The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Trump’s invitation to the Taliban was disgraceful. So was Republican silence about it.

President Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn on Sept. 1. (Tom Brenner/Getty Images)

You really do have to ask: “What would Republicans have done if President Barack Obama had invited the Taliban to Camp David days before the 18th anniversary of 9/11?” They would have denounced him, called him a traitor and declared that he had disgraced the war dead and nearly 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11. They’d have suggested he was mentally unfit for office. But, of course, Obama would never have done something so stomach-turning, not to mention so counterproductive, as to elevate the Taliban to the same level as the president of the United States.

Nevertheless, when President Trump revealed he did precisely that, we heard no words of condemnation from Republican hawks such as Sens. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) or Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who out of sheer cowardice refuse to denounce the move or to insist the invitation never be extended again. Only fear of the Trump base and blinding political ambition for a future run for higher office can explain the gobsmacking political spinelessness of Trump’s Republican enablers.

To her credit, at least Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) tweeted:

That does not explain, however, how she could support the reelection of such a dangerously clueless president, who might very well try this stunt again. Cheney need not support a Democrat, but how in the world could she back this president over, for example, his newest Republican primary challenger, former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford?

The State Department is about to capitulate to the Taliban, al-Qaeda’s longtime ally, in order to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, argues Rep. Liz Cheney. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Rafiq Maqbool/AP Photo and Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

And beyond that, why would national security adviser John Bolton, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and all the other national security officials continue to rationalize and serve a president who’d pull something like this? Even if you do not work on terrorism issues, it’s a mystery how any self-respecting patriot in the national security arena could lend his name and reputation to an administration that seeks a photo op with the Taliban.

Then again, the entire Trumpized Republican Party has countenanced Trump’s siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over our intelligence community on the subject of election interference; his lovefest with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un; and his refusal to hold Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the brutal murder of Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Once Republicans have crossed all those bridges — and ignored 12,000-plus lies and replete evidence of obstruction of justice — they aren’t going to quit over any principle. Indeed, their only principle is to stay in the good graces of a president so lacking in common sense and decency that he’d extend hospitality to those who harbored the murderers of thousands of our fellow Americans.

Here the Democrats running for president really need to step up. They need to tell the American people something like this: Trump’s attempt at personal diplomacy is the last, and most horrid, example of his narcissism serving the interests of our worst enemies. Democrats should explain that while a negotiated settlement of the war in Afghanistan — or an end to North Korea’s missile program or any other conflict — is ideal, having the president extend his stature to enemies with no preordained outcome only enhances our enemies and diminishes our own leverage. If the only issue were Trump’s humiliation, we frankly wouldn’t care. But in behaving as he does, he humiliates the United States, encourages bad actors to challenge the United States and actually makes it harder to achieve international agreements. He is not informed, stable nor of sufficient character to be our commander in chief. Congress and his Cabinet need to work together to disable the biggest national security risk, namely Trump.

Trump can hug the flag all he likes, but it doesn’t make up for spitting on the graves of 2,996 people killed on 9/11 and nearly 2,400 American men and women who died in the war in Afghanistan. The party that enables and cheers him on has no business holding power.

Read more:

Max Boot: Trump proves he’s a better dealbreaker than dealmaker — this time, with the Taliban

The Post’s View: Trump risks turning a chance for success in Afghanistan into a shameful failure

Lindsey Graham and Jack Keane: We can’t outsource our security to anyone — especially the Taliban

Liz Cheney: How to lose a war, but not end it

David Ignatius: Lindsey Graham wants to create a backstop for Afghanistan