U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, second from right, attends a bill signing by President Donald Trump on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House photo)

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, second from right, attends a bill signing by President Donald Trump on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018, in the Oval Office of the White House. (Official White House photo)

Opinion: Sen. Dan Sullivan, a conservative in name only

It’s easy to imagine Sen. Lisa Murkowski broke out in a smile last week after former Vice President Mike Pence announced he won’t endorse Donald Trump. She knows he’s unfit for the presidency. But she must also be worried that he has a shot at winning thanks to 38 of her Senate colleagues who lack the moral fortitude to tell voters what they really think.

Sen. Dan Sullivan is one of them. They’ve all endorsed Trump.

Pence joined a significant number of former high-ranking Trump administration officials who agree with Murkowski. But his reasoning seemed vague. Trump “is pursuing and articulating an agenda that is at odds with the conservative agenda that we governed on during our four years,” he said. Therefore, he “cannot in good conscience” endorse him.

Republicans have long portrayed defense of the Constitution as one of their core conservative values. And although Pence didn’t mention the criminal indictment for Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, he’d already drawn a straight line between the two.

“January 6 was a tragic day in the life of our nation,” Pence said last June. He believed the “American people deserve to know that on that day” Trump “demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution…I chose the Constitution and always will.”

Sullivan often claims to hold the Constitution in such high regard. But he’s chosen Trump.

It’s also fair to question the sincerity of Sullivan’s frequently touted leadership in combatting the scourge of sexual assault.

Remember, a month before the 2016 election, he called on Trump to withdraw from the race. The country “needs national leaders who can lead by example on this critical issue,” he said. “The reprehensible revelations about Donald Trump have shown that he can’t.”

He was referring to the infamous 2005 “Hollywood Access” recording in which Trump bragged that being a star serves as permission to grab women by their genitals. In a 2019 magazine article, E. Jean Carroll claimed Trump did it to her eight years before the recording was made.

Trump denied the allegation. “Totally lying. I don’t know anything about her.” He also claimed “she’s not my type.” Those foolish lies came back to bite him.

Carroll sued him for defamation and battery. In a 2022 sworn deposition, Trump was shown a photograph of Carroll and him together. He mistook her to be Marla Maples, his wife at the time that the alleged assault occurred. His own lawyer had to correct him.

Needless to say, the jury deemed Trump’s denial not credible. They found him liable for sexually abusing Carroll and awarded her $5 million. The defamation judgment, which had been delayed due to an appeal, cost him another $83 million.

Now, eight years after arguing we need a president who can lead by example on such a serious matter, and with further evidence of Trump’s reprehensible behavior, Sullivan has endorsed him anyway.

Perhaps the first time, he felt freer to express what he really believed. He expected Trump to lose and wouldn’t have to defend his character ever again.

But where does that leave him now? Is he really endorsing Trump? Or does he hope he’ll lose like he did in 2020? And is his crusade to end sexual assault merely superficial?

Either way, he can’t claim to be a leader of the cause.

By placing loyalty to Trump first, Sullivan can only offer performative lip service about that, defense of the Constitution, democracy and conservative values. And except for the fact they both oppose abortion, he can’t do much better on issues regarding his religious faith.

On that, I’ll turn to a devout Christian to describe how Trump has poisoned Christianity too.

“In the place of integrity, the Trump movement has elevated a warped kind of authenticity — the authenticity of unfiltered abuse, imperious ignorance, untamed egotism and reflexive bigotry,” Michael Gerson wrote in his Washington Post column two months before he died. “This is inconsistent with Christianity by any orthodox measure.”

Add it all up and Trump has reduced the Republican Party to a group of conservatives in name only. And if Sullivan is unhappy about that, the only stand he’s willing to take is to privately pray that Trump loses again.

• Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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