Today, Republicans face an ethical dilemma as they weigh their political futures, legacies and allegiance to a president who holds them captive under the threat of recourse if they are disloyal to him.
I know politicians in both parties can simply be on the wrong side of history. They’re only human. But, these are people of power, and sometimes their opinions and actions are contemptible and we are morally justified in rebuking them, demanding change or removing them from power. History records what can happen when we don’t. Here are two examples.
The secretary of state is the president’s principal foreign policy adviser and he or she is considered our “minister of foreign affairs.”
President Johnson approved Secretary of State Robert McNamara’s report that misled Congress, by informing them there had been an attack on two Naval destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin, knowing there was conflicting, dubious information regarding the incident.
Before the truth became known, Congress was stampeded into signing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave the president the authority to effectively launch America’s full-scale involvement in the Vietnam War.
In his memoirs McNamara said he regretted the decisions he made “in the fog of war by telling the president what he wanted to hear.”
Similarly, during the Bush administration Secretary of State Colin Powell knowingly lied to the U.N. using fabricated evidence that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction” that led America and coalition forces to justify invading Iraq. Today he says, “It’s a blot on my record that I will regret the rest of my life.”
Representatives from both parties have at times felt obligated to intentionally misrepresent facts or lie to defend a president’s domestic and foreign policies. McNamara and Powell came to regret the tragic roles they played in their allegiance to Presidents Johnson and Bush that resulted in so many going to war to fight and die.
Ironically, Powell now tells Republicans “to get a grip on fear of standing up to Trump.” He continued, “The Constitution starts with We the People, not Me the President.”
However, most Republicans are taking their cues from Sens. Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham, who are using pretzel logic to rebuke charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in Trump’s ongoing impeachment inquiry – the same charges used to impeach President Clinton. Is it any wonder that politics is called the proverbial benchmark of hypocrisy?
A politician’s allegiance should be to the country, not in some misplaced loyalty to Trump. If enough testimony during Trump’s impeachment inquiry corroborates charges that he has betrayed his oath of office, impeachment is justified. In that case, hopefully, he will step down and spare the nation that spectacle.
The verdict on Trump’s presidency by historians will not likely be kind. Even if he survives impeachment, he will be remembered as the most incompetent president in American history. Blind obedience to Trump does violence to common sense. America deserves better.
“Tinker” Paul Silver,