Opinion

DUGGAN: Freshmen GOP Senators Join McConnell, Bill Kristol To Flunk Their First Test

Joseph Duggan Contributor

Glenn Frey and Don Henley were clever social commentators as well as entertaining singer-songwriters. The new kid in town, they warned, faced “great expectations.” “Everybody loves you, so don’t let them down.”

The latest letdown in the nation’s capital didn’t take long to happen. In the first important roll call vote of their Senate careers, all the new GOP senators voted for a resolution sponsored by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and hailed by the anti-Trump media as a “rebuke” of the commander in chief.

The freshmen faced a choice: They could vote for a resolution condemning the president’s “precipitous” decision to pull half of our troops out of Afghanistan and Syria, or they could stand with the president and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who said it was “ludicrous” to call withdrawal “after 17 years ‘precipitous.’”

GOP Freshmen Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Mike Braun (Ind.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), Josh Hawley (Mo.), and Rick Scott (Fl.) — and, not surprisingly, Mitt Romney (Utah) — voted against the president.

Before the ink had dried on their swearing-in documents, the freshmen senators had won the praise of “Never Trump” maestro Bill Kristol.

Kristol exulted: “The liberation of the GOP from Trump and Trumpism proceeds, albeit too slowly and too hesitantly.” Thursday’s vote, he quoted the Washington Post, “puts Senate Republicans on the record as being firmly at odds with Trump’s Middle East policy.”

Never mind that Trump’s rationale for disengaging from endless wars is strategically sound and popular with Republican primary voters. The new kids already are under the spell of the glamor of network television and the deep state.

Last Labor Day, Romney was a sure bet to win the open Utah Senate seat. But things looked unpromising for other GOP candidates. Cramer pulled decisively ahead of Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (ND) following the national wake-up call that was the Kavanaugh confirmation process. The others struggled and won late come-from-behind victories only because of Trump’s extraordinary efforts on their behalf.

Blackburn’s turn against Trump is astonishing. She had campaigned on the strength of her support for Trump in contrast to her predecessor Bob Corker, who became a darling inside the Beltway but radioactively unpopular at home for his constant anti-Trump agitation.

Braun, a businessman, won the Republican nomination as a Trumpian outsider against two House members. A poor campaigner, he trailed his Democratic opponent in opinion polls until Trump provided him massive aid during the final days of the campaign.

Cramer pulled far ahead in the polls after the Kavanaugh vote, but as mentioned, it was Trump’s steadfast support for Kavanaugh that turned the tide in North Dakota.

Hawley ran a lagging campaign against one of the cleverest, most underhanded of Democrats, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill. Trump rallied for Hawley in the state twice during the last few days of the campaign, including his final, election-eve barn-burner in Cape Girardeau with native son Rush Limbaugh.

Independent candidates have spoiled past Missouri races for other Republicans. The would-be spoiler in 2018 was Kansas City lawyer and nominal Republican Craig O’Dear, who ran as an independent allied with — get this — Bill Kristol.

Hawley certainly would have lost without Trump’s unprecedented support. If Hawley had appeared at a rally in Cape Girardeau with Mitt Romney and Bill Kristol, Southeast Missourians would have tarred and feathered and run them out of town on a rail as the good citizens of a fictional, nearby river hamlet did to Huckleberry Finn’s Duke and Dauphin.

Scott’s razor thin victory also would have been impossible without Trump.

The new kids have begun to ape the preening postures of the late John McCain and the unlamented Jeff Flake, passing “non-binding” resolutions to embarrass the president instead of passing real legislation in the public interest.

From Fargo to Kansas City to Fort Wayne to Nashville to Jacksonville, citizens should remember the new kids betrayed President Trump the next time they get a chance to vote on their futures, and the next time Republican donors get asked to fund the new kids’ endless demands for campaign contributions.

Be assured, Sens. Blackburn, Braun, Cramer, Hawley and Scott: Your constituents will never forget you till somebody new comes along.

Joseph P. Duggan is a former U.S. diplomat and speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.