They look cowardly. And they look feckless. But it's Donald Trump's fault, and he's leaving them paralyzed.
Come for the tweet, stay for the thread:
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., on the president’s photo op at St. John’s last night: “Didn’t really see it.”— Kasie Hunt (@kasie) June 2, 2020
It has been almost two weeks now, but you remember the scene, one of Federal Bureau of Prison Officers firing stinger ball grenades from tear gas canisters into peaceful crowd outside of Lafayette Square Park in Washington, D.C. Crowd disperes amidst a frenzy of smoke, President walks with his escorts to a closed church with a window boarded up; uncomfortably fiddles with a Bible, offering no prayer, no Scripture passage, and no words of consolation to the nation. He then leaves with his entourage, including awkwardly posed members of his Administration.
This wasn't a good luck. Nor was the scene of fifteen Republican senators trailing Wisconsin's senator, each refusing to express any opinion of President Trump's behavior of the preceding evening.
Nonetheless, you can hardly blame them. They've already made their bed, already decided figuratively to sleep there with Trump, and they can't criticize him. However, it would have been almost as perilous to support his actions.
That is not only because the gas in the park and the photo-op were nearly indefensible. It's never comfortable supporting a President who might be ready to whip out a pruner or looper and shear off that limb you're standing on. And he might have done so; he has done it before, recently. Only five weeks earlier Trump's
surprisingly public rebuke of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's reopening plans is still reverberating through state capitals across the country and is contributing to decisions by some governors to take a slower approach in opening businesses in their state, Republican officials in a half-dozen states told CNN.
"No governor wants to endure the same wrath as Brian Kemp," a top adviser to a Republican governor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing similar ire from the White House.
"We all watched that very carefully and no one wants to be called out like that by the President," another aide to a Republican governor said.
The President's conflicting guidance -- initially calling to "liberate" states, but then sharply criticizing Kemp for opening some businesses on Friday -- has led to an often confusing, messy patchwork of state-by-state rules.
GOP senators have been waiting out President Trump, who appears frozen in his response to protests. He has even been reticent to attack "Defund Police," hitting it a couple of times and then retreating. He has been indecisive, perhaps confused, unable to decide on a theme he can emphasize.
Republican members of Congress are willing to be lemmings for President Trump. They will go where he leads them, if only he leads them. But they are not going to spout Trump bigotry, Trump ignorance, or Trump lies until he goes first. Otherwise, they could end up like Brian Kemp, watching powerlessly as Donald Trump saws off the end of that limb they're precariously perched upon.