I'm going to let you all in on a big political secret: Sen. Bob Corker is a coward. He is ambitious, and he is a coward, and that is really all you need to know because those two attributes are the cornerstones of many a past and present political career. (It’s also the cornerstone of many a fawning press story; being an opportunistic coward will even get you branded a maverick, if you alternate the tough talk with the spineless action on a regular enough basis. The resulting electrical current can power an entire career.)
It’s the same pattern displayed by Very Principled Cowards throughout our political history; Sen. Bob Corker’s supposed opposition to the flagrant incompetence and anti-democratic instincts of Donald Trump flames bright and camera-ready—up until the moment when it might begin to personally cost Bob Corker something, at which point Bob Corker calls his own bluff and folds.
Here, let's work through this CNN story backwards so we can get to the punchline first.
Since then, however, Corker has dialed back the rhetoric and has made a clear effort to avoid provoking Trump. After Trump's stunning tweet last week saying that his nuclear "button" was bigger than Kim Jong Un's, Corker refused to join in on the criticism.
Asked by reporters if he had concerns about Trump raising the specter of nuclear war with North Korea, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman would only say: "I've been too busy to comment on that."
The "since then" refers to every past statement Bob Corker has ever made critical of Donald Trump, from his bold stance that a sitting president shouldn't be standing up for flag-waving Nazis in America's streets to Corker's repeated public concerns over Trump's very capacity for the job:
Corker shot back, tweeting that the White House had become an "adult day care center" and later told The New York Times that Trump's recklessness could cause "World War III."
"I don't know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard, and debases our country in a way that he does, but he does," Corker told CNN in October.
So Trump's reckless and childish tantrums could cause World War III but Bob Corker is no longer going to weigh in on those very tantrums when Trump boasts about the size of what he happily calls his Button, because Bob Corker needs Donald to, posits the CNN story, help make "bipartisan" "legislative" "fixes" to a nuclear deal on the other side of the globe, with Iran.
This is garbage, of course. Donald Trump has no capacity to roll anything through Congress; Donald Trump has demonstrated an inability to articulate even the most fundamental contents of past bills presented to him, and has hovered between irrelevancy and accidental acts of blundering sabotage when his party crafts each one. Bob Corker could offer a "bipartisan" "fix" of the Iran nuclear deal far more effectively with the support of his fellow lawmakers than with the nation-debasing denizen of the adult day care center, whose sole contribution to the effort will be tweeting angry burbles that have little to nothing to do with the actual reality of the "fixes."
Nonetheless, we have an entire CNN piece premised on the notion that Sen. Bob Corker is intentionally dodging whether or not the nation's commander in chief is an incompetent, destructive, nation-threatening moron—at a time when a new tell-all book has energized the first town-wide discussion on that very topic—in order for Sen. Bob Corker to pursue his own desired ends, and this is somehow not presented as Sen. Bob Corker being an obvious and transparent sell-out willing to endanger the nation just a wee bit more if he can squeeze out a bit of juice for Bob Corker's own lemonade stand. Even though there's no juice to be had there, and it's all a fiction to begin with.
Bob Corker is not looking to Donald Trump to help craft "bipartisan" fixes to the Iran nuclear deal. The very premise is stupid. Bob Corker could not possibly believe Trump has the capacity to craft a "bipartisan" anything at this point, or believe that Trump could contribute anything but a signature, or believe that "bipartisan" Democrats would be more willing to help Bob Corker tweak an Iranian deal with Donald Manchild Trump's blustering help than without it. Nobody could, after months of witnessing Donald Trump’s own actions, credibly even think such a thing.
If Sen. Bob Corker is now ignoring what he himself has plainly said on multiple occasions—that the sitting president's behavior is both debasing and dangerous—we can all have a lovely debate on whether Bob Corker has some personal legislative wish list that he believes is worth propping up an unfit president or is only doing it because, like others among his peers, he lacks the personal courage to commit himself to the obvious next step when presented with an unfit and dangerous leader.
But either choice reeks of cowardice. The plain truth of it is that Bob Corker was willing to "stand up" to an unfit leader until the moment it began to cost something, and then Bob Corker zipped his mouth back up and went along for the ride. All the rest of it is just decoration.