I devoted my adult life to serving a Republican Party I venerated. More than anything else, for me, it was the party of two great presidents, Dwight David Eisenhower and Ronald Wilson Reagan.
In my view, Dwight David Eisenhower was the greatest American of the 20th Century. He was first in war, the incomparable general who led the greatest alliance in world history to victory over Nazi Germany, saving Western Civilization. He was first in peace, ending the Korean War and preventing America from entering the quagmire of Vietnam on the side of colonial France in 1954. He succeeded in enacting in 1957 and 1960 the first civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. He used military force to integrate the high school of Little Rock, Arkansas. He signed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, making possible the Interstate Highway System and the flourishing of Suburban America. Ike was scandal-free, and in my view, also the greatest president of the 20th Century.
Then, there was Ronald Reagan, a man of profound decency who led America to victory in the Cold War and enabled our economy to have its greatest revival of post-World War 2, 20th Century America. He did not have a scintilla of bigotry or sexism.
On Monday night, December 4, 2017, my once great Republican Party of Eisenhower and Reagan became morally bankrupt. On that evening, the Republican National Committee of Donald Trump shamefully announced its support of Roy Moore for Senator from Alabama. Simultaneously, our bigoted, misogynist, xenophobic, obstructer of justice president, Donald Trump reaffirmed his support of Moore, a proven sexual predator and abuser of underaged women.
That is not all there is to Roy Moore. He is an anti-Muslim bigot who has stated that Muslims should not be permitted to hold public office in America. He is a misogynist who co-authored a 2011 study course in which a speaker contended that 1) women should not be allowed to run for public office; and 2) if women did run, people have a moral obligation not to vote for them.
In addition to the sins of moral bankruptcy, the once great GOP of moral courage, as displayed by Barry Goldwater, is now the party of pathetic moral cowardice, as shown by Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. After the Alabama Senate primary, McConnell had properly denounced Roy Moore as unfit to be seated in the United States Senate. Now, McConnell has cravenly withdrawn his opposition to Moore, saying he will leave the decision on Moore to the people of Alabama.
Accordingly, there is no question that if Moore prevails in the special election of December 12, the Republican Senators will make no move to expel him. In the Congressional elections of 2018, the national Democratic Party will be able to portray incumbent Republican Senators as acquiescing in the seating in the Senate of a sexual predator, an abuser of underaged women, a bigot, and a misogynist.
The moral cowardice of today’s Republican Party is also evidenced by the continuing reluctance of Republican Senators and Representatives to even consider impeachment of our grossly unfit President, Donald Trump, despite the mounting evidence of the case for impeachment.
The guilty plea of Michael Flynn last week prompted a Trump tweet in which he admitted to knowing before his firing of FBI Director James Comey that Flynn lied to the FBI. These facts constitute an irrefutable case of obstruction of justice by the president.
The best definition of an impeachable offense was set forth in the Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton. In Federalist No. 65, Hamilton wrote that impeachable offenses must involve “abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”
By that test, the Trump firing of James Comey more than constitutes an impeachable offense. The president’s legal defenders, most notably Alan Dershowitz, are now arguing a novel theory that a president, as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer, cannot be indicted for obstruction of justice, given his plenary powers regarding supervision of the FBI. The reality is that this argument is irrelevant.
Under the Hamilton test, Trump’s actions in l’affaire Flynn/Comey constitute an egregious breach of public trust, resulting in major damage to public confidence and faith in the ethics and integrity of the presidency. This damage, at the very least warrants Trump’s impeachment and removal, regardless of whether his actions constitute a statutory crime. As Hamilton stated, the test for impeachment is political – the perception of the public of a breach of trust and abuse of power, rather than any statutory test, subject to the judgment of judges and lawyers. And I strongly suspect that the Mueller investigation will reveal more Trump abuses of power and breaches of faith.
In 2018, the Democratic Party will strategize the Congressional elections as a referendum on presidential impeachment and Republican acquiescence in the seating of Roy Moore. The Democrats will win control of both the House and Senate.
There are times when I consider leaving the Republican Party and changing my registration to “unaffiliated.” I could never become a Democrat, given my opposition to its economic and foreign policy platforms. This is especially true as the forces of Bernie Sanders begin to gain the upper hand in the national Democratic Party civil war.
Despite the disheartening Republican events of the last two weeks, however, there was a proud moment of courage and rectitude from four Republican members of the New Jersey House of Representatives delegation.
I speak of the courageous vote of Representatives Rodney Frelinghuysen, Frank LoBiondo, Chris Smith, and Leonard Lance against the House Republican tax package, a measure destructive of the economy of New Jersey and casting additional unaffordable burdens on New Jersey taxpayers. Special profile-in-courage recognition must be given to Rodney Frelinghuysen, who put New Jersey first and risked his chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee in casting his “no” vote.
As for Republican Representative Tom MacArthur, who voted for the tax package and continues to be the ultimate Trump loyalist, he is reminiscent of the late New Jersey Republican Congressman Charlie Sandman, Richard Nixon’s leading loyalist in the House of Representatives. Like Sandman, MacArthur will fail abysmally if he ever seeks statewide office.
The courage of the New Jersey Republican House quartet of Frelinghuysen, LoBiondo, Smith, and Lance gives me hope that the national Republican Party can overcome its current moral bankruptcy and cravenness and still find redemption.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.