Time for more Republican profiles in courage

“The Profiles in Courage Award seeks to honor those whose lives of service prove that politics can be a noble profession. We hope that Americans realize that there are men and women serving at all levels of our government who are legends of our time.”

Carolyn Kennedy, introduction to “Profiles in Courage in Our Time,” which she edited. 

BROOKINGS – The above book could be considered a follow-on to the Pulitzer Prize winning “Profiles in Courage,” written by her father, President John F. Kennedy. She also wrote an introduction to a 50th Anniversary edition of her father’s book. Both books shed light on what is missing in the aftermath of our presidential election: courage. It seems to be in short supply by some GOP leaders who back Trump in his challenge to overturn a “rigged and fraudulent election.”

President Kennedy liked Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage: “grace under pressure.” If you’re looking for those three words to define President Trump’s approach to, well anything, I don’t think you’ll find them.

Not only that, you’ll find he has a history of denigrating those men and women who in the arena where politics and government come together have shown that grace under pressure.

Consider the late Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT). McCain, a naval aviator, was shot down on his 23rd mission over North Vietnam. He was captured, tortured, and spent 5 1/2 years in a prisoner of war camp. 

He went on to serve courageously in the Senate. Trump didn’t see McCain as a hero, “because he got captured.” Trump liked heroes who didn’t get captured. Of course, Trump evaded military service (“Damn those bone spurs; I really wanted to serve but I couldn’t!”) and was never in danger of being captured.

McCain made it into the our-time courage book, teamed up with Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) in championing the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act. Both men admirably reached across the aisle and put service to country above self.

The GOP senator from Arizona would really enrage Trump when he again showed courage in July 2017, casting the thumbs-down (literally) final vote that killed the president’s attempt to deep-six parts of the Affordable Care Act. He was joined by Collins and Murkowski. Trump would voice his displeasure with a 1:25 A.M. Tweet on July 28, 2017: “3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”

Now, in the wake of Trump’s ongoing spoiled-child, petulant and obstinate denial that he lost the election, Collins, Romney and Murkowski are again showing some courage in breaking away from their fellow GOP senators: Collins congratulated Biden and Harris on their “apparent victory,” while recognizing Trump’s effort to question the election results; Murkowski pledged collaboration and bipartisanship; and Romney and his wife extended both their congratulations and prayers to the president-elect and vice-president elect.

As I sit here writing this, I find it mind-boggling that Republicans who are speaking up for Trump’s shenanigans (Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham) and those who remain silent don’t recognize the dark side of Donald Trump. I ask: Do you de facto accept the president as a man of honor as he leads your party? How do you explain to your children and grandchildren the character of this Machiavelian demagogue who occupies the White House? Are you so much the minions of this man that you won’t put patriotism above politics and party? What more can I say?

In my Aug. 20 Corner, I looked at a pair of scenarios in the upcoming presidential election and predicted: “Regardless of the outcome the Republican Party will have some major rebuilding to do if it is to remain an honorable force in American politics. Bottom line: the time is coming for leaders post-election to sit down for a come-to-Jesus talk with President Donald J. Trump.”

Scenario No. 1 had Trump the winner. Scenario No. 2 had Joe Biden winning the “rigged” (I’m joking, I’m joking) election and my asking: “What next? Does the president concede with statesmanlike decorum and dignity? Does he congratulate his successor and pledge his support and help to ease his transition into office? Or does he leave with petulance, ill will and come across as a sore loser?”

I cited a couple instances where Trump was presidential and statesmanlike: His first address to Congress in February 2017 and in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at the Arab Islamic American Summit in May 2017.

I ended my Corner with a question and answer: “Could the president be as beneficent in defeat as he was bombastic in victory? His call. His response could well determine his future in the Republican Party – if he wants to stay and if the GOP wants to keep him. Time for a come-to-Jesus meeting.”

I also noted that in nautical terms, we should “stand by for heavy rolls.” But as we se the ship of state buffeted about, is it possible that some GOP lawmakers might courageously confront the president and urge him to exit with decorum and dignity and preserve the legacy of his four years in office? Republican lawmakers of the caliber of Sen. Barry Goldwater, Sen. Hugh Scott and Congressman John Jacob Rhodes, who in August 1974 convinced Richard Nixon that it was time to go.

Perhaps behind the scenes such a conversation with President Donald J. Trump is already taking place. I’d like to think so. If not, it’s time for that CTJ meeting.

Have a nice day. Stay safe.