Many Americans view Donald Trump’s presidency as off to a rocky start. Yesterday’s Gallup’s daily poll showed Trump with a 43 percent approval rating, quite low for a president two weeks into the job. But one day, if courage overtakes ideology, historians may see Mr. Trump as having rescued America from political stagnation.
Last June, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan called Mr. Trump’s comments about federal judge Gonzalo Curiel, a Mexican-American born in Indiana, “racist.” Still, he supported, if nominally, the Trump candidacy. On January 31, however, Ryan acknowledged the ineptitude of the implementation of Trump’s immigration ban. But Ryan withheld comment on Trump’s recent statement that the U.S. murder rate was the highest in 45 years. FBI statistics show the murder rate just off its lowest point. Will Paul Ryan ever take a stand?
Last Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vehemently disagreed with Trump’s comparing the United States with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, as did Arizona senator John McCain. As to Trump’s calling federal Judge James Robart a “so-called judge” because Robart issued a stay of the “Muslim ban,” McConnell said, “I think it’s best not to single out judges for criticism.”
Yet two days ago, McConnell said of congressional Republicans, “I think there is a high level of satisfaction with the new administration. Our members are not obsessed with the daily tweets, but are looking at the results.” Note that McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, former labor secretary under George W. Bush, serves as Trump’s secretary of transportation. Will McConnell ever draw a line in the political sand?
Some Americans with conservative credentials have been more forthcoming. Michael Mullen, retired navy admiral and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, wrote in the New York Times about Trump’s adding Steve Bannon to the National Security Council: “Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the principals committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be candid, nonpartisan deliberation.”
John Yoo, White House legal counsel under Bush and a defender of torture, wrote in the Times: “Faced with President Trump’s executive orders suspending immigration from several Muslim nations and ordering the building of a border wall… even Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s most ardent proponent of executive power, would be worried by now.”
And last Wednesday, Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, called Trump’s remarks about Judge Robart “disheartening” and “demoralizing.”
Bernie Sanders sums up the situation: “I would hope that people like Sen. McConnell and other Republicans have the courage to stand up to Trump’s movement toward authoritarianism. We’re a democracy, not a one-man show… We’re not a business run by Mr. Trump.”
Whether Republicans (and in other situations, far-left Democrats) will put the nation above personal political concerns remains to be seen. But it’s not far-fetched to believe that Mr. Trump will, in a fit of pique or hubris, step over Constitutional boundaries. In response, Republicans and Democrats in Congress may feel compelled to reach across the aisle and demonstrate a renewed sense of common purpose.
Congress and all Americans have the power to put aside partisanship, listen to each other and embrace a truly United States of America. The willingness to exercise that power will determine the nation’s fate.
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