The confirmation this last week that the Russian government used an invisible hand to sway our elections presented a remarkable choice for Republican leaders, one that separated true patriots from political shills.
On one hand there are the true hacks like Kellyanne Conway who called the CIA report “laughable” because her personal short term gain is greater than the national interest.
There are patriots like John McCain and Lindsey Graham who put out a statement with Chuck Schumer calling for a full congressional investigation of who, what, when, why, and how the Russians meddled this past fall. They recognize the terrifying precedent that it sets if the United States of America is willing to stand idly by and discount our own intelligence agencies while another government plays puppet master with out elecorate.
Then there is a third group: the cowards. This breed of Republican sides with neither the CIA nor Russia (hrmm, who to choose…) but instead choose to distract, distort, and deny.
The epitome of this true profile in courage is none other than Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. He is a political novice, a moral lightweight, and a kitten in the age of lions.
Ryan would rather accept the short term benefit of power than acknowledge the awesome implications that another soverign power had its thumb on the scales of our electoral process.
Russia, the country we had a decades long Cold War against; the country who Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and others were caught spying for; the country we fought proxy wars against in Afghanistan and now Syria. That Russia just waged an active campaign to delegitimize the central institution of our representative democracy and some Republicans would rather stay silent to appease a man who doesn’t recognize that coating everything in gold is tacky than stand up for our Constitution.
In response to the Washington Post story detailing the Intelligence Community’s assessment of Russia’s actions, President-Elect Trump attacked not Russia, but the CIA. As Saturday Night Live so perfectly satirized (is it satire if it’s true?) the president-elect is more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to Vladimir Putin than our own intelligence officers.
In the face of that, Speaker Ryan–who also receives intelligence briefings–refused to call for an investigation and instead said that the issue “shouldn’t become polarized.” Good thing we have a brave and principled speaker who is willing to stand up to those pesky… Democrats.
What Ryan should not only know, but be saying out loud, is that American intelligence services do not serve a political party. The are unequivocally non-partisan and work solely in the interests of the United States of America. The CIA has an estimated workforce of over 20,000 people, of whom only a small handful are politically appointed. They do not tailor assessments to fit a agenda or confirm a narrative. Their job is collect facts, analyze, asses, and report. Nothing more, nothing less.
That Trump would not only ignore their conclusion, but say that they are failure of an organization is devastating to their mission.
We all know that Trump does not live in a world based in reality. He lies the way most people breath. In response to this lying we’ve watched “leaders” like Ryan regress into a creature with his tail permanently tucked between his legs.
For example last week when Ryan was asked by Scott Pelley about Trump’s claim that “millions voted illegally” for Hillary Clinton, he simply said he “wasn’t focused on those things” and “didn’t have a way to know” if what Trump said was true. Ryan chose to continue to cast doubt on the solvency our democracy rather than say “Yeah, that was a ludicrous tweet.”
Where does this end?
People often ‘joked’ during the campaign that Trump represented a threat to our democracy – a claim more accurately described as hyperbole than legitimate during the campaign. But now, as Trump has dabbled in conspiracy theories about illegal voting and decided to side with the Kremlin over Langley, it doesn’t feel so hyperbolic.
In the weeks since the election we’ve seen Trump start by calling the President of Taiwan, then criticize China for stealing a drone, and then again criticize China for giving it back. He has remained silent as North Carolina Republicans stripped an incoming Democratic administration of power. He used his bully pulpit to temporarily crush the stock prices of companies who have rubbed him the wrong way.
Any one of things would be a presidential scandal and Trump is still weeks away from the oath.
Now more than ever we need leaders who have spines made of lead and are able to separate the politically expedient from the democratically disastrous. Every leader will have their sheep and if he continues to silently go along, Paul Ryan is going to be first of many to be sheared.
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