moral heroes

Flake, Corker, McCain: Not the moral heroes they’re cracked up to be

Republican Senators Jeff Flake, Bob Corker and John McCain have been receiving many kudos for speaking out against Donald Trump’s worst behaviors, lack of character, and unfitness for the presidency. But do not be fooled: These Senators are not moral heroes.

Our mothers, fathers and other wise advisers have long told us to pay more attention to what people do than to what they say. That adage has never been more apt than it is today, as people laud Flake for speaking out on the Senate floor, Corker for blasting Trump in the halls of the Capitol, and McCain for criticizing Trumpian behavior [without mentioning his name] in media interviews. Their words have been characterized as courageous—at a time when “courage” is defined as saying what is painfully obvious to even the most casual observer. And you can call that courage, if you like, because at least they are speaking out, when others won’t. But what are their actions?

Just hours after speaking on the Senate floor, saying that he would no longer be “complicit” with the Trump agenda, Senator Flake betrayed his own promise by voting for a bill that guts consumer protections. The result is that Flake enabled Trump to get what he really wants—a legislative “win” that he can brag about. How is that not being complicit, Senator Flake?

The same goes for Corker and McCain. Both of them joined all of the rest of the Senate Republicans voting for the bill.

Sure, Flake’s speech yesterday denounced “Trumpism.” But that term has been given far too much credence. Calling something an “ism” usually means that there is a thought-through philosophy behind it. That is certainly not the case with Trump. “Trumpsim” isn’t a philosophy: It’s a random series of irrational, spur-of-the-moment, reactive utterances, tweets and tantrums whose only coherent theme is defiance, anger, bragging and lying to shore up his fragile ego, winning at any cost, and destruction of anything relating to Obama.

 “Trumpsim” isn’t a philosophy: It’s a random series of irrational, spur-of-the-moment, reactive utterances, tweets and tantrums whose only coherent theme is defiance, anger, bragging and lying to shore up his fragile ego, winning at any cost, and destruction of anything relating to Obama.

So, if you’re fed up with these kinds of behaviors, Senators Corker and McCain, why are you voting for bills that reward them?

More specifically, in the case of the CFPB bill you just voted for, Trump probably knows exactly zero about what was in it. The pesky details and the inner workings of the CFPB are likely of no interest to Trump. What he hates about CFPB is not its policies, but its provenance: It’s an Obama-era programm which, by some definition in Trump’s angry, egotistical brain, must be erased. Also, Trump is desperately lusting after a legislative win. So, by voting to gut provisions of CFPB, Senators Flake, Corker and McCain, you are doing Trump’s bidding. How is that courageous, Senators?

If you really oppose what Trump has been doing to the presidency, democracy, and foreign policy, speaking out is nice. But your power, Senators, is not just in your voice, it’s in your vote. Keep talking, but show us that you mean what you say by acting — in the interest of your country, not just your party — on your much-ballyhooed convictions.

  • bethvonbehren

    But did they vote for the bill because they wanted to give Trump a win or because they really wanted to get rid of this rule? I think they are all three wrong on this issue. However, they are conservatives, and most conservatives hate class action lawsuits because in their opinion, they hurt business. So while I disagree with their vote, I don’t think their vote goes against their values. I do think we should hold them accountable for this vote, but I don’t think they voted the way they did to give Trump a victory. Therefore, I don’t see any hypocrisy in their anti-Trump speeches. In fact, I do see courage, because they are going against their party’s nominee.

  • Willy Kessler

    Sorry, I’m with Kevin Drum on this: The topic isn’t conservatism or conservative voting records. It’s just basic decency and the recognition that an unbalanced official is a danger to all, conservative or otherwise. Republicans who say this are bucking the whole go-along-to-get-along brigade.

  • Stacy Mergenthal

    I have to agree with Gloria here. These Republicans may be bucking tradition–but they have nothing to lose by doing so. None of them are seeking re-election when their terms are up. That is not courage. They’re still voting with their party and that’s all that matters, to both the Republican party and the rest of the country Their words are completely devoid of meaning when their actions contradict them and are what is really going to affect all of us. What good is calling out Trump doing for us? How will telling us something we already know affect our day-to-day lives? Will it provide us health care? Will it protect us from the avarice of banksters? Voting to gut the CFPB, for example, ensures they get nice cushy Wall Street/lobbyist jobs when their terms are up. They are free to say what they want about Trump without repercussions. That is not courage, not at all. I’d be willing to bet their “speaking out” is a calculated move to repair some of the damage to the Republicans’ reputation that Trump’s presidency has done. He makes them look the fool and they know it.

  • Willy Kessler

    They vote with their party because they agree with conservative policy prescriptions. They aren’t violating their principles in the least, although to me, as a progressive, their principles are misplaced. When we notices that they are showing integrity because they buck the GOP go-along-to-get-along mandate in the case of Trmp’s obvious unfitness, we’re not endorsing their voting record, but welcoming more combatants in the struggle against the existential threat to democratic norms that is posed by a mentally and morally unfit president who may actually be in league with or in someway influenced by a foreign power with interests that run counter to those of the U.S.

  • Stacy Mergenthal

    But they aren’t really bucking the GOP go-along-to-get-along tradition because they are a) getting along just fine with their peers by voting with them on legislation and/or supporting them where it counts and b) not seeking re-election. There is no need to get along, even if that were the case, right? They’re not fellow combatants, they are taking themselves out of the fight. It’s not a coincidence that they announced they will not be running for re-election before criticizing Trump. I’m telling ya, Willy, this is a strategic move on their part. Not sincere in the least. I have no proof, of course, just my opinion, but they have proven many times over they can’t be trusted. Where was all this good judgment leading up to the election last year, anyway? That is when this type of move would have had meaning, had punch. I don’t disagree with you in the least about Trump and his impact, I’m just not buying these guys’ “moral heroism”.

  • Willy Kessler

    Not “moral heroism,” just the modicum of integrity that we expect decent people to manifest. Just contrast these guys to some of their GOP colleagues. Ann Wagner, my US representative, expressed disgust with Trump being Trump, backed down when she saw how the ground lay in MO, now coos sweet nothings about Trump and manages to achieve her longtime goals of letting bankers return to their pre-2008 wild west. Flake and Corker could have done something similar, but they chose to be honest about Trump because of the threat he poses to all of us, conservative or progressive. True – they’ve “gone along” in the past and will continue to do so when they agree with actual policies in play – but their motive is not to “get along” but simply to serve their conservative policy preferences. They don’t deserve a medal for this, but they do get credit for their integrity in this instance.