Trump appears to ask Melania to smile during photo op at chapel that infuriated church leaders

On June 2, NBC News reporter Kasie Hunt asked Republican Senators for a reaction to President Donald Trump's actions the previous evening. Trump, the head of the Republican Party whom Senate Republicans declined to remove from office in December, had police deploy tear gas and flashbang grenades to clear peaceful protestors in order to facilitate a photo op of the president standing meaningfully in front of a church that he does not attend.

During the brief event, which resulted in law-abiding citizens being menaced by a low-hovering military helicopter and a church rector being tear-gassed, Trump also displayed what may or may not have been a Bible in much the same way that one might hold up a lost umbrella in a crowded museum lobby or a bidding card at a cattle auction.

While many unenlightened people felt that Republicans could have taken this frivolous dip into full-on fascism as the cue to signal their willingness to fully participate in a new impeachment, kneecap Trump, and save our democracy, they in fact took far bolder positions than many people will ever understand. Below, a selection:


The polite, the practical

Rob Portman (R-OH): "I'm late for lunch."

Mike Enzi (R-WY): "Sorry, I'm late for lunch."

These bold pragmatists refuse to address esoteric, inside-baseball, ivory-tower concepts such as an open adoption of Putin's propaganda tactics. There are deeper realities that one must face: All humankind must eat, and if one delays nourishment one and one's intended lunch companions may become cranky, and who knows to what madness and destruction that may lead? These men have taken a stand: No appeteasers, no peace.

The humble

Mitch McConnell (R-KY): "I'm not going to critique other people's performances."

McConnell strikes to the heart of the clearly deep and reflective Christian faith that he and Trump share: Judge not, lest ye be judged. Who, McConnell says, are any of us to assess and condemn the actions of our fellow human beings, whom we can never truly know? An ordinary, timid man would merely take a stand against a flagrant attack on our cherished right to freely assemble. McConnell audaciously questions the underlying notion of our entire judicial system.

The bird-flippers

Ron Johnson (R-WI): "Didn't really see it."

Mitt Romney (R-UT): "I didn't watch it closely enough to know."

Bill Cassidy (R-LA): "I didn't follow, I'm sorry."

Too many people give power to leaping authoritarianism by paying attention to it, by calling it out as wrong or bad or the antithesis of everything we're supposed to stand for. They puff up autocracy by the very act of taking steps to stop it. These heroic iconoclasts simply refuse to give it the oxygen. "Sorry, home-grown fascism," they quip as they breeze right by, "I had a thing."

The bold individualists

Kelly Loeffler (R-GA): [Did not respond]

Pat Roberts (R-KS): "I don't have any comment on that."

Marsha Blackburn (R-TN): [Did not respond]

Dan Sullivan (R-AK): [Did not respond]

Richard Shelby (R-AL): [Did not respond]

On the surface, they may look like poltroons, like craven weaklings who refuse to stand against a clear wrong in the face of mild criticism from the worst elements of our society, like the jelly-spleened cowards who said nothing and let Hitler sweep to power, but in fact, they are presenting a daring flourish and refusing to coddle the president or his constituents. "We disapprove, Mr. Trump," we can assume they are thinking, "And you will have to do your own work to figure out why." How better to throw your censure in the face of an anti-intellectual? If silence truly equals violence, these five are killing machines.

The firebrand

Lisa Murkowski (R-AK): [What she saw] "was not the America that I know." It's gutsy to say that you can't comment on Trump's public dropping of an Il Duce because whoops, you missed it. It's valiant to refuse to be boxed into a firm statement of what is "right" and what is "wrong" and what is "mortifying preening false bravado capped with what appears to be a head full of bleached fiberglass insulation stretched over a jauntily angled two-by-four" and what is "a chilling foreshadowing of a refusal to ever leave power."

But to say in public that you saw it, that you recognized its fundamental incompatibility with both our nation and the office of the presidency, and then to still steadfastly refuse to do a single thing about it? That takes some stone-cold balls.

The dickhole

Ted Cruz (R-TX): When asked if what he saw was an abuse of power, Cruz responded "By the protestors, yes." We must, as always, admire Ted Cruz's laser-focused commitment to being dickhole, even when he must crush all semblance of reason and logic to do so. He may not have the courage to slow Trump's momentum by standing on principle at the Republican Convention, but given even the slightest opportunity, he will always, always take the heroically unpopular path of being an utter dickhole, and attention must be paid.

Which is a good thing, because it really draws focus away from the fact that the president of the United States had peaceful American citizens tear gassed.

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