Email #322: “historic mistake”?

Senator McCain criticized the President in a speech he delivered on Monday:

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain “the last best hope of earth” for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

Senator Corker criticized the President during an interview yesterday:

“I would have hoped that he would rise to the occasion and bring out the best in our nation, Charlie. Hopefully, what presidents do is to try to bring the country together to unify around common goals, not to debase our country if you will, and that has not happened. I’m beginning to believe that’s not going to happen, and I think that’s what President Bush, President Obama, many others are concerned about, as it appears to be the governing model of this White House to purposely divide. I mean that’s what happened after the Virginia incident. It’s to consolidate the base, not to bring people together and bring out the better angels of those people in our country.”

And Senator Flake criticized the President when he announced his retirement yesterday:

“When the next generation asks us, ‘Why didn’t you do something? Why didn’t you speak up?’ What are we going to say? … We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified. And when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.”

These are deep criticisms by three Republican Senators over two days. But the content of their criticism isn’t new. We heard it well before the election:

“Making Donald Trump our commander in chief would be a historic mistake and it would undo so much of the work that Republicans and Democrats alike have done over many decades to make America stronger and more secure. It would set back our standing in the world more than anything in recent memory, and it would fuel an ugly narrative about who we are, that we’re fearful, not confident, that we want to let others determine our future for us instead of shaping our own destiny. That’s not the America I know and love.”

Hillary Clinton said that in June 2016. I understand why Republicans ignored her at the time. I ignored what the Trump campaign was saying about her too. But now Republicans are agreeing with those criticisms—or at least Republicans who are not seeking reelection. Flake and Corker will leave office after next year, and though McCain’s term extends another four years, he was diagnosed with cancer over the summer.

Are death and retirement the only ways for Republicans to acknowledge the nature of the Trump presidency? I understand that you support much of the same agenda and therefore have political reasons to ignore the President’s flaws. I have overlooked the flaws of past Democrats for similar reasons. But no sitting Democratic president has ever been rebuked by senators of his own party as unpatriotic, half-baked, purposely divisive, debasing, dangerous, reckless, outrageous, and undignified.

Do you sincerely disagree with any of these assessments?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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