Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

President Donald Trump participates in a congressional listening session with GOP members in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Feb. 16, 2017. Next to him is Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY). (Photo: Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

Republicans, Where’s the Backbone?

Desperately seeking those GOP politicians who will stand up against a know-nothing bully who holds the highest office in the land.

Bill MoyersMichael Winship

Congressional Republicans, we watched you at the White House Thursday. Just before Donald Trump’s rambling, manic, often snarky press conference — delivered more in the manner of a churlish insult comic than leader of the free world — the president met with a group of you, a self-titled “Trump caucus” of early supporters.

You fawned over him like autograph hunters gushing over their favorite movie star. Rep. Chris Collins of New York: “Mr. President, we’re all honored to be here.” Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee: “We’re excited about the work you’re doing.” And Missouri’s Billy Long referenced the recent visit of Japan’s prime minister: “I knew you all would hit it off because you’re both people persons and great personalities. … I knew you guys would get along good.”

Oh, brother. Has it come down to this? The party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower in the thrall of a petulant, impulsive, preening and shamelessly amoral president who thinks Vladimir Putin is the apex of effective management.

Republicans, is this really the legacy you choose?

How can you not take a solid stand against an unhinged con man who in less than a month has undermined fundamental constitutional liberties, thrown governance into disorganized hell and possibly made decisions based on his desire to please the leader of another country? (What’s he afraid that Putin might do?)

It’s well reported now that Trump campaign aides, including hustlers like the recently fired Mike Flynn and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort — dubbed “the King of K Street” by a prominent business magazine — were in regular touch with Russian intelligence and other officials during our 2016 election cycle and the presidential transition. Were they coordinating dirty tricks to damage not only the candidacy of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party but the fate of American democracy as well? It’s possible.

Listening to Morning Edition on NPR this week, we were struck by the inability of some of your colleagues to get a grip and face some hard truths about all this. The broadcast played a Fox News clip of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) appearing to justify a cover-up: “I just don’t think it’s useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party.”

Then host Steve Inskeep spoke with Rep. Mike Johnson (R-LA), who seemed to think Mike Flynn and the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia weren’t the problem. Following his president’s claim that the Russia story is a ruse and the real issue is leaks, he said, “I mean, the leak of highly classified information by, what is apparent here, a number of individuals inside our intelligence community, is the illegal act that I think we need to review.”

Johnson added: “I don’t think that there’s anything extraordinary at all about persons in an incoming administration or during a campaign talking with officials from other countries.”

Would you agree with us that a comment like that bespeaks less a stupid man than a man who looks upon the public as stupid? Is that what you think of the people now? In the full blossom of your monopoly power over government, are you writing off the people who gave you that power?

And so it went: Hemming and hawing, backing and filling, their comments reminded us of Watergate, a scandalous sequence of events that the two of us witnessed firsthand, and thought — or hoped, at least — would be the worst political and constitutional crisis of our lifetimes. This has the potential to be much, much worse.

Back then, as today, many Republicans refused to acknowledge the horrors perpetrated by Richard Nixon and his thugs. Some held onto their willful blindness right up to the bitter end, when to ignore the man’s perfidy would have been tantamount to treason. Thanks in part to the courts and journalists like Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and to true Republican patriots who refused to follow Nixon’s nefarious orders, this country narrowly averted a disaster.

Now, once again, we find ourselves desperately counting on the courts and an independent press to help protect us. We can’t depend on but a handful of Republican senators and House members who have come forward. They’ve called for more thorough investigations by the House and Senate intelligence committees, and that’s a start, but in this current Congress, it’s more than likely that a truly, impartial, transparent, honest inquiry will be stymied and quashed.

That’s why we continue to insist that only an open and public, independent, bipartisan investigation can determine if Trump and his pals actually colluded with Putin’s intelligence agencies to influence the 2016 election, and whether they came to power obligated to carry out the wishes of a foreign power.

Here’s what former Democratic House member Lee Hamilton — who was vice chair of the independent 9/11 Commission — just told Karen Tumulty of The Washington Post: “Very aggressive leadership is necessary,” he said. “There’s just an awful lot out there that needs to be clarified and investigated independently by people who do not have an interest in the outcome of the investigation. I am doubtful that the Congress can put together a very robust investigation. Their performance on oversight in recent years has been deplorable — timid and not robust enough.”

We have to remind you of something: Those Republicans who stand by watching all of this, silently, in the hope that in return for their obeisance they will get away with forcing a right-wing agenda of privatization, deregulation and inequality upon the nation, should keep in mind that when survivors look back upon a time of acute crisis, those who are remembered are not the spineless and opportunistic who hoped to snag a piece of the action. Rather, it is the men and women who rose in defiance and said this betrayal of what my country is supposed to be will not stand.

In the ’50s, the red-baiting Joseph McCarthy was brought down not just by newsman Edward R. Murrow and the compassionate but scathing attorney Joseph Welch, but also by Republican senators who said enough is enough. During Watergate, Richard Nixon was not undone solely by The Washington Post and the justices of the Supreme Court, but also by Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee who voted for his impeachment and the senators who came to him in the White House and said it is time for you go.

Republicans, there is a name for those who take the moral high ground and fight back: heroes. When all is said and done, how will you be remembered?

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers is a veteran journalist, broadcaster, and author. Former managing editor of Moyers & Company and, his previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three and a half decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including "Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues," "Moyers on Democracy," and "Healing and the Mind." He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News, and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards.

Michael Winship

Michael Winship

Michael Winship is the Schumann Senior Writing Fellow for Common Dreams. Previously, he was the Emmy Award-winning senior writer for Moyers & Company and, a past senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos, and former president of the Writers Guild of America East. 

... We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Given Cover by Red-Baiting GOP, Corporate Dems Rebuked for Tanking Biden Nominee for Top Bank Regulator

"If you think that Senate Democrats rose up to [Republicans'] shameful display of modern McCarthyism by rallying around President Biden's nominee or her ideas that banking should work for the middle class, then you don't know the soul of today's Democratic Party," wrote one columnist.

Julia Conley ·

'S.O.S.!': Groups in Red States Nationwide Plead With Democrats to Pass Voting Rights Bill

"We can tell you firsthand that our Republican senators have no interest in joining this effort."

Jake Johnson ·

Revealed: US Public Pension Funds Are 'Quiet Culprits of Climate Chaos'

One activist called divestment "an ethical responsibility" given that "maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel energy production and investments will unquestionably lead to a self-created catastrophe."

Jessica Corbett ·

'It Is Urgent': Progressives Push for Bill to Expand and Improve Social Security

"It's time to cast a vote on behalf of all beneficiaries. Not with cuts, but with improvements to their lives."

Andrea Germanos ·

Top Democrat Says US Tax Havens 'A Stunning Indictment' of Policy Failures

"Do we want America to stand for fairness or to be just another spot for billionaires' buried treasure?" asked Rep. Bill Pascrell.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo