Rubio, he writes, “bases his vision in Catholic social teaching” and champions “common-good capitalism.” Hawley is a populist whose “core belief is that middle-class Americans have been betrayed by elites on every level.” Cotton is an uber-hawk on everything from China to Big Tech. Sasse “is a Tocquevillian localist” who thinks that government’s job “is to ‘create a framework of ordered liberty’ so that people can make their family and neighborhood the center of their lives.”
Brooks’s column accurately reflects what these senators are saying. But, I’m sorry, I can’t take any of their high-minded blather seriously. Not when they have spent the past four years acting as enablers for the worst president in U.S. history — or at least the worst in the past 151 years. Trump’s malign presidency has not only left 16.3 million unemployed and at least 159,000 dead. The wreckage he leaves behind also includes the smoking ruins of conservative ideology.
What, exactly, is conservative about ruling by executive action and ignoring the legislative branch on taxation and spending? That is what Trump did by taking money from the defense budget to build a border wall and what he is now doing to provide relief to the unemployed.
What is conservative about misusing the presidency for personal gain? That is what Trump has done by trying to blackmail Ukraine into helping his campaign, reportedly telling a U.S. ambassador to pressure the British government to hold the British Open at a Trump resort, ignoring the intelligence community’s warnings about Russian election interference, and countless other acts of pathological selfishness.
What is conservative about undermining alliances and trade relationships that have taken decades to build? That is what Trump has done by leaving the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accords, imposing tariffs on countries such as Canada, announcing the withdrawal of nearly 12,000 troops from Germany, and leaving the Syrian Kurds in the lurch — while constantly bad-mouthing our friends as freeloaders and ingrates.
What is conservative about punishing patriotic truth-tellers such as Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman while pardoning alleged war criminals, insulting veterans and appointing a racist conspiracy-monger to a senior position at the Defense Department?
What is conservative about spreading insane conspiracy theories such as accusing a TV host of murder or a previous president of not being born in America?
What is conservative about ignoring the scientific consensus on global warming and covid-19 — two of the most pressing threats we face?
I could go on, but you get the idea: Trump’s entire presidency has been an affront to what conservatives used to think their movement was all about. And yet at every step of the way, Rubio, Hawley, Cotton and Sasse have been Trump’s willing accomplices. Not one of the four voted to impeach Trump or even to call witnesses so as to have a proper impeachment trial. They have praised Trump a good deal and criticized him obliquely and infrequently. (Sasse is becoming a little more critical now that he’s won his Senate primary.) They have failed to use their tremendous power to rein in a disgraceful and destructive president. They have thus become as guilty as Trump of crimes against the Constitution.
I cannot take seriously anything Rubio, Hawley, Cotton and Sasse have to say about the future of the Republican Party because they have shown that, like Trump, they are in office to serve themselves rather than the American people. If they are the leaders who will define the future of the Republican Party, the party doesn’t deserve to have a future.
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