Country First, Or Trump First? Republicans Face A Choice.

Republicans face a choice. Do they put their country first, or do they put their President first?

Washington Post columnist Max Boot, a former Republican who is now firmly implanted in the “Never Trump” camp, writes that the latest allegations against the President require Republicans to make the choice between their party and their country:

Soliciting anything of value from a foreign national to help a U.S. campaign is not just illegal; it is the Founding Fathers’ nightmare. In Federalist 68, Alexander Hamilton called “cabal, intrigue, and corruption” the “most deadly adversaries of republican government,” and warned that they “chiefly” emanate “from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.” “How,” he continued, “could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

How indeed. For much of U.S. history, this was a theoretical concern. Now it is horrifyingly real. A president elected with the help of one foreign power (Russia) is soliciting help from other foreign powers (not only Ukraine and China, but also Australia, Britain and Italy, among others) to win reelection. Any country that aids Trump can expect to be rewarded — with foreign aid (Ukraine), a more generous trade deal (China) or an invitation to rejoin the Group of Seven (Russia).

Republicans claim to revere the Founders and their “originalist” vision. Well, now they have a chance to prove it. With impeachment looming, they will have to choose between Hamilton and Trump — between a Founding Father who was alarmed by foreign meddling in our politics and a president who invites it.

(…)

Having previously claimed the “absolute right” to declare a national emergency, to pardon himself, to “do what I want with the Justice Department” and to share intelligence with Russia — Trump now claims the “absolute right” to suggest that “other Countries … help us out” to investigate “CORRUPTION,” a code word for maligning his Democratic rival.

When a president claims an “absolute right” to act in furtherance of his self-interest at the expense of the public interest, democracy is imperiled. Trump says that impeachment — a constitutional process — constitutes a “coup.” In truth, he is the one attempting a coup against the checks and balances of the Constitution.

Republicans in both houses will have to decide whether Trump’s acts constitute grounds for impeachment. The odds are that almost all will betray the country rather than the president. So here is the bitter irony: The “Republican” Party has become a threat to republican governance.

This is a theme that I have hit upon myself many times over the course of the four years since Donald Trump became a candidate for President, most recently just this past Sunday. I have stated repeatedly in those posts that the Republican Party and those conservatives who have chosen to rally behind the President were facing a day of reckoning when they would have to make a choice between their party and their country, and that they would be judged by how they chose to respond to that choice, in the short-term by voters and in the longer term by history and by their own consciences. With impeachment and an eventual trial in the Senate now a seeming certainty, that day of reckoning is fast approaching for both Republicans on Capitol Hill and for rank-and-file members of the party.

As much as one likes to hope that there will be a sudden turnaround among Republicans and that Senators, in particular, will be willing to stand up against the President’s obvious abuses of power and hold him accountable, we’re still at the point where that is entirely unlikely. Whether it is because they actually believe what they’re saying, which is certainly true in some cases, or because they have sold out because they are afraid of being primaried or being attacked by the President, most of the Republicans on Capitol Hill have made it clear where their loyalties lie.

In 2008, John McCain ran his General Election campaign on the slogan “Country First.” While one can certainly say that McCain was far from a perfect candidate, Senator, or person, one can certainly say that this is an idea that he took seriously. Especially in a moment of crisis, it is essential that our representatives put the country first even if it comes at the expense of their own careers. With the exception of maybe a handful of people, the number of such persons is depressingly small. As a result, Republicans will become even further wed to Trump and his ideas, and they will eventually end up paying the price for it.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    “I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) 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. So help me God.”

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    I’ve seen lately several columns arguing that Rs are sticking with Trump not only out of fear of the base, but because Trump is giving them what they want. They got tax cuts for the wealthy. There are articles today showing that billionaires now pay a lower effective tax rate than the middle class. They’re getting appointees who are gutting regulation, and judges who are predisposed against regulation. And those same judges are also predisposed against reproductive rights.

    These conversations have lately turned to deontology v teleology. The above are, to Republicans, morally right things, and thereby necessary to the Country without considering consequences. In any case, impeachment would turn the Country over to the tender mercies of Mike Pence, who even they think is a dweeb, or conceivably NANCY PELOSI!!!.

    In fairness, they think they are defending the country against immorality and socialists. Not to mention feeling that what’s good for their careers is good for the country. Also, Gym Jordan, to name one, is too dumb for “belief” to have any substantive meaning.

    My points being first, that they will come around if, and only if, their careers are threatened. And second, once Trump goes we still have these people to deal with.

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  3. Jen says:

    Tangentially relevant to this, Turkey has launched a military offensive in northern Syria against the Kurds, following Trump’s decision to remove our forces. We have yet again abandoned our Kurdish allies, something that I would have thought Republicans would resist this president on.

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  4. DrDaveT says:

    Dog in the manger doesn’t even begin to cover what’s happening with this administration. When next the Democrats are in power, they may need to take “The Scouring of the Shire” as their playbook. Breaking things is ever so much easier than building them…

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  5. Mister Bluster says:

    @Jen:..something that I would have thought Republicans would resist this president on.

    You are kidding right?

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  6. grumpy realist says:

    Well, I guess we’ll see how many Republicans have any integrity at all, or whether they’ll grab for the power/money instead.

    Which, if they do, will show them up as fools. Systems only work when you have checks and balances. People will only adhere to unwritten norms when everybody plays by the same rules. If one or more of the players acts like the norms don’t apply to him/them, guess what: the entire system ends up collapsing into chaos or everybody vamooses from playing the game. Example: the persistence of insider trading and the lack of policing it on the Italian stock market. Gets to the point where everyone suspects that large chunks of stock only get put on the market because someone knows some inside dope of an unrevealed problem. Result? No one buys the stock until the price drops really really low. Secondary result? No one wants to be a market maker, hence a much tinier stock market than expected.

    The Republican Party can support Trump’s “L’etat c’est moi” attitude now–and discover they’ve basically set up the process for the total implosion of the U.S. Do they really want to end up as the fools in history books?

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  7. Scott F. says:

    The “day of reckoning” on the question of Country first or Trump first has long since passed for the GOP. Maybe it was when the Republicans chose to impugn the integrity of a highly, respected civil servant like Mueller to undermine the Special Counsel investigation or when Trump stood with Putin in Helsinki and took the ex-KGB man’s word over US Intelligence and the GOP barely peeped in disapproval, but Republicans have already made their choice.

    There will be no “have you no sense of decency” moment in the coming weeks that will suddenly enlighten the GOP. The question, then, isn’t Country First or Trump First for the Republicans, but what will the Democrats and the majority of the Country do about the choice already made that will bring a reckoning to the GOP.

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  8. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Jen: The Senate isn’t in session right now, which limits their ability to push back. And yeah, from what I can tell, plenty of R Senators are angry about the Turkish/Kurds thing. One does wonder at what point they decide this is enough.

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  9. EddieInCA says:

    Too late.

    They’ve made the choice. It’s Trump.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2019/10/lindsey-graham-demands-gopers-sign-trump-loyalty-oath-because-impeachment-is-about-to-destroy-this-nation/

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday tried to derail the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump by asking Senate Republicans to sign a loyalty oath.

    “I’m going to ask my colleagues in the Senate — Republicans — to sign a letter saying we do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense,” Graham told Fox News.

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  10. Scott F. says:

    @gVOR08:
    My wife asked me the other day how these GOP politicians can sleep at night. I know the trouble I have getting through the night when I’ve gone against my principles in even modest ways, so what is it taking for these politicians (who look in the mirror and see a person of integrity) to live with themselves. I hope they are haunted, but I’m pretty sure they aren’t.

    I think you are right that they have decided that their actions now are in the Country’s best interests. They’ve fully bought into the 30+ year social project establishing that there is a war for the soul of the nation going on and the Left & the Democrats are the mortal enemy. They know Trump is repugnant and corrupt, but “war is hell” and sometimes choices must be made when the cause is just and true. The mental gymnastics required to hold to this delusion are complicated and hard to maintain, but easier to bear than facing that the idea that maybe their last 30 years were spent in service of a fallacy.

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  11. Scott F. says:

    @EddieInCA:
    There you go making my point. Graham, who was joined at the hip with John “Country First” McCain for decades, is now on record saying the threat to the nation isn’t the corrupt President but the co-equal branch of government that tries to hold that President to account.

    There are no words.

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  12. Pylon says:

    @EddieInCA: “I’m going to ask my colleagues in the Senate — Republicans — to sign a letter saying we do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense,” Graham told Fox News.

    I think the strategy here is to have the Senate preempt the House by saying impeachment is a waste of time because Trump will be acquitted. It’s not a dumb one and may be all they really have. But my response would be “so you’ve prejudged the issue, eh?”.

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  13. Scott says:

    I follow my two senators (Cornyn and Cruz) and representative (Chip Roy) on Twitter. That is really my only gauge on their thinking about this constitutional crisis (Yes, I believe we are in the beginnings of a serious crisis). Cornyn is full into what I’ve called the “Trump over Party over Country” camp. Cruz and Roy have been pretty quiet about this even as they opine on a lot of other subjects. At this point, I’m just watching and listening but I’m not optimistic that any of them will do the right thing.

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  14. EddieInCA says:

    @Scott F.:

    There is a great video circulating today of Lindsey Graham speaking on the House floor during Bill Clintons impeachment. The video is actually quite stunning to watch because he is saying, and I am paraphrasing, “the fact that the White House is not replying to our request for documents is in fact an impeachable offense and is what was one of the counts against Richard Nixon.“

    I expect some younger Democratic strategist is cutting together the ads right now. They write themselves.

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  15. Scott F. says:

    @EddieInCA:
    Graham is the poster child for the Kool-aid drinkers. You’ve got his record during the Clinton impeachment, his public bro-love with McCain, him calling Trump a nut job during the 2016 primaries, and a lot of public commentary going back decades, yet whenever he’s called on any of the glaring contradictions, he is at the ready with some version of “But the Democrats would be horrible for the [insert foreign policy, military, taxes, etc.] of the USA!” His vein popping display on behalf of the honor of a credibly accused Kavanaugh showed just how fervently he holds this twisted belief that the Republicans are all that stand athwart national ruin at the hands of the enemy that is Democrats.

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  16. Richard M. says:

    They have convinced themselves they are in a holy war. Which isn’t hard for people practiced in the mental gymnastics required to also believe their deity always agrees with them through their self-contradictions, flip-flops, and inconsistently applied “principles”. The scary part is, if they continue down this path, at some point the rest of us will have no choice but to agree that we are in fact involved in a holy war and act accordingly, or surrender our liberty.

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  17. al Ameda says:

    @gVOR08:

    I’ve seen lately several columns arguing that Rs are sticking with Trump not only out of fear of the base, but because Trump is giving them what they want. They got tax cuts for the wealthy. There are articles today showing that billionaires now pay a lower effective tax rate than the middle class. They’re getting appointees who are gutting regulation, and judges who are predisposed against regulation. And those same judges are also predisposed against reproductive rights.

    Exactly right.
    This is an entirely transactional proposition for most Republicans. They know he a malevolent and vindictive grease ball, but clearly, amidst the chaos and dysfunction he is clearly delivering on all of those things you enumerated above. You can add in a bit of fear to the mix too – some Republicans fear that they will get ‘primary’d’ out if they don’t go along.

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  18. Kari Q says:

    Why do reasonably intelligent people keep saying this kind of thing? “Party or country” as if it’s an open question and it’s possible that they will choose to do what is right? The choice is made. The only question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.

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  19. Gustopher says:

    In 2008, John McCain ran his General Election campaign on the slogan “Country First.” While one can certainly say that McCain was far from a perfect candidate, Senator, or person, one can certainly say that this is an idea that he took seriously.

    If you have to say it, I question whether you really mean it.

    McCain did pick Sarah Palin as his VP, and she started the whole Real America shit.

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  20. An Interested Party says:

    Can you imagine any Republican in a leadership position saying their party would do what may be perceived as an unpopular action even if it loses them a majority, like Pelosi said about impeachment? Just as we know that even the deaths of white middle class children will do nothing to move the dial on gun control, we also know that having a president agreeing with a hostile foreign leader (ex-KGB at that!) over our own intelligence agencies isn’t enough to turn these pathetic spineless whores who only seem to worry about staying in power, no matter what the cost…

    @EddieInCA: Indeed…that and the loyalty oath thing will be great fodder for some juicy ads for Democratic challengers to Republican senators next year…it’ll be really nice if Graham’s spinelessness helps to turn the Senate over to the Democrats…

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  21. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Trumps GOP wall… it’s starting to crack.

    Between the abandonment of the Kurds (who are Christians, so the evangelicals are agog) and saying that he will not respond to Congressional subpoenas (which many Republicans are on record saying that Nixon and then Clinton MUST honor congressional subpoenas, or subject to impeachment by default)… it is beginning to unravel.

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  22. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on Wednesday tried to derail the possible impeachment of President Donald Trump by asking Senate Republicans to sign a loyalty oath.
    “I’m going to ask my colleagues in the Senate — Republicans — to sign a letter saying we do not believe the transcript of the phone call between the president and the Ukraine is an impeachable offense,” Graham told Fox News.

    Oddly, not to be confused with Lindsay Graham in 1998:

    “The day Richard Nixon failed to answer that subpoena is the day he was subject to impeachment because he took the power from Congress over the impeachment process away from Congress, and he became the judge and jury,” Graham said two decades ago.

    With lots of video goodness

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  23. Turgid Jacobian says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Every year as I do or lead my ethics training course I reflect on it, and attempt to refract all the scenarios through that prism.

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  24. mike shupp says:

    Trump or country? I don’t want to suggest this is actually my own belief, but I can see a THIRD choice. First, there’s Donald Trump, who’s just this guy, a political leader one can admire or despise or whatever for better or worse. Then there’s the USA, as it is of 2019 or so, with a Constitution and two political parties and a body of law and the rest of the whole 9 yards — that’s the second, the legal or political nation. And then there’s the notion of the nation as sort of a spiritual or communitarian community — all that history and the wars we fought to get here and our idealism and our past openness to immigrants and all those small towns sprinkled over the vast countryside and America as a shining city on a hilltop and kids looking for Easter eggs on the White House lawn and Norman Rockwell paintings and …. and so much on. A place which endures, and goes on endlessly, unchanged in soul and form even as leaders and laws come and go.

    I think it’s possible to be “conservative” and decide “It’s the third choice I love, the real America of real people, which lives and breathes and deserves my love, not the second choice, which is dry and arid and ceaselessly shifting like a house made of reeds, in which no one can live comfortably. And the only way I can see to reach that third choice is to set aside the second and the narrow famished souls who wish to dwell there, so I have to embrace Donald Trump, who may be personally detestable, but who nevertheless stands in the path of those who advocate liberalism. Truly, there is no other choice, so I have no other choice.”

    As I said, it’s not my opinion. But.

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