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Opinion >  Column

Shawn Vestal: Be the hero the republic – and Republicans – truly need, Representative

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers listens to a constituents question during a “Conversation with Cathy” Town Hall held, Wed., Aug. 7, 2019, on the campus of Gonzaga Univeristy. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers listens to a constituents question during a “Conversation with Cathy” Town Hall held, Wed., Aug. 7, 2019, on the campus of Gonzaga Univeristy. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Be a hero, Representative.

Now’s your chance.

Do the right thing, pay the price and secure a place in the history books: Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, stand up and become the first Republican of the Trump era to break ranks on principle and support, if not yet articles of impeachment, the need for an impeachment inquiry into the president’s actions.

I know – it’s a fantasy. But bear with me.

Before long, after all, this will be over. One way or another, this disaster of a mob-family administration will end, and we will all look back – even you, congresswoman, and the rest of the cult of silence and support – wondering what in the hell happened to our country, and why those who enabled the president kept selling off their honor for political chits, peddling a little every day, day after day, until none was left.

Preserve some honor, Congresswoman.

Support the impeachment inquiry. At this moment in your career – having lost your leadership role among House Republicans and gone a bit quiet after a period of an ever-rising national profile – use whatever influence and leverage you have to set an example. Be the leader your words would have us believe you are.

And then, if you can’t in good conscience support anything more than that after an inquiry, at least you’ll know you stood for oversight and openness, for the principle that no one is above the law, for your constitutional duty to check an executive who admits in broad daylight that he solicited a foreign leader to investigate a political opponent.

Don’t do it because the big bad Democrats said so. Don’t, for heaven’s sake, do it because a newspaper hack said so.

Do it because your better self said so.

“No one is above the law,” you said last year, referring to the Mueller investigation. “Congress has a responsibility to provide oversight and accountability.”

Yes, it does. Now walk that walk. Take that tiny bit of spine you’ve shown here and there – voting against the executive order to build the wall, denouncing Trump’s vulgar boasting about sexual assault – and stiffen it.

You’ve already paid a political cost for frankness. You showed up at Trump Tower in December 2016 amid speculation that you would be the next Interior Secretary, only to be confronted not with a job offer but with Trump waving a folder of media clippings of your criticisms. These criticisms, it must be said, were mild and couched in the language of ultimate, if slightly grudging, support for Trump.

Still, you made them, stuck to them, according to newspaper and book accounts of the meeting, and paid for them.

Follow your own example.

I realize this plea is more rhetorical than realistic, Congresswoman. As the House Democrats open an impeachment inquiry into Trump’s seeming efforts to enlist a foreign ally’s help against a political rival – an utterly brazen act to which the president has blusteringly confessed – there is little sign yet that anyone will wake up and discover their conscience among the congressional GOP.

You fell in line Tuesday, releasing a toadying statement decrying the “hyper-partisan political climate” and praising the president for saying he will release the transcript of his call with the Ukrainian leader. I wish it had been more surprising than it was.

Justin Amash, the Michigan congressman, left the party over its deep ethical affliction. He supports the impeachment inquiry. A few other Republicans in Congress have made very cautious remarks about concerns and worry and needing to see more evidence.

But the virtually unqualified support from the president’s party will look increasingly base as time passes – the blasé defense of obstruction of justice outlined clearly in the Mueller report, the strategic silences, the selling out of long-held economic and moral principles, the daily abandonment of the truth over the party line, on and on and on. You will all be scrambling to justify it for the rest of your political lives.

It’s the Landgrebe party now. Illinois congressman Earl Landgrebe, you’ll recall, became one of history’s most famous toadies by doubling down on his support for Richard Nixon even as everyone else was abandoning him.

“Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind,” he said during the Watergate hearings. The day before Nixon’s resignation, when virtually every Republican had turned against the president, Landgrebe said, “I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken outside the building and shot.”

Today’s amen chorus in Congress should be named in Landgrebe’s honor. You can break that mold, Representative. You’d be the first. The example. The one who stayed in the party and stood up for principle.

Someone will do that, eventually. Why not you?

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