|DOUG MILLS / THE NEW YORK TIMES|
Not even George Will, the éminence grise of conservative pundits, was around in the 1790s when George Washington -- ostensibly first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen -- was pilloried by some of those countrymen for what they viewed as insufficient allegiance to America over King George III, who of course had been deeply embarrassed by the young republic's proclamation of independence and still fresh victory over England.
But some 220-plus years later, those questions are being asked again about Donald Trump and his unshakeable allegiance to Vladimir Putin over the country he took an oath to defend in the wake of what has quickly come to be called the Surrender Summit in Helsinki. As Will acidly put it, "America's child president had a play date with a KGB alumnus, who surely enjoyed providing day care. It was a useful, because illuminating, event: Now we shall see how many Republicans retain a capacity for embarrassment."
Trump's bona fides as a traitor having been firmly cemented, that indeed is the question at this time of extreme peril, indeed a national crisis of a dimension not experienced since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. (No, not even 9/11 qualifies.)
Will Trump's Republican enablers, who share the blame for the dire straits in which American finds itself, finally capitulate and push back, even joining Democrats in working for his ouster?Yes, some Republicans now question the loyalty of Will's "sad, embarrassing wreck of a man." This is a signal development considering their pusillanimous acquiescence to 18 months of Oval Office outrages, any one of which under a President Clinton would have provoked a Republican-led impeachment circus.
Yet the Surrender Summit has yet to move the Republican congressional leadership beyond ad hominem tut-tutting.
This despite Helsinki being a Technicolor horror show in which Trump met behind closed doors with the man who directed the cyberattacks on a bedrock of our democracy to help elect him, sided with him over his own intelligence chiefs, Justice Department and advisers, failed to reject an offer for him to "help" investigate 12 indicted Russian intelligence officers and be allowed to question former Ambassador Michael McFall and certain other U.S. officials he says interfered in Russian affairs, babbled about tiny Montenegro being a threat to start a world war, and gave away the candy store in secretly agreeing to bilateral arms control treaties about which senior American military aides know nothing.
Meanwhile, a Russian covert agent is being held in a federal lockup mere blocks from Capitol Hill, charged with trying to arrange a secret meeting between Trump and Putin during the campaign and more recently greasing the skids for further attacks on the homeland.
Trump, of course, excuses being taken hostage by the leader of America's historic post-World War II foe as big "sort of a double negative" misunderstanding, which has to be the most grotesquely execrable lie in his vast catalogue of them.
A very big corner must be turned, and fast.
The beyond bizarre post-summit press conference brought more big people in high places to the reality that Trump is under Putin's influence, but waiting for a possible Democratic midterm election sweep, House takeover and beginning of impeachment proceedings is not an option. Dan Coats, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton are incapable of getting that corner turned. Forget about Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. Only Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan might be heroes, but neither have a shred of morality.
But Ryan in particular has been one of Trump's useful idiots post-Helsinki, making sure that nothing happens by papering over Trump's deceits by noting that the president has now sort of admitted that Russia did interfere and urging him to accept the intelligence community's findings while sabotaging Special Counsel Robert Mueller's truth crusade just as Putin sabotaged the 2016 election. (Trump had been extensively briefed on those findings on January 6, 2017, two weeks before taking office, by then-FBI Director James Comey and three intelligence agency chiefs and later raged to aides that the men were trying to shake him down because they had something on him.)
GOP intransigence -- or is it indifference? -- continued on Thursday when House Intelligence Committee Republicans blocked a Democratic move to subpoena the interpreter from the summit to testify about the private talks between Trump and Putin and the full House stripped funding from a state election security bill.
Concerns over George Washington's allegiance to America soon passed. Today he is venerated as one of our greatest presidents, who in one of his final speeches to the nation stressed the importance of "guarding against the impostures of pretend patriotism."
Take heed Republicans.
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