As political analysis, I think Aaron Blake does a good job here of explaining why Republican members of Congress, particularly senators, are unwilling to exercise their power to bring this president down. Blake doesn’t frame it that way; instead, he talks about tactics that could be used to achieve related aims, like passing a bill to protect the Mueller investigation or to get testimony from the interpreter who was present in Helsinki when Trump and Putin spoke privately together. My problem with this piece is that it fails as moral analysis.
The problem is the president, and that’s true regardless of which party you represent in Congress. The national security implications of having a president who is clearly compromised include a massive moral dimension. When a country as important and powerful as the United States is being steered by a man like Vladimir Putin, every living creature on the planet is potentially at risk. Maybe that sounds like hyperbole, but there’s a reason we took the actions we did at the conclusion of World War Two, and if we lose the Western Alliance and democratic countries lose the cohesiveness and unity needed to fight against nuclear proliferation and for human rights and conflict resolution, then the risks can not be overstated.
The problem for Republican lawmakers, assuming they would like to do the right thing and protect the country, is that they need the Mueller report first before they can go to their own base and make the case against the president. They actually deserve to have that information before they’re asked to do something as drastic as impeach and remove a president. They may know in the hearts already what the conclusions will be, but they need to see it. The country needs to see it.
We’ve gotten to the point where the need is there but the report is not yet finished. This puts us all in a miserable and dangerous waiting pattern. How much longer can we go without making a decision?
For Republicans who aren’t still more interested in obstructing and killing the investigation than in protecting the country, it’s not clear what they can or should do. Formally protecting the investigation seems like an urgent task, and if hijacking the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh is the quickest and surest way to do that, then I’d recommend it. That’s asking a lot, I know, and there may be other things that could be hijacked that wouldn’t be in such conflict with long-cherished conservative goals.
But protecting the investigation doesn’t speed up the process. If the Republicans are serious about getting us out of this mess, they need help. They need Mueller to produce the information they’ll need. A couple of weeks ago, the Republicans were pressuring Mueller to wrap it up and that is precisely what he needs to do.
I’m as cynical as anyone about Republicans. However, I’m not so biased against them that, based on the information we have right now, I will fault them for not starting impeachment proceedings against a president who is more popular than they are with their base. So far, the few Republicans who have tried to speak out have had their heads cut off. And, while it’s worth having your head cut off to save the Republic, it’s better to come armed with evidence you need to survive.
The real test for the Republicans will come when they have the report and no longer have any excuses, good or bad, to avoid removing this man from power. For now, they are like the rest us, waiting in an uncomfortable limbo.