Opinion: The fortitude of Sen. Murkowski’s conscience

  • Friday, January 15, 2021 10:35am
  • Opinion

By Rich Moniak

Sen. Lisa Murkowski made national headlines for being the first Republican in Congress to demand that Donald Trump resign. “I want him out” she said during an interview two days after he incited an insurrection at the Capitol. “He has caused enough damage.”

But there’s a powerful footnote to the story that mustn’t be overlooked. In what might be considered a political act of contrition, Murkowski later stated in a separate interview: “I allowed myself to refrain from speaking my truth. And I can’t just be quiet right now.”

To be sure, her mistake in this American tragedy pales in comparison to the seditious support some congressional Republicans gave to Trump’s lie that the election was stolen. It’s also much smaller than the complicit silence of so many others.

In fact, Murkowski’s conscience guided her to publicly speak her truth seven months ago. Had her colleagues acted as she did then, Trump’s hope to remain in office would have been extinguished long before he launched his incendiary scheme.

“We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership,” retired Gen. James Mattis wrote in a lengthy, blistering condemnation of the president on June 3. Trump’s former secretary of defense made the statement the day after tear gas was used against peaceful protestors to clear a path for the now-infamous photo op of the president holding a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington.

Murkowski believed Mattis’s “words were true, and honest, and necessary and overdue.” And she wondered aloud if “we are getting to a point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally” and find “the courage of our own convictions to speak up.”

But with few exceptions, her fellow Republicans in Congress chose to remain silent about Trump’s unfitness for office.

Now, Trump is saddled with the ignominious distinction of being the only American president twice impeached.

He could have avoided that by resigning, which Murkowski said was the “good thing” he should do while doubting whether “he’s capable of doing a good thing.”

Neither would be necessary if Trump accepted one important truth. He lost the election. He should have conceded defeat after the battleground states certified their results and the courts unequivocally dismissed his challenges.

Furthermore, no leader of his party would have leveled the charge that the election was stolen had he not done so himself. Because they all knew it wasn’t.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky failed to timely speak that truth. Six weeks after the election, he finally acknowledged Joe Biden had won. But he made no statement in that 10-minute speech refuting Trump’s accusations of fraud. That came this month when he said there was no proof of “illegality anywhere near the massive scale … that would have tipped the entire election.”

Sens. John Cornyn of Texas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Thune of South Dakota and Roy Blunt of Missouri have leadership roles under McConnell and were all equally or more delinquent in their duty to the truth.

Republican leadership in the House did far more damage. Almost immediately, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California explicitly endorsed the lie. “President Trump won this election,” he said on Fox News on Nov. 4, “so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes.”

A month later, McCarthy signed the amicus brief supporting a lawsuit that asked for nullification of all votes in the battleground states. On Jan. 6, he was among the 138 Republican House members who objected to the Electoral College results.

On Wednesday, McCarthy opposed impeaching Trump because it would “further fan the flames of partisan division.” But healing the divide won’t happen until the lie of a stolen election is forever eradicated.

Every Republican senator and House member must do what Murkowski did in June and again this month. They need to search their conscience for the truths they’ve refrained from speaking. And any party leader at the national and state level who can’t muster the fortitude to unequivocally tell Americans the truth that the election was not stolen should do the right thing and resign.

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