Education Reform

Eugene Robinson and the Case of the GOP’s Missing Spine

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My view of John McCain. He was a man of honor and integrity. He served with honor in a war where Donald Trump took five draft deferments, the last one for “bone spurs” in his foot. I saw the squalid prison where he was tortured for five years in Hanoi. He could have gotten an early release but he turned it down and said he wouldn’t leave unless his colleagues and buddies were also released. He was modest. He had humility. He voted to save Obamacare. He was first to say he made mistakes (choosing Palin was a big one). Unlike Trump, he was not a coward or a liar. Unlike Trump, he was not a narcissist or a bully. I will always remember the campaign event when a supporter said to his face that Obama was an Arab, and he quickly corrected her, defended Obama, and said he was a fine family man. McCain acknowledged that he was not perfect. I did not agree with most of his votes. In a different world, people could have different political views and still drink and laugh and dine together. In the world we have today, he was a giant among weasels. The rest of the Senate looks shrunken compared to him.

Eugene Robinson is one of my favorite columnists at the Washington Post. The Post has the best opinion writers in the nation.

Here is his tribute to John McCain.

Much of the nation will spend the coming days honoring the late Sen. John McCain. The Republican Party, however, will only pretend to do so.

President Trump’s GOP could not care less about the ideals McCain stood for, such as honor, service and community. The party is shamefully molded in Trump’s image now, with his enormous corruption, monumental selfishness and grasping little hands.

This is no exercise in hagiography, which is supposed to be reserved for saints. McCain (R-Ariz.) had many flaws and made big mistakes, not the least of which was loosing Sarah Palin upon the world and letting her bring the politics of idiocy into the mainstream. He was a conservative and a foreign-policy hawk; I am neither. But never for a minute could I, or anyone else, doubt McCain’s commitment as a public servant. He cared more about the nation’s well-being than his own.

How quaint such sentiments sound, 19 months into the Trump era.

The man now living and working in the White House is uniquely different from, and worse than, his predecessors. All of them. Other presidents have been venal, bigoted, corrupt, divisive, ignorant or unstable, but never all of these things at the same time, in such lavish measure.

When Trump used a huggy-kissy interview with “Fox & Friends” last week to rail against “flipping” — the standard practice of prosecutors to offer a member of a crime organization a lighter sentence in exchange for testimony against higher-ups — he didn’t just sound like a mob boss who knows he’s being ratted out. He sounded like a man who would do anything, and I mean anything at all, to keep the investigations by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and federal prosecutors in New York from uncovering secrets whose exposure threatens him and his family.

Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt reflects on the life and legacy of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
Trump keeps warning that he “may have to get involved” in the Justice Department, which means he may intervene to shut Mueller down. Why would anyone refuse to believe this is a real threat? Why would anyone refuse to believe that now — with Trump’s personal lawyer singing to the feds, the keepers of his financial and personal secrets talking to prosecutors under grants of immunity, and his former campaign chairman under great pressure to “flip” — the threat is greater than ever?

Republican senators, who will outdo one another in their lavish encomiums to their longtime colleague McCain, have the power to push back hard — yet they refuse to consider legislation to protect the Mueller probe. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of McCain’s close friends, once said that there would be “holy hell” to pay if Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions as a way to assert control over Mueller; now, Graham meekly says that Trump “is entitled to an attorney general he has faith in.”

Graham is wrong. Trump is not entitled to an attorney general who would sabotage a revelatory and productive investigation because Trump fears it threatens his legitimacy. But that is what Trump clearly wants — and there is no indication the Republican majorities in Congress will lift a finger to stop him.

The only congressional Republicans who even occasionally speak out in clear language against Trump’s outrages and excesses are those who have decided to retire, such as Sen. Jeff Flake, who calls himself “the other senator from Arizona,” and Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

But Flake and Corker — and the many other Republicans in the Senate and the House who privately acknowledge Trump’s gross unfitness — are afraid to back up their words with deeds. In the closely divided Senate, one courageous Republican could send a message to the president by, for example, crossing the aisle to hold up his judicial nominees. In the House, non-xenophobic Republicans could join with Democrats to pass sensible, comprehensive immigration reform, putting an end to the reign of terror that Trump and Sessions are imposing at the border.

McCain, famously, did take action. Last year, shortly after being diagnosed with brain cancer, he cast the deciding vote against Trump’s slapdash attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Trump is nothing if not vindictive and petty; he issued a brief tweet rather than a lengthier prepared statement about McCain’s death, and on Monday morning the flags at the White House were not at half-staff. Trump lowered them again that afternoon.

We will hear much this week from Republicans in Congress about honoring McCain’s legacy. Anyone who takes those noble words seriously should do everything possible to elect Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in November. As Trump well knows, the GOP no longer has a spine.

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