As with any of a thousand other stories about Republican lawmakers being willing to oppose Trump’s damaging statements and policies any minute now, this New York Times piece supposing lawmakers will maybe weigh in on the side of basic decency to limit the damage Trump can do to international relations during his many snits and tirades seems more hope-based than fact-based.
Republicans have been careful not to frame their foreign policy moves as a counterweight to the president, who has doled out insults to foreign leaders on Twitter, bailed out of international trade and climate accords and turned on Qatar, an important American ally, as a sponsor of terrorism.
But as the Republican efforts pile up, they are leaving a definite impression of advancing an anti-Trump foreign policy. Last week, after months of hand-wringing, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to strengthen sanctions against Russia. Senators also voted unanimously to affirm American support for the mutual defense doctrine articulated in Article 5 of the NATO charter.
So of the current international disasters-in-progress, lawmaking Republicans have weighed in on exactly one of them, and only after “months of hand-wringing,” but made a purely ceremonial display on another. If this is what passes for signs of courage, we are hard up, indeed.
Next week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will move after years of resistance to draft a new war authorization to fight the Islamic State, asserting more power over troop deployments as Mr. Trump publicly cedes that authority to the Pentagon.
Will they curtail his power to do so, or merely draft a new authorization to formalize the situation as it currently exists? The odds are heavily on the latter, aren’t they?
In the meantime, a number of senators have formed a kind of parallel operation to the State Department by visiting allies to assure them of America’s commitments.
Which has no particular power, but is merely a back-door effort to privately pair Trump’s insults and rebuffs and public questioning of U.S. international commitments with private and largely meaningless Republican apologies even as he continues to do it. This would seem to be evidence of Republican cowardice in the face of Trump more than evidence of Republicans moving to block Trump’s most damaging actions. If anything, it seems to be individual Republicans looking to shore up their own individual reputations in order to not unduly cut off what has often been a lucrative backup career of advising and lobbying for overseas friends.
And through all of this back-channel grousing by Senate Republicans, House Republicans are doing squat.
By all means, it would be glorious if actual Republican opposition to Trump’s many, many acts of bumbling lunacy suddenly started popping up. His budget was preposterous, his first international trip was widely described as a disaster, he’s staffed government positions with persons who are either incompetent or publicly opposed to the agencies they are now tasked with heading (or both), his profit-seeking business ties continue—but the majority of Republican lawmaker effort so far appears to have gone into defending each of those things. We’ve yet to see a House or Senate hearing about Russian intervention or potential Trump obstruction of justice in which the Republican contribution was not primarily outrage that these things have been “leaked” to the public to begin with. Efforts to yank Trump from holding government functions at his own corporate-owned locales, surely a no-brainer for those Republicans who have peacocked off their own campaign-trail commitment to government ethics and boundaries, have zero Republican support.
So why, exactly, are reporters so fixated on this notion that the Republicans who privately grouse to them about the White House’s erratic, incompetent, and dangerous behaviors will surely, sometime soon, make their break from the buffoon? How can you spend so much time covering the party’s descent into a vehicle that a race-baiting, misogynistic know-nothing could easily commandeer and still be forever waiting for a faction of mythical adults in the party to come patch everything back up?