Michael Gerson describes The perils of the Republican partisan in the time of Trump in the Daily Star (reprinted from the Washington Post).
Trump’s ultimate objective … matters greatly. If he wants to recruit Republicans into a defense of the shady political and business dealings of Paul Manafort and the rest of the president’s political circle — now exposed by federal indictment — it will be discrediting and humiliating. A party that rallies to the defense of corruption will eventually be seen as a swamp in need of clearing.
But if Trump’s goal is to escape a tightening legal investigation by firing special counsel Robert Mueller and issuing a string of pardons, the participation of the Republican Party takes on a different meaning. In this case, Trump would be turning his authoritarian pose into authoritarian practice, removing an essential check on the abuse of power. Liberal democracy itself would be under attack from an American Putinism. And elected Republicans who enabled this would be complicit in a crime against the Constitution and violate the oath they took to defend it.
As the indictments begin to come down, Republicans need to ponder what legal and ethical lines, if any, they are willing to draw. Continuing the attacks on Hillary Clinton’s own dishonest dealings is all fun and games (except to Clinton, I suppose). Joining the defense of slimy political figures such as Manafort makes one, ceteris paribus, into a slimy political figure. Obscuring or excusing Russian influence on the American political process is a dangerous disservice to the country. Supporting Trump in a power play against the special counsel and his investigation would be an attack on the stability and legitimacy of the Republic — a source of infamy in American history.
To what circle of hell are Republican officials about to consign themselves? It would be useful for members of Congress to declare that they will never enter the fourth circle — the demolition of the integrity and independence of the FBI — if only to deter Trump from forcing a constitutional crisis. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has done so, arguing such an action would be “the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency.” But it is hard to imagine such courage written broadly in today’s GOP — and even harder to imagine such courage exhibited pre-emptively.
It is worth making clear that every conservative media voice — including, recently, the editorial voice of The Wall Street Journal — that attacks the objectivity and legitimacy of Mueller is giving Trump cover and encouragement to move against him. They are dropping lit matches in the dry tinder of American politics. And they would be responsible, in part, for the resulting wildfire.
Do Republicans and conservatives really want to be remembered as a bodyguard of enablers for this man? For this cause? Few enter the fray of political ideas, or make the considerable sacrifices of entering public life, to defend corruption and the abuse of power. That is now the calling of the Republican partisan, and the downward path of dishonor.
Are any Republicans willing to take action against Trump’s authoritarianism? You can cite Corker, Flake, and McCain for their speeches. However they have yet to convert words into action and they have yet to mobilize more of their colleagues as noted in the Huffington Post’s column, Speeches Do Matter. But What Actions Are Flake, Corker, And McCain Willing To Take To Stop Trump? And are others willing to join them?. So far the answers to these questions are disappointing in the extreme.