Oh sure, protecting your party’s president is a long-standing tradition. Party faithful, be they senators or sanitation workers, are quick to prop up their leader after misspeaking, missteps or other wobbles in judgment. It’s happened for Republicans and Democrats alike for generations.
But Helsinki was more than a wobble.
President Donald Trump took the side of a murderous Russian dictator, Vladimir Putin, over Trump’s own American intelligence agencies in Russia’s meddling during the 2016 presidential election.
“President Putin says it’s not Russia. I don’t see any reason why it would be,” is the quote most likely to make our grandchildren’s history books someday.
Trump backtracked a day later, but with a statement that contradicted much of the news conference. An American president, standing on neutral soil alongside the dictator of a long-time adversary, gave the dictator as much credence as dedicated U.S. intelligence officers.
So why were Kansas Sens. Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran so tepid in their responses to the president’s words?
Roberts’ statement, through Twitter, laid out facts as he saw them – the intelligence community has proven Russian interference and remains a threat – without mentioning Trump.
Moran’s longer response said much of the same, adding Putin is not America’s friend, and came the closest of our two senators to direct criticism of Trump: “The president missed an opportunity to publicly condemn Russia for election interference or offer strong support for the NATO alliance.”
“Missed an opportunity.” That’s all you got?
Roberts and Moran come off like baseball broadcasters for a struggling ball club. (A nearby bunch in blue comes to mind.) A player makes an inexcusable goof and the announcer softens it: “He missed an opportunity there.”
Trump’s presidency has rewritten the rules in public separation from the party line. GOP elected officials are less willing to be critical of the president under the threat they could no longer be in favor with Trump and his rock-solid base.
The rules have also been rewritten by how much Trump and his administration – see now-departed cabinet secretaries Tom Price and Scott Pruitt – have been embroiled in controversy. When comment on an administration’s work is needed on more days than not, it becomes naturally harder for party loyalists to take stands and turn up the heat. Criticism in moderation.
But Helsinki was different, as many Republican elected officials and pundits have shown since Trump boarded Air Force One for Washington. Disavowing Trump’s words wasn’t limited to Democrats and the left.
Roberts and Moran chose not to go full-throated with their words.
They know Trump failed to defend his country. Whether the president truly thinks Putin is as believable as his own intelligence agencies, or whether he was continuing to improve his role as President Provocateur, the senators should have joined other Republicans in calling out Trump in what is shaping up as his lowest presidential moment so far.
They missed an opportunity.
This article provided by NewsEdge.