Jennifer Rubin: Republicans need to call out the president a lot more often

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks to reporters as he walks out of the Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, after President Donald Trump says a deal has been made to reopen the government for three weeks. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The glaring gulf between the world as it is and described by the Trump administration's top intelligence advisers, on one hand, and the world that President Donald Trump concocts out of thin air, on the other, embarrassed the president this week. He had to come up with a rather pathetic cover story to explain the serial contradictions:

Trump insisted that if you read the entire transcript of Tuesday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, you'd find that he is perfectly in accord with his intelligence professionals. (On Twitter he whined, "A false narrative is so bad for our Country. I value our intelligence community. Happily, we had a very good meeting, and we are all on the same page.")

That's ridiculous, of course. Whether on Iran or the Islamic State or our relations with allies, Trump's views do not align with reality, nor with the analysis of that reality from his top intelligence officials.

At her weekly news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., observed, "I thought it was courageous that the different heads of different aspects of our intelligence community spoke truth to the country and to power. ... And one dismaying factor of it all is that the president just doesn't seem to have the attention span or the desire to hear what the intelligence community has been telling him. So, for him to make the statement that he did (Wednesday), that's cause for concern."

For once, Republican senators acted appropriately to rebuff a clueless president, standing with the intelligence professionals. The Washington Post reports:

"The vast majority of Senate Republicans backed Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday in a rebuke of President Trump's rationale for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan, voting to declare that the Islamic State's continued operations in both countries poses a serious threat to the United States.

"The measure was presented as an amendment to a greater Middle East policy bill that has yet to pass the Senate and will face challenges in the House, particularly due to a provision regarding Israel-focused boycotts. Nonetheless, the 68-to-23 vote was an unmistakable sign of Republicans' growing frustration with the president, particularly when it comes to some of the decisions he has made as commander in chief."

I suppose Trump could say that he and the Senate are in accord as well, but plainly the Senate - like the security chiefs - has decided not to perpetuate Trump's fantasies about the world. Unfortunately, although the vote embarrasses the president, it does little to abate his troop withdrawal or provide protection for the Kurds, who will be overrun and obliterated, in all likelihood, when the last American troops depart.

Nevertheless, perhaps this vote is the start of a trend. Think of all the misinformation the Senate could identify and rebuke. It could make clear:

* There is no crisis at the southern border;

* No new steel mills are being built in the United States;

* Tariffs are paid by consumers, and the trade debt is not an IOU to a trading partner;

* Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was aware of and ultimately responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi;

* Domestic terrorism has been responsible in recent years for more U.S. deaths than any outside terrorist threat;

* Ninety percent of drug smuggling comes through ports of entry;

* NATO partners don’t “owe” the United States money;

* We do not have the “worst” (i.e. most lenient) immigration laws in the world, nor are we the only country to recognize birthright citizenship; and

* Climate change is real and poses an economic, social and geopolitical threat to the United States and our allies.

The list could go on and on, considering that the president has racked up more than 8,000 lies and bases many if not most of his policy positions on misinformation and outright lies. The better question is why Republicans continue to support and defend a president who is so consistently out of touch with reality and makes decisions that are obviously not in the national security interests of the United States.

It’s not enough to rebuke a president who perpetuates falsehoods and thereby makes inane policy choices. Senate Republicans must constrain him - by oversight, the power of the purse, and the advice and consent process for executive branch nominees. But ultimately, they should support qualified challengers to dislodge in 2020 a president they know to be dangerously uniformed, if not deliberately dishonest.

Jennifer Rubin | The Washington Post

Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.