When the tell-all books are finally written, this week of Republican talking points will constitute entire chapters of infamy.
Knowing that indictments were coming from special counsel Robert Mueller, Republicans and their conservative media friends have been engaged in a remarkable series of attempts to deflect blame and muddy the waters. Unable to attack the prosecutors and investigative committees head on, they resorted to using Hillary Clinton as a punching bag. The odious former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka suggested that Clinton could “get the chair” over a long-discredited nothingburger surrounding an innocuous uranium deal.
In the last two days, Republicans have been running headlong with a “no puppet, you’re the puppet” line claiming that Democrats and Clinton were the ones colluding with Russia because they paid for opposition research on Trump, including the famous Steele dossier. This, too, blew up in their faces last night when it was revealed that the dossier had predictably originally been unearthed by Republican primary opponents on Trump, and that it was the conservative Washington Free Beacon that originally funded it. If the Free Beacon were in cahoots with Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin, now that would be a story.
Even as news of the Mueller indictments was spreading across the country like wildfire, Sean Hannity was still streaming into Fox News viewers’ living rooms demanding to know when Hillary Clinton would be indicted.
We’ve become jaded to quite a lot in the Trump era, but this level of craven desperation and shameless partisan dishonesty should still shock us. Hopefully, it will shock the future generations who read about it. The people peddling this offal know it stinks, and they know that in doing so they are aiding and abetting financially corrupt criminals with murky ties to villainous regimes, and almost certainly in cahoots with America’s chief realpolitik foe on the world stage–one that actively interfered with our election on a breathtaking scope and continues to attempt to destabilize the rest of the free world. They are sacrificing the country, basic decency, and their own place in history, and for what? A few tax breaks on the top marginal incomes? A dice roll at a Supreme Court nomination should a justice’s health falter? Just how low will they sink, and how cheaply can they be bought?
The “I know you are but what am I” games of the last week are now over. Mueller’s sealed indictments will come open soon, and with them explosive information about the activities of Trump campaign associates, as well as pressure on those associates to flip on higher-ups. Trump himself will be tempted to initiate a Saturday Night Massacre by firing Rosenstein to get to Mueller.
As these dominoes start to fall, we can already guarantee that Fox News and most of the rest of the conservative media apparatus will fall in line behind the President no matter what. They created him, their programs are literally how the President gets most of his news, their viewership is fanatically loyal to him, and they’ll stick with him to the very bitter end.
The question is what Republicans of any dignity and patriotism will do. It’s tempting as an activist to shrug and declare that they no longer exist and that there is no room for them in the party. Senator Jeff Flake’s speech, for instance, was far too little too late from a man who is abandoning the field rather than standing and fighting, and who in any case ran as a hardcore Tea Partier and on the very day of his speech turned around and voted for a giant giveaway to Wall Street.
But the indictments raise the stakes. There is still time for persons of integrity to step forward, tell what they know, reveal the things only whispered closed doors, and put an end to this travesty. It’s not too late. Even for people who happen to be registered Republicans.