Who is left to stand up to Trump?
Not the Senate. Sen. Flake? He opines against Trump’s excesses but votes with Trump almost always. Sen. Corker? He’s late to the bash Trump parade.
Not the House. Our own CD2 Rep. Mcsally, just for example, dodges and dances around issues but her votes mark her as one of the top Representatives supporting Trump’s agenda.
Then there is the Cabinet.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke? Forget it. Slate: Small Company With Connections to Trump Administration Wins $300 Million Puerto Rico Recovery Contract. Daily Beast: $300M Puerto Rico Recovery Contract Awarded to Tiny Utility Company Linked to Major Trump Donor. “The contract has also raised eyebrows because the company is based in Whitefish, Montana, the hometown of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke …”
EPA director Scott Pruitt? No way. Huffington Post: EPA Abruptly Blocks 3 Agency Scientists From Giving Talks On Climate Change. ”It’s the latest sign of the administration’s assault on climate science.” And where does this come from? “The move comes days after the EPA scrubbed dozens of links from its website to materials that helped local governments deal with the effects of climate change. Administrator Scott Pruitt has said he does not believe greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels cause climate change, and has scrapped or proposed eliminating numerous regulations to reduce emissions. Two weeks ago, he proposed repealing the Clean Power Plan, the federal government’s primary policy for slashing utilities’ output of planet-warming gases. “The sudden cancellations on Sunday inflame *concerns that the agency is muzzling scientists to further the White House’s political interests.*”
I could go on but I trust you get the picture. The members of Congress are worried about getting re-elected and are caving - or have already caved - and largely remain silent and vote for what Trump wants. Trump hired the cabinet members to do his bidding and/or to satisfy GOP donors and/or to destroy the government agencies that they were hired to lead. So who is left?
Whoa, I hear you say. What about those honorable 4-star generals? What about Tycoon Tillerson who led the Exon Mobile behemoth for so many years?
“And then there was one.”
That last line is how Tom Friedman, in the NY Times, begins his advisory to General Mattis, Stand Up to Trump or He’ll Drag You Down. (h/t Sherry Moreau)
Here’s the entire essay.
In March I wrote a column in the form of a memo to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster, then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, C.I.A. Director Mike Pompeo and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
It began: “Dear Sirs, I am writing you today as the five adults with the most integrity in the Trump administration. Mattis, McMaster and Kelly, you all served our nation as generals in battle. Pompeo, you graduated first in your class at West Point. … Tillerson, you ran one of America’s largest companies. I am writing you directly because I believe you are the last ‘few good men’ who can stand up and reverse the moral rot that has infected the Trump administration from the top.”
Well, so much for that.
McMaster doesn’t seem to have built much of a relationship with Trump, not one that can constrain him. Tillerson blew himself up by reportedly calling the president a “(bleeping) moron” and then starring in a hostage video in which he sang the president’s praises and assured us that Trump was actually “smart.”
After Trump tweeted that Tillerson was wasting his time negotiating with North Korea, Tillerson had to publicly assure us that he had not been “castrated” by Trump — which meant that he had.
On Thursday Pompeo showed how much he has sold his soul. In an answer to a question, Pompeo told a conference held by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative think tank, that “the intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.”
That was a baldfaced lie. The C.I.A., F.B.I. and N.S.A. issued a report in January concluding that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin personally “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” designed to denigrate Hillary Clinton and aid Trump. At the same time these agencies declared, “We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election,” which was outside their writ and expertise.
Pompeo just made that up, no doubt to please Trump.
Finally, sadly, Kelly squandered his moral authority by starring in his own White House podium hostage video. He began well. Kelly spoke eloquently and with great dignity about the pain of losing a son in battle, as he and his wife did, and about certain bedrock values that our society has lost in how we treat one another. He even seemed to explain how the president’s phone call to the widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger got garbled.
If only he had stopped there. But instead he began to talk like Trump, gratuitously smearing a black congresswoman who was a friend of the Green Beret’s bereaved family — with provably false charges. It was tragic. In an instant he went from General Kelly to Kellyanne Conway, just another Trump apologist.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders must have known that Kelly had lost his moral authority, because, the next day, when reporters challenged Kelly’s comments about the congresswoman, the White House spokeswoman tried to shut them up by holding up Kelly’s formal uniform, saying, “If you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that’s something highly inappropriate.” Sorry, Sarah, when a general lies, he loses his moral and formal credibility.
That leaves Mattis as the last man standing — the only one who has not been infected by Trump’s metastasizing ethical cancer, the only one who has not visibly lied on Trump’s behalf, and who can still put some fear into Trump.
Well, Secretary Mattis, here’s some free advice to the last man standing: Don’t just stand there. If you just stand there, you’ll be next. Because Trump and Sanders will be looking to enlist your old uniform next in their defense — that is, if Trump doesn’t throw you under the bus first to escape responsibility for the bungled operation in Niger.
Secretary Mattis, we don’t need any more diagnosis of the problem. We need action. And I am not talking about a coup. I mean you need to lead McMaster, Tillerson and Kelly (Pompeo is a lost cause) in telling Trump that if he does not change his ways you will all quit, en masse.
Trump needs to know that it is now your way or the highway — not his. That is how you talk to a bully. It’s the only language he understands.
Tell him: No more ridiculous tweeting attacks on people every morning; no more telling senators who forge bipartisan compromises on immigration or health care that he’s with them one day and against them the next; no more casual lying; no more feeding the base white supremacist “red meat” — no more distracting us from the real work of forging compromises for the American people and no more eroding the American creed.
Led by you and you alone, Secretary Mattis, your little squadron with Tillerson, Kelly and McMaster still has power. And if you can’t together force Trump onto an agenda of national healing and progress, then you should together tell him that he can govern with his kids and Sanders — because you took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to wipe up Trump’s daily filth with the uniform three of you wore so honorably.
And if those five quit en masse we would be faced with a governmental crisis that would be, using the media’s favorite understated descriptor, unprecedented.
After our just-completed trip to our nation’s capitol, Mrs. Scriber came away feeling optimistic. Our nation has suffered through crises like the sedition act and a civil war. She thinks we will survive Trumpism because our institutions are strong. Mr. Scriber is not so sure — but sure hopes she is right.