Terrible, Terrible, Terrible

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December 14, 2019 8:00 p.m.

This evening I turned on MSNBC and watched Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland express deep concern about whether his Republican colleagues were going to keep an open mind as jurors in the Senate trial of the President. At one point he went as far as to say that Mitch McConnell had “raise[d] serious questions whether he will be objective in carrying out the responsibilities of the Senate or whether he’s going to try to stack the deck in favor of the president.”

My point here is not to pick on Ben Cardin. This is one example of rhetoric you can hear from many Democrats and most Senate Democrats. It’s just the example that is ready at hand. But it is terrible and completely pathetic.

It is grievously irresponsible to be expressing “concerns” that Republicans may not do their job and uphold their responsibility as Senators. Republicans have made crystal clear that they understand the nature of the President’s abuses of power and that they will not only protect him from the consequences of his actions but, in an effort to do so, bend reality to pretend that it is in fact fine and even admirable for a President to use extortion to force a foreign power to intervene in a US election. To see Republicans do this in the open and not state that fact clearly is a total abdication of responsibility.

It’s like coaching a football team and not sending a wide receiver down field into an area the opposing team has for some reason decided not to cover. It’s like seeing an undefended flank in a battle and not exploiting it out of some misguided concept of fair play. But of course this isn’t a game at all. The constitutional order itself is entering a period of trial and danger.

Republicans have made their intentions crystal clear. It is an abdication of responsibility not to state this clearly. Republicans have already decided to protect a lawless President from constitutional accountability. They’ve betrayed the constitution and their oaths. This is a point to make consistently over and over and over again. Because it is true. If some Republican Senator decides to change his mind and the right thing they are welcome to do so.

Perhaps Cardin and others are too squeamish for that language or too wedded to Senate collegiality. I’m sure many Republican colleagues are amiable enough people when you meet them at the congressional gym. But language does not need to be hot to state clearly where the facts of the matter stand. There’s nothing to be “concerned” about. Senate Republicans have made very clear there is no level of lawless behavior from this President that they will not defend. The public needs to know that. It needs to be said over and over. To say anything else, to express hopes this or that doesn’t happen when it already has happened only signals a damaging, demoralizing and shameful weakness.

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