The Republicans chafe at accusations of putting party ahead of country, which they have done, with breathtaking success, since the election of the first African-American president. But since the Democrats are usually doing the accusing, the Republicans and their apologists have parried by calling it the “politics of division.”
Peter Wehner, a conservative with the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told NPR in January that Barack Obama was “unusually divisive. He constantly accused Republicans of putting party ahead of country. And that kind of rhetoric, over a sustained period of time, has consequences. And I think that some of the failures of the Obama presidency led, unfortunately, to the Trump presidency.”
This is why Americans hate Washington. Plain-to-see reality gets spun in the Cuisinart of partisanship until facts are meaningless, no one is at fault and nothing matters. To illustrate how rooted this is, Wehner defended the above claim today after the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump personally gave classified information about the Islamic State to two Russian envoys.
Trump’s blunder, conscious or not, has sparked a global reaction. The Associated Press reported Tuesday that European intelligence is reconsidering whether to share future information with an American president who can’t be trusted with it. Moreover, the information Trump gave was “need to know” only. That means lives and security are stake. That means Trump is himself a threat. That means he’s making our country more vulnerable to the next September 11.
But Trump isn’t the problem. If we had two healthy, functioning and patriotic political parties, members of the Congress could move to hold the president accountable through a variety of means. That isn’t going to happen, because the Republicans, no matter Trump’s outrage, will stand with the president as long as doing so yields partisan victories they have long coveted. In other words, the Republicans are putting party ahead of country.
This dynamic will be set in stark relief Wednesday when the president delivers the commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. The Academy graduates hundreds of young men and women filled with faith in duty, honor and country. They must, by law, swear an oath of office, as does everyone who takes a commission with any of the seven uniformed services of the US.
That oath is this:
“I, [name], do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.” (My stress.)
It concludes: “So help me God.”
What can Trump say to these idealistic men and women that does not ring hollow? He fired James Comey, the man chiefly responsible for investigating his campaign’s relations with a hostile power. He met with envoys of that power the day after firing the FBI director. He banned US reporters from attending that meeting. And then he shared secrets, thus compromising international security.
This isn’t partisan. This isn’t ideological. This is real, especially for those pledged to protect us from enemies, foreign and domestic. Trump has not only undermined our laws and security, but undermined the meaning of faith in duty, honor and country. And, it must be said, strenuously, the meaning of equality and justice.
What if Hillary Clinton had done what Trump has done? What would the Republicans do? We know the answer. If Hillary Clinton had fired the man investigating her relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, then met a day later with Putin’s emissaries, then shared top secret information with them to the detriment of our allies and our national security, congressional Republicans would be pounding the drums of impeachment. They played judge and jury during the 2016 election. They would play executioner now.
That’s not happening, and the absence of chest-thumping rage from every single Republican member of the Congress sends a clear message to every single female graduate at the United States Coast Guard Academy: Go ahead, take your oath. It’s meaningless. If you dare seek power, you will be punished for your transgression.
Equality be damned.
So help us God.