There are some Republicans who are less effective than others in disguising their moral cowardice and partisan blindness. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is among the worst.

Three times in a row [Tuesday], Sen. Joni Ernst dodged questions about whether it’s appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate a political rival.
After a round of questions from a CNN reporter looking for a “yes” or “no” answer from Ernst, the senator walked away and talked with a few Iowans who happened to be on scene.
“I’m going to pay attention to the Iowans here,” Ernst said, before the CNN video cut off.

It was a bad moment but not the only one. “Ernst’s first response to the reporter’s question was: ‘I think we are going to have to go back, just as I said last week, we’ll have to wait. All that information is going to have to go to Senate Intelligence,’” the report continues. “Ernst was regurgitating a talking point she used last week during a town hall in Templeton, Iowa. There, Ernst used the same line while talking to an audience member, and again while taking questions from reporters.”

Ernst should continue to be asked the same question at every meet-and-greet, town hall, interview and debate between now and Election Day 2020. She has chosen the worst possible position: refusing to tell voters what she thinks on a position as basic as whether foreign governments should be summoned to help Americans win elections that are supposed to be decided by Americans.

Like all U.S. senators and members of the National Guard (in which she attained the rank of lieutenant colonel), Ernst took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States "against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” It is bad enough that she cannot discern that corrupting U.S. elections violates her oath; it is inexcusable that she lacks the courage to tell voters what she actually thinks.

The conversations are painful to watch:

The reporter cut in and asked Ernst why she wouldn’t answer the question.
“Are you concerned about retribution?” the reporter asked.
“No, I am not,” Ernst said. “What I am saying, though, is that we have a picture that’s painted by media and we don’t know what’s accurate or not, so what I would rely on is the information that’s coming forward both through the whistleblower report through any complaint that has been given and through the transcript, all of that will go through Senate Intelligence. They will sort through that in a bipartisan fashion without media interdiction, they will go through that … ”
The reporter then said: “We are not asking you to rule on it, we’re just asking you if the ask itself is appropriate?”
At that point Ernst said, “Let’s move on,” turned around, and walked away from the reporter. She started greeting Iowans gathered at the scene while the reporter continued to ask her questions.

Ernst ran for Senate as an independent outsider ready to “make 'em squeal” as she said in her viral ad touting her experience castrating pigs on the farm. Instead, she has been a reliable rubber stamp for Trump (voting to support his positions more than 91 percent of the time), refusing to stand up to his “emergency declaration,” voting against a bill to bar arms sales to the Saudis (in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the mass killing of civilians in Yemen), declining to oppose the administration’s move to lift sanctions on three Russian companies and confirming one unqualified, ethically challenged and extreme nominee after another. Despite the plight of Iowa’s farmers, she has been tentative in her comments on tariffs. She demonstrates that her fear of Trump outweighs any fear of the economic damage done to her state.

Ernst is symptomatic of the Republicans who have capitulated time and again to Trump, even when the stakes are extremely high. Her cowardice in refusing even to reveal her position on a fundamental constitutional matter suggests she sees herself as a minion of the president, not as the state’s voice. She is one of many invisible enablers of Trump, one who has abandoned her role as a member of an equal branch of government. She is not the worst of Trump’s apologists, but precisely because she in all likelihood knows better, her failure to put country and principle above partisan loyalty and desperation for reelection reminds us that the entire GOP has lost its will and its conscience at the altar of Trump. Iowans should hold her accountable in 2020.

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