Outtakes: Mike Lee and the GOP's avoidance perpetuates Trump's bullying

Wednesday , July 05, 2017 - 5:15 AM6 comments

DON PORTER, Outtakes columnist

“Since the founding of this nation, freedom of the press has been a fundamental tenet of American life. There is no more essential ingredient than a free, strong and independent press to our continued success in what the founding fathers called our ‘noble experiment’ in self-government.” — U.S. President Ronald Reagan, 1983

America’s current collection of constitutional conservatives and chronic defenders of Tweeter-in-Chief Donald J. Trump probably would deny St. Ronnie of the GOP ever said any such thing about the Fourth Estate.

Nevertheless, he did.

In addition, while Reagan obviously didn’t care much for the press — my assumption is no president ever has — he understood their value to the republic.

Unlike the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., he didn’t call for them to be roughed up, falsely accuse them of perpetuating “fake news” or concoct sexist lies about the females who ply the quasi-journalistic trade of cable news and/or entertainment.

The Gipper had more important things to do. Progressives like me may have vehemently disagreed with his policies, but we realized he was a serious man.

Unfortunately for our nation, seriousness of purpose — except when it comes to inflicting vengeful tweets — is something that will never be associated with Trump.

Which brings me to Utah Sen. Mike Lee, who appeared Sunday on the CBS news show “Face the Nation” to hawk a new book he’s written about the Founding Fathers and what he views as their commitment to small government.

The show’s host, John Dickerson, asked Lee to evaluate, “based on your view of the standards the founders set for virtue, the current behavior of the president this week.”

Lee’s craven response was one for the ages: “Look, the president of the United States, is a unique man,” Lee said. “He campaigned on a very aggressive platform that involved draining the swamp. The president takes a unique approach, one that differs from many of his predecessors. It’s not going to do any good for me or anyone else to come in and just comment on things we might not like about his Twitter behavior. The best thing we can do when we want to elevate civil dialogue in our American political discourse is to do whatever we can to make sure we treat others kindly with dignity and respect, and that's what I intend to do.”

This was precisely the wrong answer for a national leader like Lee to have given. He is, after all, a hero to some in the hard-right wing of the Republican Party.

This brand of cowardly avoidance, quite common amongst Lee’s GOP congressional colleagues since Trump won his party’s nomination in 2016, perpetuates the president’s bullying and mendacious dialogue with the American public.

Lee and other elected figures should be defenders of honor and virtue, fearlessly recognizing that Trump may never bend to such criticism; indeed, if we’ve learned anything it is that our president would surely respond with vitriol.

However, there’s more in peril here than a single party’s legislative agenda. The very soul of the nation risks annihilation under the onslaught of boorish behavior emanating from the White House.

Decades into the future, when another author writes a history book about our nation’s Age of Trump, Utah’s Sen. Mike Lee will be a character in that narrative. The story of his involvement will invite one of two reactions from Lee’s descendants: shame or pride.

Either he will be a hero of the epoch, a leader who spoke truth to power, or he will be a co-conspirator in the ruinous conduct of a man whose limitless egocentrism, vengeful deeds and utter contempt for restraint left a lasting, visible bruise on the integrity of the United States of America.

Email columnist Don Porter at dportercolumn@hotmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @DonPondorter.

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