We saw how incapable Trump enablers are of defending themselves on Sunday’s “This Week.” Journalist Roland Martin simply would not allow Trump ally and former New Jersey governor Chris Christie or Trump’s former Justice Department spokeswoman Sarah Isgur off the hook.
Christie gave a high-minded speech at the Reagan Library last week urging his party to step away from conspiracy theories. Fine. But does he imagine we have amnesia? He was a loyal Trump supporter who even helped prepare him for a presidential debate.
Martin weighed in:
MARTIN: And I appreciate the speech, Governor, but the reality is this.You have to admit, Sarah, you have to admit the role that you played in putting the person in leadership who is driving conspiracy theories. It's one thing to condemn them after the fact, but you have to own up to the role that you played in putting the person in power.The time ...ISGUR: We both ran campaigns against him.MARTIN: No, no, no, no, no.(LAUGHTER)(CROSSTALK)CHRISTIE: First off, I don't have to admit anything to you.MARTIN: Can I finish? Can I finish? Can I finish?CHRISTIE: First off, I don't have to admit anything to you.And, second, I ran against Donald Trump in 2016.YVETTE SIMPSON OF DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA: You also coached him for the debate, sir.(CROSSTALK)MARTIN: Here's the deal. You ran against him.But when a person has principles, morals and values, they do not support them even if you lose.(CROSSTALK)CHRISTIE: Well ...MARTIN: And what they say is -- and what they say is, I choose patriotism and the country over party and power.(CROSSTALK)MARTIN: And the problem was, too many Republicans chose power and riding with Donald Trump, as opposed to patriotism and America.CHRISTIE: I will sleep fine tonight with you judging my morals.MARTIN: Well, guess what?SIMPSON: It's not just him.MARTIN: As a voter who has 13 nieces and nephews, what I also want to see in America are Republicans and Democrats who have the guts to stand up to narcissists, to folks who lie, to folks who sit here and led a country in the wrong direction.And what that man has unleashed on this country, any Republican who stood with him has to own it and accept the role that they played.CHRISTIE: Yes. Well, that's fine.I will accept the role that I played in the 2016 election running against him. And I will accept the role ...MARTIN: But you helped him prepare for the debates.ANCHOR GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let him finish his point now. Let him finish his point.CHRISTIE: Excuse me.And I will accept the role that I played in my belief that Hillary Clinton was not the right person to be president. We all get to make choices, Roland, in this democracy. I made my choice. I'm on record of my choice. And I'm not walking away from my choice.But it does not preclude me from being able to be critical when the person that I did support does things that I am against. And so this false choice that you’re trying to set up ...MARTIN: It's not false.CHRISTIE: ... It’s a false choice, and one that the American people are not going to buy, either.MARTIN: It’s unleashed ...STEPHANOPOULOS: Roland, let me just press one other point.Right now, I would argue that the fact that so many Americans can't buy into simple facts is probably the biggest existential threat we face to our democracy.So, when somebody speaks up for that, isn't it something to be praised?MARTIN: Facts are critically important.But, again, when you support someone who said fake news, who when you were truthful, and then pushed that, then when you have the networks and the conservative radio talk shows, that whole echo chamber driving that, that's the problem.I am a native of Texas who is still registered there, and I'm dealing with Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick, who is consistently lying and making things up. And you're dealing with that.I'm dealing with people who are changing textbooks. And, as a...ISGUR: But do you think that you’re going to persuade people...MARTIN: Well, here's the deal.I have a very basic principle since I have been a journalist. If you do good, I will talk about you. If you do bad, I will talk about you.STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's...MARTIN: One second.(CROSSTALK)ISGUR: You think you're persuading other Americans right now?MARTIN: At the end of day, I will talk about you.And somebody has to say what others are afraid to say.STEPHANOPOULOS: Sarah, you get the last word.ISGUR: If you want to persuade the half the country that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 to move to your side, then you have got to stop villainizing them.You have got to stop having these conversations where everyone who is...MARTIN: I'm going to speak truth.ISGUR: ... not with you is against you.And when someone says that Donald Trump did something wrong, you may want to consider praising that and trying to use that to persuade the people who are not going to be persuaded by...(CROSSTALK)MARTIN: Too late. Too late.
Isgur thinks people won’t be “persuaded” by reminding them that she enabled arguably the most corrupt Justice Department in history. That tactical analysis is a wee bit self-serving and in any event non-responsive. She supported a president and party that attacked truth and democracy (and still does!) at every turn. (She was previously more forthcoming in an op-ed for The Post, admitting, “We told ourselves that, by going [into the administration], we were preventing greater harm to the country. But we obscured the reality of a Trump presidency from the public. We gave voters a false sense of what kind of president Trump was.”)
Christie’s bizarre excuse for enabling Trump — he ran against him before helping his campaign — is essentially a defense of partisan hackery. Once the party spoke, what choice did he have but to go along?
Unlike Christie, some Republicans expressed remorse about having voted for Trump (e.g., Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming) and some — a surprisingly long list of Republicans — even endorsed President Biden in 2020. Some (e.g., Sen. Mitt Romney) publicly announced they would not vote for Trump in either 2016 or 2020.
Why does this matter? For starters, historical accuracy matters, and individuals should not be permitted to shirk or disguise their responsibility for a party that has adopted Trump’s dishonest, racist, irrational and authoritarian style of politics that sparked a violent effort to overturn the election. Second, as these past Trump toadies continue to pop up as pundits, professors and authors who opine on issues of the day, we need to ensure that audiences, students and readers understand exactly what they did in creating the MAGA catastrophe. How else can we measure their credibility, especially if they still do not own up to their role?
And that brings us to the role of the mainstream media in helping Republicans launder their résumés. When Republicans — especially congressional leaders or 2024 presidential contenders — come on air or are quoted in print and online media, reporters must remind the public again and again what they did during the Trump years.
When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appears on the Sunday shows, the host should remind the audience he supported the lawless president in two elections, twice refused to vote to remove him and failed to call out his serial lying. That’s relevant, for example, when McConnell accuses the current administration of lesser offenses.
When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) opines on the administration, he should be asked why he still opposes investigation into the domestic terrorist attack on Jan. 6 and why he still seeks the approval or counsel of the president who sparked the violence. He should be read the latest screed from characters such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and asked why they are still in the caucus.
In sum, Republicans who have brought us to this point — where anti-vaccine delusion, racist replacement theory and Jan. 6 denial are standard fare from Republican officials and candidates — should not be permitted to escape accountability for their past or to present themselves as credible defenders of democracy. That, of course, would require the media and political class to give up the canard that today’s GOP is just another political party, rather than a dangerous cult that undermines American democracy.