President John F. Kennedy and his assassination have been in the news this past week since President Donald Trump decided to allow the release of documents related to that horrific event nearly 54 years ago.
Like so many Americans, I too have been thinking about JFK. And I am reminded of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book he co-wrote as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts in 1955. It was called “Profiles in Courage.”
And I am thinking that we could use a few of those profiles right about now.
It is no surprise that Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker announced his retirement from the Senate recently. Nor is it the least bit shocking that Arizona’s GOP junior senator, Jeff Flake, announced last week that he, too, would retire at the end of his term in early 2019.
It will be a surprise, however, if there aren’t more casualties in the Republican elected class as both President Donald Trump and his Svengali, Steve Bannon, do their best to rid the GOP of the infidels! Can you spell Nevada?
By the way, in this world “political infidels” would be elected officials who believe in sane immigration reform as opposed to the insanity of deporting multiples of millions of people whose only real crime has been to live here, work here and pay taxes here. That would also include Republicans who believe that the world works better when people across the globe trade with one another in open and free markets, knowing full well that the reality is something less than perfect. Throw in a health insurance reform plan that doesn’t throw millions of the most needy Americans back onto the street and into the emergency rooms of the nation’s hospitals and you get the picture of what an “infidel” looks and thinks like.
We also used to include in the Republican Party people who believed in smaller government, in governments that tax and spend less and balance budgets, and in governments that infringe less on individual rights and freedoms, including the freedom to be left alone in our bedrooms and medical examination rooms. But, those Republicans disappeared years ago. It appears those few who still remain in what was the middle of Republican political thought are being chased out too.
It is imperative that Team Trump rid the ranks of all Republicans who don’t think, act and vote as their president requires. And, in that quest, there is no shortage of Americans who will blindly swing the political ax at the polling booth to make sure that happens.
To avoid the messy losses come Election Day — it is called being primaried from the far right — these “moderate Republicans” are opting out. They are leaving the field of political battle and the unhealthy discourse to others.
OK, that would be fine I suppose in another world. But in Trump’s world, when the people who profess a modicum of sanity are forced out of the asylum, that leaves the certifiable ones in charge.
Now, I don’t agree on an awful lot of social issues with Sens. Corker and Flake — foreign policy is a different matter — but I have never questioned their sanity, their patriotism or their sense of decency.
I am not even questioning their timing in their condemnation of the president and his ability to lead with clarity and consistency.
I will leave it to everyone else to opine on what it takes to grow a spine in this country when it comes to being critical of the leader of the free world. Is it simply a matter of not having to run for re-election that allows these guys to speak their minds?
I would rather look for courage in those who are not “getting out” of Harry Truman’s kitchen. Why are they still silent when it is abundantly clear from private conversations that there are very few members of the U.S. Senate who would swear to the mental balance of the president, not to mention a stable and consistent ability to lead? At the very least, there are scant few who would suggest our country is better off and safer because Trump is in the White House and overwhelming numbers of elected officials who will swear in private that we are not!
Bluster is not bravery. Rationalizing a re-election imperative that keeps one’s mouth shut in the midst of turmoil and uncertainty is not a profile in courage. Rather, it is a sellout of the oath they have taken to protect and defend the United States.
Where are the Republicans in the Senate who are coming to the defense of a Gold Star widow who was the victim of Trump’s wrath? Clearly there are more people offended than just a couple of senators who aren’t running for re-election and John McCain, who refuses to run from a bully.
Where are the Republican senators who will speak up for the middle class residents of this country who are about to be shafted by a tax cut directed by and for the wealthiest Americans?
Where are the GOP senators who see war in the balance of Trump’s tweets and North Korea’s fearful farce of a leader?
And where is that one courageous senator — who hasn’t announced his or her retirement — who will stand alongside a Sen. McCain who fights daily for the dignity of the Senate that once was?
It is not a profile in courage to speak the truth when there is nothing to lose.
It is an American tradition to risk it all in defense of the truth and in defense of our country and the ideals for which it stands. What happened to that tradition? What happened to America’s heroes?
And that reminds me of another Republican effort in the 1950s designed to investigate Sen. Joe McCarthy, whose destruction of American lives and reputations was a scourge on this nation.
An exasperated chief counsel for the U.S. Army, Joseph Welch, grew so frustrated that he asked the simple yet history-changing question of Tailgunner Joe:
“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”
We can ask a similar question today, both to the courageless GOP senators who refuse to speak the truth and to the American people, so many of whom condone and encourage President Trump’s destructive course.
Where is our sense of American decency?
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.