by Juan Williams, opinion contributor · February 12, 2018
Wow, what happened to Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.)?
In the last year, Ryan has squandered his stellar reputation as a smart, conservative visionary. By excusing President Trump’s bad behavior, he has made it clear his only priorities are that Trump put conservatives on the Supreme Court and sign tax cuts that overwhelmingly benefit the rich and corporations.
Similarly, what happened to Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)?
The man who once called out the president for turning the White House into an “adult day care center” vowed never to vote for a tax cut bill that added “one penny” to the deficit.
Corker voted against an early draft of the tax cut law. But he then jumped on board when a provision was inserted into the law that would greatly increase his personal wealth through tax treatment of his commercial real estate holdings. Corker denied any impropriety.
The fact remains that Corker switched his vote and voted for a bill that added billions of pennies to the deficit while feathering his own nest. He could have shown real courage and voted ‘No.’ He did not.
And what happened to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)?
McConnell once took pride in defying Trump by having his Republican majority pass a law last year to punish Russia by imposing sanctions on countries buying military equipment from that nation. The penalties were intended to penalize Russia for interfering in the 2016 election and stop its ongoing meddling in American politics.
But McConnell had little to say when the Trump administration said in late January that it would not impose Congress’s sanctions.
Ryan, Corker and McConnell are leading GOP lights who have ceded their party’s moral center in service to protecting Trump.
Until Trump came along, the party stood for cutting federal spending. It was the pro-immigration party. And after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Republicans backed the secret surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act to protect against spies and terrorists.
Now it is a different party.
Currently, congressional Republicans make excuses for refusing to put checks and balances on the excesses of Trump’s executive branch.
Today’s GOP offers political cover for a man with no history in the party as he denigrates, degrades, and destroys vital American institutions, including law enforcement, the free press and the GOP.
Ryan is the biggest disappointment.
Even if you disagree with him, Ryan has a history of standing up for what he thinks is right.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, a fearless Ryan said Trump, then the leading candidate for the GOP nomination, was wrong to attack an Indiana judge because the judge had Mexican ancestry. Ryan pulled no punches in calling out Trump for making “the textbook definition of a racist statement.”
Now Ryan is looking the other way on far more damaging Trump behavior.
He ignored pleadings from the Justice Department and the FBI to stop the release of a classified memo — written by Republicans — that purportedly showed wrongdoing by law enforcement in obtaining a warrant to conduct surveillance of a known friend to Russian intelligence, the Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.
Ryan said the memo had nothing to do with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign. It was about misconduct by some agents, he said.
But once it was out, Trump tweeted that the memo “totally vindicates” him, even though it said nothing about collusion or obstruction of justice, the focus of Mueller’s work.
When Ryan was asked about this, he mumbled and walked away from reporters.
He had no explanation for allowing his credibility to be used by Trump.
Fox News host Sean Hannity, a Trump supporter, said on the basis of the memo that the Mueller probe ought to be disbanded — and that charges brought against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn should be dropped.
Ryan opened the door to this nonsense.
“I have been a consistent defender of his good intentions,” conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote of Ryan recently in the Washington Post. “But after the 17th time saying he ‘knows better,’ it dawns that he may not. By his recent actions, the Speaker has provided political cover for a weakening of the constitutional order. He has been used as a tool while loudly insisting he is not a tool.”
“I believe Ryan to be a good person,” Gerson continued. “But the greatest source of cynicism is not the existence of corrupt people in politics; it is good people who lose their way.”
It has been said that corruption is worst when it happens to the best.
The GOP used to be one of the two great American political parties. It gave the country some of the best statesmen of the last hundred years: Jacob Javits, Everett Dirksen, Edward Brooke, Howard Baker, Bob Dole and John McCain.
But in the age of Trump, there are no more GOP profiles in courage — only profiles in cowardice.
It’s time for all Republicans to speak out against Trump’s corruption. If not, their party will be forever damaged by the time this Trump horror show fades to black.
Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.
The Hill · by Juan Williams, opinion contributor · February 12, 2018