An allusion to caged canaries that miners would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as carbon monoxide collected in the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately.
Donald Trump supports coal mines. Donald Trump, as president, promises to restore thousands and thousands of jobs to an industry whose better days are long gone. But Trump does not understand the value of a canary in a coal mine.
Trump, as many people seem to know, has no principles, no moral compass, and no respect for anyone. He does not know the meaning of the word civility. In fact he and many of his supporters take pride in those negative characteristics.
Trump’s financial dealings and obligations to Russia will undoubtedly someday be known. Someday we will see chapter and verse about how the Constitution’s Emolument Clause is being violated.
We don’t need to wait, however, to see the chaos of the White House, the infighting and the terminations. We have already witnessed the failure of Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to achieve any legislative victories.
More and more there are voices speaking up in the Senate Republican caucus to address the explosions at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. Mostly their voices are soft and mostly the expressions are tempered, but what is said is not exactly a model of political team building.
Consider this roll call of Republican senators:
- Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) “What the president said yesterday was wrong. There is no moral equivalence between those who are inciting hate and division and those who took to the streets to make it clear that those views are unacceptable.
- John McCain (Arizona) “we are an important check on the powers of the executive. Our consent is necessary for the President to appoint jurists and powerful government officials and, in many respects, to conduct foreign policy. Whether or not we are of the same party, we are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!”
- Lindsay Graham (South Carolina) “Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency…”
- James Lankford (Oklahoma) “As Jim Comey said, it’s awkward to be able to have the president of the United States sitting down with someone in the FBI, the leadership of the FBI, to be able to have direct questions. And for the issue to come up about the Michael Flynn investigations — inappropriate.”
- Tim Scott (South Carolina) “I’m not going to defend the indefensible. … [Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.”
- Bob Corker (Tennessee) “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”
- Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) “Our new president, of course, has not been in this line of work before. I think he had excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.” Trump responded with a Twitter attack on the Senate Majority Leader.
- Marco Rubio (Florida) “Mr. President, you can’t allow #WhiteSupremacists to share only part of the blame. They support idea which cost nation & world so much pain.”
- Jerry Moran (Kansas) “White supremacy, bigotry and racism have absolutely no place in our society, and no one — especially the president of the United States — should ever tolerate it.”
- Dean Heller (Nevada) The Trump campaign committee ran TV ads against Heller before the Senate Obamacare repeal vote. Mitch McConnell had to intervene to stop the attacks.
- Dan Sullivan (Alaska) “Anything less than complete & unambiguous condemnation of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK by the @POTUS is unacceptable. Period.”
- Jeff Flake (Arizona) “To carry on in the spring of 2017 as if what was happening was anything approaching normalcy required a determined suspension of critical faculties and tremendous powers of denial.” Trump has already indicated support for a Republican primary opponent of Flake’s. Mitch McConnell and others in the Senate Republican leadership responded with support for Flake.
- Mike Lee (Utah) “Carrying a Nazi flag or any other symbol of white supremacy is a hateful act that cannot be morally defended, least of all by the leader of a diverse nation still healing from its original sin of racist slavery.”
- Ben Sasse (Nebraska) “I doubt that Donald Trump will be able to calm and comfort the nation in that moment [of violent crisis]. He (and lots of others) will probably tell an awful combination of partial truths and outright falsehoods. On top of the trust deficits that are already baked so deeply in, unity will be very hard to come by. Besides ability and temperament, I also worry that national unity will be unlikely because there are some whispering in the President’s ear that racial division could be good politics for them.”
- Shelly Moore Capito (West Virginia) concerning her position of Obamacare bills supported by Trump: “I did not come to Washington to hurt people.”
- Orrin Hatch (Utah) “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
- Rob Portman (Ohio) “The response to this ideology of hate & bigotry, & the act of domestic terrorism, should be simple & united condemnation without ambiguity.”
In one form or another these women and men are offering up a warning, perhaps in self-interest, or perhaps for the good of their party, but maybe for country too. I’m not suggesting for a moment that there is some pitchfork rebellion coming at Trump from Senate Republicans, but nonetheless the comments noted above are a pretty impressive start.
Trump’s attacks on Republican senators and his take on issues that put them in a bind flies in the face of legislative programs that are totally dependent on the cooperation of these same Republican senators. The deadlines for a 2018 budget and an increase in the debt ceiling are just 38 days away. I’m not sure how many days are left to establish party unity.
Senators, of course, have the luxuries of six-year terms and larger constituencies than House members. They usually need to be more conscious of a mix of urban, suburban and rural interests and various demographics than their House colleagues.
The Republican Party is led by an unstable man in the White House whose personality issues are smothering national concerns about such matters as health care, budgets, taxes, infrastructure and immigration. The Republican Party brand is now the Donald Trump brand. You broke it, you own it.
And then there is the House
Lead by Speaker Paul Ryan, the House of Representatives Republican members have not demonstrated an ounce of courage in standing up to Trump. Ryan tiptoes up to challenge Trump and then slinks away quietly over and over again.
Here’s what conservative Wisconsin writer and talk show host Charlie Sykes said in Sunday’s New York Times about his long-time friend, Ryan: “I have long admired Paul Ryan and thought of him as the future of the Republican Party. But he’s made a Faustian bargain. I keep thinking about that scene from ‘‘A Man for All Seasons,’’ where Thomas More says, ‘What profit a man to gain the whole world if he loses his soul, but for Wales?’ And I keep thinking, But for tax cuts, Paul?”
Western New York’s two Republican House members, Chris Collins and Tom Reed, are also making that Faustian bargain. They are sticking with Trump for … what? Hope for that elusive tax cut for the rich?
Republicans promised that when they had total control in Washington Obamacare repeal and replace; tax cuts; immigration changes, etc. would all fall into place. But when you look at the past eight months, there is no there there.
Selling the country down the river in support of a president who is the epitome of arrogance, incompetence and lack of respect for the Constitution and the laws of the land means that that those who support Trump, come what may, have made a bargain with the devil.
Living in the bubble
In case you have any doubt about Donald Trump obsessing about support from his base, take a look at this recent email:
|Friend, The President has asked us to reach out to some of our top supporters for a one-question poll, and as one of our best, you’ve been chosen to participate. Please take a moment to choose one of the options below to answer the following: The President’s job performance has been…
Thank you for your input, Friend. We’ll be sure to pass it along to President Trump. Presidential Polling, Team Trump