on controversial issues in the last administration is damning, and the silence from the department’s leadership is deafening.

    AGAINST THE AMERICAN INTEREST

    To clean up the institutional wreckage in the State Department will take many years. The damage to our influence and reputation may prove to be even longer lasting — and harder to repair.

    The practical consequences are not hard to discern. If a U.S. ambassador doesn’t speak for the president, and the embassy is seen as an enemy of the White House, why would the local government take seriously its diplomatic messages?

    Why use official channels, when one could speak directly to the president’s personal lawyer and his grifting confidants?

    If the key to unlocking aid is stroking the president’s vanity, why undertake the hard work of economic or political reform, with all the risks that entails?

    The president’s actions distort diplomatic practice and decapitate the American interest. Because of them, a new Ukrainian administration is all the more exposed to corruption and democratic backsliding, and all the more vulnerable to Russian manipulation and aggression.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, professionally trained to manufacture compromising material on all sorts of opponents, couldn’t have produced a more disruptive document than the summary of the Trump-Zelensky call last July, which has sowed political dysfunction in both Washington and Kiev.

    By using his public office for personal gain, Trump has affirmed Putin’s long-held conviction — shared by autocrats the world over — that Americans are just as venal and self-absorbed as Russians are, just more hypocritical about it.

    For dictators, Trump is the gift that keeps on giving, a non-stop advertisement for Western self-dealing. So much for enlightened self-interest. So much for the power of our example. So much for our credibility.

    We are digging a deep hole for ourselves in a world that is changing fast, filled with players who won’t wait for us to stop digging and a landscape that is quickly hardening against U.S. interests.

    Our allies are confused. Our adversaries are quick to take advantage. The institutions and coalitions we shaped over decades are wobbling. The confidence of the American people in the power and purpose of disciplined American leadership is evaporating.

    THE URGENCY OF RENEWAL

    The Trump administration’s dereliction of duty takes place at a time when the United States will need to rely on diplomacy more, not less, to advance its interests and values in an ever more competitive world.

    Joseph Welch, the legendary attorney in the Army-McCarthy hearings, burst the balloon of McCarthyism in 1954 when he posed his unforgettable question:

    “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

    The question was rhetorical then, just as it is today for the McCarthy imitators in and around the Trump administration. Their sense of decency is well hidden, their venality and vindictiveness on full display.

    But the decency that burns brightly, and that gives me some lingering faith even in these dark times for American diplomacy, is that which career officers like Yovanovitch have displayed.

    Their honor and commitment characterize professional diplomacy and public service at their best. So long as those qualities remain intact, however much they are battered in the age of Trump, there is still hope for diplomacy’s renewal.

  • IAN A NASCIMENTO  On October 23, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    All Trump bashing that is going on here is insane. What do you all not like about Trump, the way he combs his hair? This article by the NYT and all the the comments is typical of those who want this Country (USA) to fall to Socialism. Like Karl Marx once said, Socialism is the first step to Communism. Apparently, this is what you all want but it is not what I want for the US.
    This a great Country and Trump has done everything in his power to try to keep it that way. In the millions of dollars the liberals have spent (of my tax dollars) in the past three years, they have come up with nothing that Trump has done wrong. The man is amazing and strong and loyal to the US in being able to fight off the the amount of useless crap you all have thrown at him in three years. TRUMP IS A PATRIOT TO THE USA.
    If the liberal, socialist democrats had spent their time doing their jobs that they were elected for in the past three years, they may have accomplished something for the people of the US instead of trying to advance their liberal, socialist agenda. Socialist agenda does nothing for the people of my COUNTRY, THE USofA.
    Our economy is the best I have ever seen it. And by the way, I am not a child at 75 years old. I have seen some screwed up economies in the past with some screwed up past Presidents in this Country. The most recent being OBAMA, the man and administration that almost put this Country to its knees. You LIBERALS, SOCIALIST, COMMUNIST never publicise the DIRT that was on the hands of the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION, how dare you!

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2019 at 2:50 pm

    Trump boasts the economy is the best it’s ever been. Here are 9 CHARTS showing how it’s fared compared to the Obama and Bush presidencies.

    Andy Kiersz and Joseph Zeballos-Roig | Business Insider

    https://www.businessinsider.com/9-charts-comparing-trump-economy-to-obama-bush-administrations-2019-9

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    TRUMP VOWED TO ERASE THE DEBT during his presidency, BUT HE HAS DONE NO SUCH THING — RATHER, TRUMP HAS ONLY ADDED TO IT.

    Trump has continued running massive deficits during his presidency, which only widened with the passage of the 2017 GOP tax cuts.

    Job growth during the Trump presidency has largely matched Obama’s, fueled by a strong economy, But the trade wars he’s embarked on has started to hurt job creation and businesses pulling back on hiring amidst the uncertainty.

    OBAMA INHERITED AN ECONOMY IN FREE-FALL.

    THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE PEAKED AT 10.2 PERCENT in October 2009 during the recession and 8.7 million jobs were lost from early 2007 and 2010, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

    BUT THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE STARTED FALLING STEADILY IN 2011 and that trend continued for the rest of the Obama presidency.

    TRUMP TOOK OFFICE AS THE ECONOMY CONTINUED ITS RECOVERY

    Median household income measures the average income of middle class families.
    Bush’s first term saw household’s incomes trend downward, but they swung upward until 2007 before declining steeply during the Great Recession.

    With the economy in a recession during the first part of the Obama presidency, families experienced a substantial decline in their incomes. However, incomes started recovering in 2012.

    That trend has continued during Trump’s presidency. By 2018, the average middle-class family saw their income rise to $63,179, according to the Census Bureau.

    The S&P ticked upward for much of the Bush presidency, but took a severe hit during the Great Recession along with the rest of the stock market.

    OBAMA PRESIDE OVER THE S&P’s STEADY RECOVERY, which continued through the end of his presidency.

    Under Trump, that recovery has swung between gains and losses, brought on by the recent recession scare coupled with the uncertainty stemming from his trade war with China.

    The trade balance calculates a country’s exports minus its imports in a given period. When a nation imports more goods than it exports, the result would be a trade deficit.

    The trade balance HELD STEADY during the OBAMA ADMINISTRATION.

    DURING THE TRUMP ERA, THE DEFICIT STARTED TO INCREASE TO LEVELS NOT SEEN SINCE THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION — despite Trump vowing to “START WHITTLING IT DOWN, AND AS FAST AS POSSIBLE” in 2017.

    The U.S. FEDERAL BUDGET DEFICIT FOR FISCAL YEAR [FY] 2020 is $1.10 TRILLION, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    FY 2020 covers October 1, 2019, through September 30, 2020.

  • Clyde Duncan  On October 23, 2019 at 11:29 pm

    FEDERAL DEFICIT — (USD billion nominal)

    2007 – $161.00 – Bush
    2008 – $458.55 – Bush
    2009 – $1,412.69 – Trillion – Obama
    2010 – $1,294.37 – Trillion – Obama
    2011 – $1,299.59 – Trillion – Obama
    2012 – $1,086.95 – Trillion – Obama
    2013 – $679.54 – Obama
    2014 – $484.60 – Obama
    2015 – $438.49 – Obama
    2016 – $584.65 – Obama
    2017 – $665.37 – Trump
    2018 – $779.00 – Trump
    2019 – $984.00 – Trump
    2020 – $1,096.00 – Trillion – Trump

  • Ian Wishart  On October 24, 2019 at 7:39 am

    I believe what did for McCarthy was when he started to investigate the Army – that was a bridge too far.

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