Republican displays of independence and integrity are rare in the Trump era. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, provided one when he blasted President Donald Trump's decision-making on Syria on the Senate floor on Thursday.
"The ceasefire does not change the fact that America has abandoned an ally," Romney said. "Adding insult to dishonor, the Administration speaks cavalierly, even flippantly - even as our ally has suffered death and casualty, their homes have been burned, and their families have been torn apart. We know the truth about our Kurd allies. They lost 11,000 combatants in our joint effort to defeat ISIS. We dropped bombs from the air and provided intelligence and logistics behind the lines. The Kurds lost thousands of lives."
He blasted Trump: "What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of American history." He cautioned, "There are broad strategic implications of our decision as well. Iranian and Russian interests in the Middle East have been advanced by our decision. Are we so weak, and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey? I believe that it is imperative that public hearings are held to answer these question, and I hope the Senate is able to conduct those hearings next week."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., provided his own stinging critique of these developments but oddly left Trump out of it entirely. How does one express such disdain for Trump's inanity while pretending as if the policy descended from the heavens rather than from the lips of an erratic, ethically deficient and unfit leader? You'd think the leader of half of an equal branch of government would have a little more spine.
Alas, silence in public and grumbling in private have become the standard response for many Republicans. The Washington Post reported:
"In interviews with more than 20 GOP lawmakers and congressional aides in the past 48 hours, many said they were repulsed by Trump's decision to host an international summit at his own resort and incensed by acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney's admission - later withdrawn - that U.S. aid to Ukraine was withheld for political reasons. Others expressed anger over the president's abandonment of Kurdish allies in Syria. ...
"A few Republicans are starting to say they flat-out won't do it anymore - particularly the president's choice of his Trump National Doral Miami golf resort for next year's Group of Seven summit of world leaders, a selection that will benefit him financially."
Saturday night, Trump abandoned his Doral gambit. But what of Trump's other efforts to direct business to his other resorts? Lawmakers could go on the record and specifically pass legislation barring such self-dealing. Don't hold your breath.
Many Americans are exasperated that these lawmakers remain so silent in public, so unwilling to state obvious truths. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., who openly mulled impeachment, is the exception, not the rule. Before Trump abandoned the idea of bringing the Group of Seven to his Doral Miami resort, Florida Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio actually celebrated the self-dealing, because it was to take place in their own state. The spinelessness is matched only by the lack of any moral core or sense of greater obligation to the country.
The Post reports that, "Republicans believe that Trump has made it harder for them to help him politically survive impeachment and win re-election." Impeachment, however, is not self-executing. It only becomes harder for Trump to survive impeachment if they stand up, denounce his conduct and vote to impeach and remove. Otherwise they remain as culpable as he is for the destruction of ethical standards and the rule of law.
Republicans who have figured out Trump's action are indefensible must openly declare their sentiments and urge his resignation. They need to explain to Americans' the seriousness of Trump's offenses and the danger in allowing him to continue in office. If Trump won't go voluntarily, they should proceed with bipartisan impeachment. In the meantime, Republicans should join Democrats in blocking Trump's stomach-turning financial corruption and begin public hearings on the Syria debacle.
We've passed the time when Republicans can run from the press and constituents. Silence is assent, not an act of defiance.
-- Jennifer Rubin is a columnist for The Washington Post.