Even before President Trump left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with a deadly communicable disease on Monday, Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), who is on the ballot in November, issued a rare Republican rebuke of the president.

“I think he let his guard down, and I think in his desire to try to demonstrate that we are somehow coming out of this and that the danger is not still with us — I think he got out over his skis and frankly, I think it’s a lesson to all of us that we need to exercise self-discipline,” Cornyn told the Houston Chronicle. He rejected Trump’s notion that we have this under control, insisting, “I think the biggest mistake people make in public life is not telling the truth, particularly in something with as much public interest as here because you know the real story is going to come out.” For good measure, the senator added: “It is not easy to try to get things done working with him or the White House.”

Considering that Cornyn has been relatively mum on Trump until now, his remarks suggest that clinging to Trump is now bad politics in Texas, of all places. Cornyn’s Democratic opponent, MJ Hegar, should press Cornyn further: Why then is the Senate pushing forward with confirmation hearings that will endanger others? Why did you wait until 209,000 Americans had died to say something? Are you suggesting that Trump is unfit to serve and has been lying to us?

The briefings on President Trump's health are a deliberate exercise in obfuscation, says physician and Post contributing columnist Leana S. Wen. (The Washington Post)

Indeed, every Republican senator on the ballot (e.g., Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Steve Daines of Montana, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Thom Tillis of North Carolina) needs to be held accountable for their unwavering defense of Trump and for their complicity in Trump’s failure to recognize that asymptomatic people — even those who test negative — can spread the virus. If senators were under the same misconception, then they have not been listening to experts and have been grossly negligent; if they did grasp this, they have put Americans at risk by remaining quiet as Trump flouted basic health and safety guidelines.

Republican senators need to answer a bunch of questions:

  • Do they approve of the president leaving Walter Reed and returning to the White House when he could infect others? Do they approve of his message that covid-19 is no big deal?
  • Did they publicly or privately object to Trump’s unmasked rallies?
  • Did they object to the White House’s covid-19 protocols, which have resulted in a proliferation of infections?
  • Why did they not immediately castigate Trump’s aversion to wearing a mask?
  • Do they approve of the president’s conduct in putting Secret Service agents at risk by ordering a campaign publicity stunt in which he was driven around Walter Reed hospital to greet supporters?
  • Why has the Senate not insisted on testing and not made masks mandatory?
  • If you have attended Republican Senate lunches with members who later tested positive, did you self-isolate? Did you alert others with whom you have come in close contact?
  • Why did you not object when Trump began heckling governors to reopen their economies earlier when the virus was not under control?

Virtually all Republican senators, either overtly or by their silence, have enabled Trump’s reckless conduct. They must explain their actions and be held accountable for their personal behavior. Morally, they are no better than Trump if they chose not to restrain dangerous conduct or to warn others. As such, they deserve to be booted out of office.

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