Donald Trump is causing a lot of suffering for Republican senators, the poor dears. They are “lost and adrift,” The Washington Post’s Robert Costa and Philip Rucker write in the first of a series of rhetorical flourishes the likes of which you don’t usually find in news reporting. There are, they report, senators “who are dreading having to weigh their conscience against their political calculations”—and if Senate Republicans are thinking about their consciences even a little, you know things are serious.
There’s more. “In hushed conversations over the past week, GOP senators lamented that the fast-expanding probe is fraying their party, which remains completely in Trump’s grip.” Apparently these Republican senators are helpless to do anything about their party remaining completely in Trump’s grip, go figure. But their angst … their angst is oh so real. “It feels like a horror movie,” an anonymous “veteran Republican senator” told the Post reporters.
”There’s frustration. It feels to everyone like they’re just digging a hole and making it worse. It just never ends. . . . It’s a total [expletive] show,” according to a “Republican strategist who has been advising a number of top senators.” And yet they keep digging!
Many of the Republican senators willing to go on the record fall back on the “I’m a juror” form of not commenting—not that that stopped most of them from signing on to Sen. Lindsey Graham’s resolution attacking the House impeachment inquiry as illegitimate. But “I’m a juror so I cannot comment on this illegitimate inquiry” is probably about as coherent as Republicans get these days. And no wonder they don’t want to say much. As another Republican strategist said, “What’s causing the most pause is, what else is out there? What is around the corner? If they say something in defense of the president or against the impeachment inquiry now, will they be pouring cement around their ankles?”
So: Republicans are feeling dread like they’re in a horror movie. They fear that anything they say to defend Trump will come back to bite them because it’ll turn out to play right into some other terrible thing Trump did. But they’re standing by him and keeping their grumbling anonymous, because their party—over which they as some of its highest elected representatives are powerless—is in Trump’s grip, and their party is their top priority. That all sounds about right. It’s also completely damning.