Conservative commentator George Will left the Republican Party when President Donald Trump took over, and in his Thursday column, he attacked the president for “frivolousness and stupidity.”
Writing in the Washington Post, Will recalled the times Trump complimented his own intelligence, saying “I’m a very stable genius” and that he has “a very good brain.” In reality, Trump is “spiraling downward in a tightening gyre,” said Will.
Such “unhinged public performances” are “as alarming as they are embarrassing,” he explained. Meanwhile, he’s crafting international policy “so flippantly that it has stirred faint flickers of thinking among Congress’s vegetative Republicans.”
The reference was to the decision this week to allow Turkey to kill Kurdish allies, who have been fighting off ISIS in Syria on behalf of the U.S. government. Trump was reportedly on the phone with Turkish President Erdoğan, who was furious. Trump wanted to get off the phone and essentially agreed to betray the U.S. allies.
“Aside from some rhetorical bleats, Republicans are acquiescing as Trump makes foreign policy by and for his viscera. This might, and should, complete what the Iraq War began in 2003 — the destruction of the GOP’s advantage regarding foreign policy,” wrote Will.
Republicans have long prided themselves on supporting the military and strengthening the U.S. hegemony over the Middle East. Those days have come to an end.
“Trump’s gross and comprehensive incompetence now increasingly impinges upon the core presidential responsibility,” said Will. “This should, but will not, cause congressional Republicans to value their own and their institution’s dignity and exercise its powers more vigorously than they profess fealty to Trump. He has issued a categorical refusal to supply witnesses and documents pertinent to the House investigation of whether he committed an impeachable offense regarding Ukraine. This refusal, which is analogous to an invocation of the Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination, justifies an inference of guilt. Worse, this refusal attacks our constitutional regime. So, the refusal is itself an impeachable offense.”
He noted that it was remarkably similar to behavior he saw in 1974 when President Richard Nixon was indicted for failing “without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by” a House committee, and for having “interposed the powers of the presidency against the lawful subpoenas” of the House.
Will said that if Trump is allowed to continue, then the Constitution’s impeachment provision will be “effectively repealed,” leaving any future president above the law.
Citing Federalist 51 by James Madison, Will explained that the founding fathers anticipated a battle between the two branches of government and outlined the separation of powers for exactly that reason.
“Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected to the constitutional rights of the place,” Madison wrote. Equilibrium between the branches depends on “supplying, by opposite and rival interests, the defect of better motives.”
According to Will, that balance has vanished as members of Congress cower in fear of Trump.
“Trump is not just aggressively but lawlessly exercising the interests of his place, counting on Congress, after decades of lassitude regarding its interests, being an ineffective combatant,” he wrote. “Trump’s argument, injected into him by subordinates who understand that absurdity is his vocation, is essentially that the Constitution’s impeachment provisions are unconstitutional.”
If Republicans continue to cave into Trump’s lack of respect for the law, he said that they should be defeated.