Bob Corker Only Gets So Much Credit
David Frum comments frequently on the Trump White House and republicans in general. In a normal world that didn't value partisan purity above all else, his voice - that of an ideological and temperamental conservative whose scathing critiques of today's Republican Party come at the expense of many of his policy preferences - would be a valuable one.
Frum trudges most often into the wasteland of decorum, democratic norms, constitutional balances, and procedural checks that his Party has left in its wake over the last two years. He picks through the broken wagon wheels and scorched barbed wire and offers fairly measured assessments of who did the torching and why.
In his most recent column for The Atlantic, Frum examines the implications of Senator Bob Corker’s revelation that he sees the White House as a constant crisis, managed by the handful of responsible actors who still have enough access to the President to mitigate the damage.
He argues that this phenomenon is necessary to prevent the immediate crises represented by war and the collapse of diplomatic ties, but that it represents a crisis of its own:
Thank you and congratulations to those officials struggling to protect American security, the Western alliance, and world peace against Donald Trump. But the constitutional order is becoming the casualty of these struggles.
Frum argues that the continual usurpation of the President’s authority represents a constitutional crisis. While (sort of) admirable when it’s being done to prevent the world from collapsing into a North Korean quagmire, it represents a serious deterioration of norms:
What if Trump is succeeded by a Bernie Sanders-type whom the military and intelligence agencies distrust as much as they distrust Trump: Will they continue the habits they acquired in the Trump years?
The more important question is how we ended up in this situation in the first place. To Frum’s credit, he has written more than most on the astounding hypocrisy and recklessness of the Republican Party during the course of Trump’s election to the presidency, but the source of this particular analysis throws that hypocrisy into sharp relief.
Bob Corker was one of the trickle of Republicans that prepared the way for the flood to follow. Corker is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was fully aware of all that Trump was then and is now. Instead of speaking out two years ago or one year ago, Corker smiled and nodded while elevating a man he knew to be dangerously unfit.
Frum is careful to temper his gratitude for those keeping the administration together with a sober shake of the head in acknowledgment of all that the new dynamic implies for the future. It’s also worth noting that our praise for Bob Corker and those few Republicans speaking out against Trump rests upon the knowledge that nothing here is surprising. This crisis was as predictable as Trump’s behavior up to this point. We know what we know because, this weekend, Bob Corker chose to speak. But we are where we are because two years ago, in an extended act of hypocrisy, cowardice, and astounding recklessness, Bob Corker chose to stay silent.