Ezra Klein and David Frum believe that Republicans in Congress are overwhelmed by paralysis and cowardice in the face of a dangerous Donald Trump presidency, and that they'll regret their failure to act as a check on Trump.
Frum addresses the following to a "run-of-the-mill senator":
If you keep quiet today, you are putting yourself in jeopardy. Events are about to start moving very fast, and if you miss this moment, you will find yourself carried along by those events to places where it is not healthy for you to travel.
Here’s your problem, senator: The Trump political and legal strategy is about to get very radical.
... Trump is likely to adopt a self-defense based on huge assertions of arbitrary power. “A president cannot obstruct justice through the exercise of his constitutional and discretionary authority over executive-branch officials like Mr. Comey.” Those words appeared in a Wall Street Journal op-ed posted Sunday afternoon by two well-known Republican lawyers. They are about to become the official White House position—and when they do, you’ll find yourself with little maneuvering room to prevent them from becoming your position as well. You will have to haul that position along with you into the 2018 elections, or (even more dangerously) the elections in 2020 or 2022, by which time even more of this scandal will have come to light.
The argument made by the authors of that Wall Street Journal op-ed is summed up by Jonathan Chait this way:
They argue that the president can order any prosecutor or law-enforcement official to halt any investigation or criminal proceeding. What if the president hired some goons to break into and bug the opposing party’s headquarters? He could order the Department of Justice and FBI not to investigate and fire them if they did. What if he hired some goons to beat up or kill reporters or the opposing party? Same answer. The president, they argue, has unlimited right to protect himself and his allies from law enforcement as he sees fit.
Frum asks: Are Republicans in Congress prepared to yoke themselves to this idea?
My response is: Hey, why not? Why should any congressional Republican be concerned about "haul[ing] that position" into upcoming election cycles? How many voters do you think there are who've pulled levers for Republicans in the past but won't do so in response to this abuse of power? How many will even see it as an abuse? How many regarded it as abuse of power when the George W. Bush administration defended torture and indefinite detention using the unitary executive theory?
Ezra Klein writes that Republicans know how dangerous Trump is:
In back rooms and background briefings, they are more caustic and despairing even than liberals; they are not ignorant of the threat Trump represents, nor of the dangers his impulsiveness poses.
In response, Klein tells us, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell
could have endorsed one of the bipartisan bills to ensure Trump can’t fire Mueller to end the investigation.
Such a move would allow self-preservation as well as courage — if Trump does fire Mueller, it will cause a political crisis on a scale not seen since Watergate, and that will be far more of a distraction from tax reform. But ... congressional Republicans have lost sight that they, too, have an interest in the political system’s fundamental stability, and in telegraphing what behavior will and will not be acceptable from the president.
Again, why would an elected Republican care about "the political system’s fundamental stability"? As long as the system is stable enough to reliably elect Republicans, why should we expect them to express concern?
Klein talks to members of Congress; I don't. But I don't buy the notion that congressional Republicans are worried about the stability of the Republic. They don't want Trump to start a nuclear war, and they'd like him to offer some constructive help as they try to pass more tax cuts -- I'm certain that's most of what they're concerned about. Oh, and he should stop tweeting, and maybe suck up to Putin a little less.
If Trump fires Mueller, asserting that the president can do whatever he wants with regard to a law enforcement official, we won't have a "political crisis" as long as Republicans refuse to acknowledge that there is one. Therefore, they'll just remain silent and wait for the moment to pass. The corrosive effect on America won't concern them, because how does it hurt them? How does it hurt their voters? How does it hurt their donors?
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog