Conservatives of Conscience Need to Stand Up to Trump on Russia

Sometimes as a political writer, events transpire such that there’s not much one can say without resorting to invective or mere speechlessness. Trump calling NATO “obsolete” today is one of those times:

Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc, and threatened BMW with import duties over a planned plant in Mexico, according to two European newspapers which conducted a joint interview with the president-elect.

Trump, in an hourlong discussion with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London published on Sunday, signaled a major shift in trans-Atlantic relations, including an interest in lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia as part of a nuclear weapons reduction deal.

Everything is happening here so fast it’s hard to take it all in–which is part of the point as Trump continues his “shock and awe” political strategy–but let’s recap just briefly.

Intelligence memos are published that, while not fully corroborated, suggest that Trump and his team are working directly with Russia and are being compromised by Russian blackmail. This includes allegations that Trump’s team directly took pro-Ukraine language out of the GOP platform in exchange for Russia providing DNC emails to Wikileaks. The Kremlin is celebrating Trump’s win. Trump’s first meeting with a foreign leader will be with Putin. Intelligence officials are warning Israeli counterparts not to share information with Trump lest it end up in Putin’s hands. The outgoing CIA chief is admonishing Trump over his stance on Russia and his irresponsible tweets. Republican leaders are threatening ethics officers while planning on removing the White House press corps.

And now Trump is openly dissing NATO as obsolete, and encouraging the weakening of the European Union–both of which are the top political priorities of Putin’s Russia.

This is all so noxious and incredible that it wouldn’t pass as a bad dime novel. But this is where we are.

In today’s hyperpartisanized environment, it frankly does little good for liberals and Democrats to scream even louder about all this. Republicans with a sense of shame have to come out and break the wall of silence. Cutting taxes for rich people and slashing the safety net for the less fortunate has to come second to basic patriotism. President Pence will still appoint anti-abortion judges and make sure Charles and David Koch get their tax breaks. But conservatives of conscience need to stand up and make themselves heard.

This is not normal, and it is not OK.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.