Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has effectively staged an intervention of late, making clear his belief that Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency. There have been several reports this week suggesting the Tennessee Republican's GOP colleagues quietly agree with him, but they lack the courage to say so.
And while their silence is tough to defend given the seriousness of the problem, it's arguably worse to hear some Republicans make the case that Corker's criticisms should remain private. Politico reported this morning, for example:
House Speaker Paul Ryan on Wednesday downplayed the ongoing feud between President Donald Trump and GOP Sen. Bob Corker, advising the two men to talk through their differences but also joking that he's been there, too.The Wisconsin Republican, known for his no-drama approach to Trump, quipped that "I've had my share too" when asked about the Corker-Trump spat.... "I think just talk it out amongst yourselves," Ryan suggested. "My advice is for these two gentlemen to sit down and just talk through their issues."
Hmm. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee believes the president of his own party is mentally unstable, may set the nation "on the path to World War III," and should worry "anyone who cares about our nation." Donald Trump, meanwhile, believes Corker is short and cowardly. They should "sit down and just talk through their issues"?
Ryan isn't alone on this. Politico had a related piece yesterday on similar advice Corker is receiving from Senate Republicans.
Trump "needs to stop. But I wish Bob would stop too. Just stop," said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in an interview Tuesday. "We've got so many other things that we need to be focusing on right now. We need to look ahead, not reflect on anything that's been done or said in the past." [...]"It's an unfortunate exchange … I would like to see this end," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said in the Capitol on Tuesday, adding that he does not, in fact, believe the White House is an adult day care center. "I would encourage them both to stop what they're doing and get focused on what we need to be doing." ... "I have a lot of respect for Sen. Corker and what he brings to the Senate," Blunt said. "But I think the president is leading in the right direction and I'm supportive of what he's doing."
I get the feeling some Republicans are missing the point here. We're not talking about a clash of personalities. This isn't a school-yard spat between a couple of guys who hurt each other's feelings.
As New York's Jon Chait explained yesterday, "Democracy scholars are legitimately concerned about Trump's authoritarian rhetoric, while national security experts are absolutely terrified that his attempts to out-crazy North Korea might create a deadly misunderstanding. The Republican Party, rationalizing its own indifference, has acted as though Corker is insulting the president out of nothing more than pique."
These GOP reactions to the senator's presidential criticisms add insult to injury. Rank-and-file Republicans, en masse, are both too afraid to speak up about Trump's dangerous antics and too afraid to listen to Bob Corker tell the truth about Trump's dangerous antics.