Local Republicans are holding their annual Fall Dinner tonight (Thursday) in Athens, and one of the guests of honor is LeeAnn Johnson, wife of U.S. House Rep. Bill Johnson, a true-blue Trump Republican* whose Sixth District includes part of eastern Athens County. LeeAnn heads Women for Trump in Ohio.
* After this column went to print Wednesday afternoon, Bill Johnson was among the Republicans who joined Democrats in voting overwhelmingly to condemn President Trump's withdrawal of American forces from northern Syria. The vote was 354 to 60, with many Republicans voting in the majority. When Johnson, an unfailing and vocal supporter of the president, explained his vote on Facebook Thursday evening, he drew criticism from many commenters. OK, back to our regularly scheduled opinion column...
Thursday's dinner will be a great opportunity for Ms. Johnson and Athens County Republican Party leaders to consider some serious questions about our president. I’m especially interested in what my friends in the local GOP think about President Trump’s recent (and not so recent) controversial activities regarding Ukraine, Syria and Russia.
It also would be worthwhile if the evening’s keynote speaker, state Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, would explain how he feels about President Trump. You may not have noticed but he’s been pretty quiet about that.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve come to know and respect many local Republicans over the years, and never thought of them as corrupt or ideologically extreme. (Warring factions in the local Democratic Party have been much more entertaining through the years.) Like many leaders in the national party, some prominent local Republicans slammed Trump as a candidate in 2016. Sadly, if the GOP elsewhere in America is any indication, they’ve likely tossed aside their traditional conservative (and human) principles and dived whole-hog into Trump’s ethical, moral and character-free swamp.
Here’s some questions I hope our local Republicans consider tonight:
• How do you feel about the president’s impulsive decision to abandon our allies, the Kurds in Northern Syria, to their enemy, the Turks, in the face of strong objections from national security advisers, military experts and allies? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that? (Be honest.)
• How do you feel about the president ceding our position of power and influence in the Middle East, achieved through decades of diplomacy and spilled blood and spent treasure, to the Russians? And doing it with one reckless phone call to Turkish President Erdoğan. Putin is chalking up a victory in geopolitics; Trump notches a defeat for America. How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about our president’s seeming indifference to America’s precipitous loss of stature in the world, among both allies and foes? Not just over our treatment of the Kurds in Syria but in a long string of inexplicable betrayals, arbitrary decisions, and attacks on longtime allies. How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about Iraqi paramilitary groups backed by Iran on the Iraq-Syria border strengthening Iran’s supply lines along a corridor from Tehran to Beirut and Hezbollah? Iran’s support for Islamic militant groups in Lebanon was ostensibly a motivating factor in Trump’s disastrous unilateral decision to pull out of the nuclear deal with Iran. How would you have felt if President Obama had done that? (How does Israel feel about it now?)
• How do you feel about reports that 50 American nuclear gravity bombs stored at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey are now essentially being held hostage by the Turks, whose hostility to the U.S., and disrespect for our leadership, is growing every day? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about our president running his own political agenda in Ukraine, at cross purposes to America’s official foreign policy, all for the purpose of damaging a rival? The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming that he did this illegal and destructive act. Every day more evidence accumulates, and the case will only get stronger. How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about the president trampling the constitutional separation of powers and defying the legal efforts of a co-equal branch of government to access records and testimony? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about the president presiding over a federal budget deficit of nearly $1 trillion, representing a 48 percent increase since 2017? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that? (Obama did preside over a big increase in the deficit, but he was trying to spend his way out of the Great Recession, and succeeded.)
• How do you feel about the president throwing away long-held Republican principles of free trade in order to pursue protectionist trade policies that are hurting farmers and various manufacturing sectors across the country? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about the president’s unhinged Tweet storms nearly every day? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about the president’s abysmal treatment of expert aides and cabinet members, especially in the foreign policy realm? How do you feel about his chaotic management of the White House, and apparent eschewal of any preparation or research? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
• How do you feel about the president’s repeated undermining of the missions of the professional men and women in our intelligence agencies and State Department? How would you have felt if President Obama had done that?
YOU KNOW, I COULD DO this all day and all night but need to get to the point.
Please just ask yourselves how you can look yourselves in the mirror each day while standing up for this spectacularly unfit president. Most of you are good, decent people who want the best for America. On that note, I have some well-meaning advice: There’s no time like the present to start preparing yourself for a dismal future when any judgment or opinion you have about character, politics, ethics, morality, the law or the Constitution will be dismissed instantly as laughable coming from someone who supported the presidential disaster named Donald Trump. Lucky for you, people have short memories.