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OPINION: Trump, the Toxic President. When will Republicans have the sense to run?
Chicago Tribune - 8/18/2017
Aug. 18--The president of the United States is toxic, both to the country and to any who stand by him.
Donald Trump once carried only a stink, one that some -- with cold political calculation -- figured they could wash off if need be. But now he's gone toxic, radioactive, a slow but certain killer of reputations and careers.
That's what happens when you push and push and push the boundaries of normalcy, the edges of acceptable presidential behavior, and stretch them into areas blocked off long ago.
You don't try to gin up a moral equivalence to white supremacy or Naziism. You don't do most of the things Trump has done week in and week out since becoming president, and you damn sure don't take a moment of violent racism and selfishly spin it into a veiled defense of white power, all at the expense of a country in need of healing.
But that's what the president did, and now a question that has lingered for months without answer looms larger: When will congressional Republicans break loose of Trump?
The Muslim ban and its ensuing chaos wasn't enough. The incessant dishonesty and attacks on the press have been either ignored or, at times, embraced. Even the legislative flailing and the attacks on Republican lawmakers have passed with only mild rebukes.
And now this, in the wake of Charlottesville. The angry tweets and the angrier press conference and the seemingly unhinged, red-faced exhortations that there were "fine people" among the Tiki-torch carrying Nazis who chanted "Jews will not replace us!"
How much longer do Republicans in the House and Senate stand with a toxic president? When does concern for this country -- or concern that they, too, might become poisoned -- overwhelm a desire to keep Trump's dwindling supporters happy?
It's a question that demands an answer, because at the moment, Republicans in Congress are being morally outflanked by the executive director of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce in Florida.
Three large fundraisers scheduled to take place at Trump's Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago club were canceled Thursday, and chamber of commerce head Laurel Baker pulled no punches in an interview with the Washington Post, calling the club "morally reprehensible" and saying: "The club is a member of the chamber. But right is right."
She told the newspaper her mantra this week is: "'The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis.' Especially for nonprofits. Especially for groups who help people who can't help themselves."
Baker gets it. So does Apple CEO Tim Cook.
BuzzFeed obtained a copy of a staff email in which Cook wrote: "I disagree with the president and others who believe that there is a moral equivalence between white supremacists and Nazis, and those who oppose them by standing up for human rights. Equating the two runs counter to our ideals as Americans."
The former members of the president's manufacturing council knew the right thing to do when they disbanded in the wake of Trump's Charlottesville comments.
JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said in a statement: "It is a leader's role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart."
The rabbi who oversaw Ivanka Trump's conversion to Judaism released a letter along with two other rabbis saying: "While we avoid politics, we are deeply troubled by the moral equivalency and equivocation President Trump has offered in response to this act of violence."
Even James Murdoch, the CEO of 21st Century Fox, the parent company of the heavily pro-Trump Fox News, broke with the president.
In an email to friends obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, Murdoch wrote: "But what we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people. ... I can't even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis."
He also pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League.
When you're losing big businesses, nonprofits trying to raise money, people who run local chambers of commerce, your daughter's rabbi and a Murdoch, you're toxic.
And still, it seems, the Republicans who got in bed with Trump are willing to lie there and absorb the toxins.
I don't understand why. I'll never understand why.
If it's political calculation, it's soulless. If it's quiet agreement with Trump's tough talk, it's even worse.
We are long past issues of policy. Companies and religious leaders and anyone with even a half-functioning moral compass are fleeing Trump not because they disagree with his policies but because his character is repellant, either to them or to the people they serve.
The president of the United States is exactly the person he showed himself to be during the campaign, and that reckless, bullying, wholly self-absorbed person is doing real harm to this country and to the political party he claims to lead.
I don't know when, or if, congressional Republicans will break. I don't know if there is a line in the sand.
But I know this: Standing near something toxic for too long is lethal. And I don't think the Republican Party wants to die.
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