Down with Republican wimps.
You know the ones. They’re trying to avoid taking on Donald Trump while looking sort of sad about the way our president wanted to trade military aid to another country for dirt on a political opponent.
Or just evading. “I don’t know what law he’s violated yet,” said Sen. Rick Scott of Florida.
This is not really to the point, given that Congress can remove a president for a terrible misuse of power that isn’t literally against a law. And if Scott’s goal was to dodge the whole matter, he certainly lost. On Wednesday, Trump said his but-about-Biden’s-son talk with the president of Ukraine was above reproach, adding, “I heard Rick Scott say that was a perfect conversation.”
Floridians, feel free to put up posters with that quote all over your neighborhoods.
It would take 67 senators to convict Trump if the House votes to impeach. That’s quite a lift given that the Republicans control the chamber 53-47. A lot of them are terrified that if they vote against the president, some Trump-loving jerk from Fred County will run against them in a primary, sending them off to a career lobbying for pharmaceutical companies way earlier than they anticipated.
So far the expressions of outrage are pretty darned muted. Well, Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah and Ben Sasse of Nebraska did call the Ukraine story “troubling.”
People, which of these things could be reasonably defined as “troubling”?
A) Evidence that the president used his position to extort a rather helpless ally for the basest possible political motives.
B) A president who appeared to threaten to execute anyone who helped out a whistleblower.
C) A delay in implementation of highway fund appropriations.
Romney is the senator from Utah, a job he could keep if he got caught torturing puppies. This was not meant to remind you of the time he drove to Canada with the family Irish setter in a crate on the station wagon’s roof. Time editor Anand Giridharadas already took care of that when he tweeted, “Mitt, it is time to strap the dog of courage onto the car of your constitutional obligations.”
Romney sees himself as a leader who’s going to bring back the old, good-mannered, classic-conservative version of the Republican Party. Which would certainly be lovely. But you can’t trust him to stay the course. He’s the guy who began running for the Senate blasting Trump’s “message of exclusion.” Later, when he needed more right-wing support, he began bragging that he was “more of a hawk on immigration than even the president.”
So feel free to tweet up a storm.
The awfulness of the Trump protectors may just drive a few principled Republicans off the team. For instance, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has been comparing the impeachment movement to the Salem witch trials and demanding that the whistleblower be forced to go public. Nobody wants to be referred to as “very much in the tradition of Lindsey Graham.”
In response to Graham’s tirade, Senate president pro tempore Chuck Grassley of Iowa issued a statement demanding the whistleblower be “heard out and protected.” Grassley is a much-respected veteran, and it would be nice to see him go further. Even if a few cynics point out that he’s 86 years old and isn’t up for reelection until 2022.
And wait — how about Mitch McConnell? The Senate majority leader has been saying that even if there has to be an impeachment debate, it doesn’t have to be, you know, long.
“If it gets to the Senate, it will be up to every senator, especially the Republicans, to make sure Sen. McConnell conducts it fairly and down the middle — this is too important not to do that,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in an interview.
Schumer is being very diplomatic. McConnell has approximately as much history of being fair and down the middle as Attila the Hun. If he thought he could get away with it, McConnell would schedule the Senate debate for 3 to 4 o’clock on Thanksgiving morning.
We’ve heard lots of calls on Congress to behave more like the Founding Fathers in recent weeks. Which F.F. do you think Mitch McConnell most resembles? I put that question to several historians, and they found it to be a real stumper. “You could argue John Adams is a little bit like Mitch McConnell,” William Galston of the Brookings Institution said reluctantly. Both men, he pointed out, were “stubborn, confident and highly partisan.” However, it’s tough to imagine Abigail Adams being accused of using her political connections to boost her family’s business interests, like a certain majority leader’s spouse.
“I can’t think of anyone who’s like him,” said Joanne Freeman of Yale. The question of who might play McConnell in a “Hamilton”-type production about Trump impeachment stumped her, too. (“Oh my gosh — a McConnell musical. Wow.”)
I am considering the guy who does Mr. Smithers’ voice on “The Simpsons.”
There’s a suspicion in Washington that a lot of Senate Republicans would be happy to turn on the president if there were some kind of super-secret impeachment ballot. This is probably true. How many of them would even want to have lunch with Donald Trump if he were, say, a school custodian?
Not even Lindsey Graham.
Gail Collins is an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times.