WASHINGTON Are you old enough to remember when the Republican Party had principles and a backbone? It seems so long ago.
If you do recall that bygone time, you might expect that said principles and backbone will assert themselves, sooner or later, against President Donald Trump. Stop waiting, because it’s not going to happen. The pompous GOP credo was apparently a sham all along.
Trump has completely overturned what once was hallowed Republican orthodoxy on free trade. He has blithely ignored what used to be GOP holy writ about fiscal restraint. He mocks the party’s traditional foreign policy stance, enjoying better rapport with dictators than with the democratically elected leaders of nations that for decades have been our closest allies. He refuses even to pay lip service to the notion of universal human rights. He lies, constantly and shamelessly, to the people he is sworn to represent. In both his public and private lives, he acts as if he believes that personal responsibility – which Republicans so love to preach about – is for losers.
If a Democratic president acted this way, he or she would already have been impeached by the GOP-controlled Congress. Outraged denunciation from the likes of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would be loud and constant. But the party of Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan is now owned and operated by Donald Trump, and McConnell is as meek as a mouse.
Worse than that: McConnell proclaims how little he cares about the noble-sounding values he once claimed to treasure. “In my view, the last 16 months have been the single best period for conservative values since I came to Washington ... in 1985,” he told the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference of religious conservatives on Friday. “And this is not hyperbole.”
The crowd of Bible-thumping hypocrites – I don’t know what else to call them – applauded.
Sorry, but I simply don’t understand how politically active evangelicals can possibly reconcile devout Christian faith with uncritical support of Trump. Is all of his behavior excused by the fact that he appoints judges who will restrict abortion and same-sex marriage rights? Then tell me, what is pro-family about a policy of forcibly separating asylum-seekers from their young children at the border? Where in the New Testament does it say that blessed are the cruel?
On Saturday, Trump took a sledgehammer to the alliance of industrialized democracies that has been a mainstay since the end of World War II. At the G-7 meeting in Quebec, he behaved like a bully and a brat – the iconic photo of his faceoff with German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it all – before finally agreeing to sign a customary joint statement acknowledging differences but pledging to work toward solutions. But as the president headed away for Singapore and his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, anodyne remarks by the G-7 gathering’s host, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sent Trump into a rage.
The president withdrew U.S. support for the joint statement, essentially turning the G-7 into the G-6, and he excoriated Trudeau in a series of tweets, calling him “dishonest” and “weak” and accusing the leader of the biggest market for American exports of making “false statements.”
Trump administration officials were even more intemperate in their rhetoric. Chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow said that Trudeau “stabbed us in the back” -- by gently stating that he disagreed with the steel and aluminum tariffs Trump has imposed. Trade adviser Peter Navarro said there was “a special place in hell” for Trudeau and accused him of “bad faith.”
During the meeting, Trump had advocated that Russia be re-admitted to the group, which was once the G-8. Russia was expelled when its strongman leader, Vladimir Putin, annexed Crimea after seizing it by force from a sovereign European country, Ukraine. British Prime Minister Theresa May was particularly alarmed at Trump’s position, given the recent attempt to assassinate a former Russian intelligence agent on British soil using a sophisticated Russian-devised nerve agent. And by the way, U.S. intelligence officials say that Russia is already trying to meddle in this November’s midterm election, as it did in the 2016 presidential vote.
So this is now Republican foreign policy? Embracing Mother Russia and bashing Rogue Canada?
There was the usual criticism from Arizona Republican Sens. John McCain, who is fighting brain cancer, and Jeff Flake, who is retiring. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, mumbled something about the closeness between Canada and Maine. But nobody actually did anything to constrain Trump. So he lurches ahead, plunging a once-great political party toward its own special place in hell.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is email@example.com.