Famous Republicans we once respected for their patriotism have been all over our news screens, appearing politically panicked — even unglued — over truths we’ll all finally be able to see and hear for ourselves next week.
Their political world will clearly seem different to them after the Democrat-controlled House joint committee begins its historic public impeachment hearing on Wednesday. We’ll see present and former U.S. officials detailing concerns they had voiced within the administration all summer about President Donald Trump’s demands that Ukraine agree to probe his Democratic opponents before he agreed to give it the U.S. military aid that Congress had already approved.
Soon, the Congress and the American people will be able to decide for themselves whether Trump’s demands constituted criminal extortion that warrants the very somber decision to impeach our president. That’s the prospect that has caused congressional Republicans who know better to come unstrung and even unglued.
Unstrung: Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has insisted he has seen no evidence that Trump demanded a quid pro quo, this week also proclaimed he won’t read the newly released depositions of former Trump officials who testified very specifically to just that.
Unglued: Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., stood beside the president at a Trump pep rally in Monroe, La., Wednesday night and blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s support of the impeachment inquiry by suddenly bellowing: “I don’t mean any disrespect — but it must suck to be that dumb!”
Time out! Congressional Republican leaders would do well to learn a remarkable lesson they’ve all apparently missed. It was taught to America by one of history’s most underrated Republican patriots and leaders, during one of America’s most challenging crises.
On August 9, 1974, Gerald R. Ford stood in the White House East Room and took the oath of office as a disgraced Richard M. Nixon was flying across Middle America to his California Elba. All of America was watching, many quite tense and most quite uncertain about what to expect. We’d had no coup, but we’d had a sudden change of command and government like nothing our nation had experienced.
Standing in the same room where Nixon had bid an emotional farewell to his staff, Ford spoke into the same microphone Nixon had used and put his inherited staff at ease, as well as his countrymen and women. In the plain-talk style he was always most comfortable with, America’s never-elected president reassured us with a most remarkable message:
“I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our government but civilization itself. That bond, though strained, is unbroken at home and abroad… My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws …”
Fast forward to today. If truth is the glue that holds government together, no wonder federal governance in America is falling apart. When Trump completed his first 1,000 days as our chief executive and commander-in-chief on Oct. 16, he had committed more than 13,400 lies, falsehoods, wrong or just misleading statements, according to The Washington Post Fact Checker. That is an average of 14 false or misleading statements each day. While Trump’s incorrigible lying is fodder for TV’s comic monologues and skits, we all know there’s really nothing funny about the fact that the U.S. government’s word is no longer trusted — at home or abroad.
Indeed, Trump’s willful deceit may well be endangering us all. On Oct. 27, when Trump announced the killing of the vicious ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, he launched into a stream of demeaning insults about how the terrorist was “whimpering and crying and screaming all the way.” He repeated those and similar demeaning phrases again and again that day and ever since. But there was no audio capability, officials told The New York Times, and neither the secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all their military and civilian subordinates could confirm the president’s assertion. Trump’s inability to control his lying ways may have provided ISIS with a future recruiting advantage.
World leaders no longer trust America’s commitments — because they now no longer trust or respect the words and promises of America’s president. And Washington’s remaining respected and patriotic Republicans all know this; they just won’t admit it to you. Even if the House votes to impeach Trump, it is exceedingly unlikely that the required two-thirds of the Senate will vote to convict and remove the president.
Yet the impeachment and conviction of Donald Trump would be the best way that the Grand Old Party can save itself from itself.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.