Cowardice and Courage in Congress

It comes as little surprise to most political observers to find that the Republican-controlled Congress is unwilling to investigate any of President Trump’s alleged misconduct. Parties infrequently hold their own executive’s feet to the fire. But this group of people in Congress is not like most in our past. These are the “patriots” who road the idea of small, limited government to power on the back of the historical cosplay Tea Party movement.

After howling for eight years about executive over-reach, bungled military operations, and weak foreign policy that “aided our enemies” the fire-brands of the GOP have grown suddenly quiet. Executive orders are just a sign of an active President! Bungled operations are actually success– saying otherwise dishonors the troops and their sacrifices. Capitulating to Russia in exchange for nothing isn’t weak foreign policy– it is forward thinking! They still hate Obamacare, but otherwise, it seems they have done an 180 on everything that drove them to run for office in the first place.

The establishment members of the GOP– you know, the ones Donald Trump thumbed his nose at?– are no better. Despite being almost completely insulated from risk, philosophically opposed to everything Trump ran on and plans on implementing, and repeatedly insulted by our thin-skinned commander-in-chief, these small men and women refuse to do their basic job as a check and balance on executive power.

One of these small men is my Congressman, Pat Tiberi. Pat has been a lockstep GOP member his entire time in Congress. He is a loyal party dog, with little in the way of independent thought (and even less in the way of a spine). He was a climate denier, until a documentary filmmaker put him on the spot, answered all his ill-conceived “questions” about the science, and made him issue a wimpy statement like this:

global problem requires a global solution. An effective solution requires that all countries agree to participate together. I would like to see us address climate change in a balanced manner, on as broad of front as possible.

Unable to deny climate change because he ran out of canned questions that could be easily answered by anyone with a passing knowledge of science and access to Google,  the cowardly Congressman couched his admission in the cloak of “if everyone isn’t on board, it doesn’t matter what we do”:

Despite President Obama’s unilateral regulatory action to effectively halt new coal-fired power plants from being built, countries around the world continue to pollute… The United States cannot save the environment on its own.  An effective solution requires that all countries agree to participate together.  I continue to be a strong advocate for an “all of the above” energy policy.  I do not believe there is a silver bullet solution to reaching energy independence or reducing carbon emissions.  The only way to achieve such objectives is to put all of our options on the table and work to find a solution that will strengthen our economy and national security, both in the short-run and long-run.

What does Pat support? Everything and nothing!! Glad you could clear that up for us, Congressman.

My friend and fellow map enthusiast, Reverend and Professor of History at MTSO, Jeff Jaynes. Keep praying for Pat, Jeff. He needs it.

Congressman Tiberi is at it again today, this time offering the most mealy-mouthed of excuses for not investigating President Donald Trump’s business entanglements. In justifying why he voted in lockstep with his party not to force Trump to release his taxes (despite calling for him to voluntarily do so repeatedly), he had this to say:

Section 6103 of the tax code gives very specific oversight authority to the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee to access a taxpayer’s returns to ensure that the tax code is being properly administered—not to look at tax returns of individuals for political reasons. Using this authority in a political manner, as requested on February 14, would have set a dangerous precedent that the Ways and Means Committee will access the tax returns of any American for any reason. This would create a very slippery slope which could weaken or destroy the privacy and confidentiality protections given to all taxpayers. The Ways and Means Committee has never been in the business of targeting the returns of single individuals, and it should not start now.

Regarding President Donald Trump’s tax returns, he has said repeatedly that he will release them, and I encourage him to do so.

This is nonsense. First, looking at Trump’s tax returns isn’t a partisan political issue– it is a question of national security and government ethics. And there is a clear historical precedent for it. Second, you just used this three years ago to look into whether or not non-profits were being properly assigned and taxed based on a political belief that the IRS was being unfair to conservative charities. Third, looking at the President’s tax returns when he has refused to provide them, is involved in complicated international business investments, and when his administration looks to be inexorably tied to Russia is hardly a slippery slope to Congress investigating “average” Americans. That is flat out stupid.

Let’s forget about all the important reasons we have for looking at Trump’s tax returns for a moment and just concentrate on what you say this section of the tax code was meant to do: ensure the tax code is properly administered. This law was used specifically to look at Richard Nixon’s tax returns in 1974, in no small part because he was suspected of using his position to pressure the IRS into allowing him to avoid tax payments. Like Nixon, Trump is known for playing fast and loose with the rules and using his power– be it his wealth or now the office of the President of the United States– to cajole people into doing his bidding. Remember when Trump told us he couldn’t release his tax returns because he was being audited, Pat? Don’t you think Ways and Means should be ensuring that said audit is being properly administered, given the complicated relationship Trump has with the IRS and the nature of his complex international business entanglements?

Pat Tiberi and other Republican members of Congress (Conor Friedersdorf has the list here) have a duty to act as watchdogs over the actions of the executive branch and to work on laws that address our greatest problems proactively. Much like his abdication over climate change (as though shrugging your shoulders at a problem is the appropriate response for a member of the most powerful government in the world), Tiberi wants to avoid doing his job in hopes that someone else will come up with a solution. Maybe China will fix global warming. Maybe free trade will just support itself the world over. Maybe Donald Trump will release his tax returns. Maybe Pat Tiberi will grow a backbone.

Hey, anything can happen, right? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for any of these to happen.

And if you want to see this cowardice run to its absurdist, psychophant conclusion, go look for anything Steve King is saying about Flynn’s ouster. Or really, whatever Steve King says about any subject.

While the House continues to be the refuge of partisan hacks, there is conflict brewing in the Senate. Many, like the huckster Rand Paul, advocate towing the party line. In explaining why he does not support further investigating Gen. Flynn after his resignation, Sen. Paul had this to say:

I think that it looks like the president has handled the situation, and unless there’s some kind of other evidence of malfeasance, this sounds like something that was internal White House politics, and it looks like the president’s handled it…

I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party,” he said. “We’ll never even get started with doing the things we need to do like repealing Obamacare if we’re spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense.

Investigation after investigation of the other party? A-ok. Looking into potential malfeasance on the part of your party’s President? Just doesn’t make sense. Got it. Let me ask you a question, Rand: where do you think evidence of further malfeasance will come from that would validate an investigation if no one bothers to look into it? The answer should be clear to all.

While people like Rand Paul may be dancing to Trump’s tune, desperately holding out hope that they can run as the next populist right-wing ideologue when Trump’s reign of error is over, two old war-horses with no future Presidental ambitions left to restrain them are sharpening their knives. The old maverick, John McCain and the always bellicose Lindsey Graham (the narrative that Graham is a wimpy, effeminate gay man or southern belle that has been perpetuated on the left and right is one of the cruelest, most unfair, and utterly retrograde characterizations in modern US politics).

Sure, McCain and Graham have little to lose in that neither faces a reelection in the next several years nor do they have plausible paths to the Presidency. But this is true of many fellow Senators and Representatives. And yes, they have been personally attacked by President Trump many times during the primary season and since then. But so were the ultimate coward, Ted Cruz, and “Little” Marco Rubio. McCain and Graham’s dogged insistence that we investigate just what Flynn was up to, why he lied to the nation and Mike Pence about it, and what all these other Trump associates were doing in conversations with the Russians during the election and its aftermath has a simple (and less sensational) answer: they are life-long hawks.

John McCain fought international Communism. Literally. Lindsey Graham has been a strong voice for the US leading the way in international affairs his entire career. For two men devoted to a robust American-led international order, few things could be more concerning than an American President who has close ties with one of our biggest rivals. Rather than kowtow to their party’s weak-willed leadership and incompetent President, McCain and Graham have chosen to stand up to both in the name of our national security and the integrity of our institutions. We will remember them as the early leaders of the conservative resistance to Trump’s hideous mishmash of ethnonationalism, oligarchy, and incompetent corruption.

What will it take for the rest of the supposedly unwilling GOP ranks to break away from the Orange Menace? Will you finally revolt if you find out he does have vast personal economic interests in Russia? Or will nothing short of procuring the rumored tape suffice?

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Know that every day you delay abandoning the good ship Trump, you weaken your party, your own future prospects, and your nation. Your craven cowardice will not be forgotten.

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