On Sunday, Republican Senator Bob Corker told The New York Times that Trump’s immature behavior toward other countries could set the nation “on the path to World War III” and that Trump’s actions should “concern anyone who cares about our nation.”
This is pretty alarming stuff! From everything we’ve seen thus far—such as Trump’s erratic behavior when it comes to North Korea and Iran—none of Corker’s criticisms seem to be coming out of left field. And Corker, who is the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, only stands to have more information than we do, making his warnings all the more nerve-wracking.
Corker’s interview and tweets (in which he called the White House “an adult day care center”) have been hailed as extraordinary. His candidness is fueled, in part, because he has decided not to run for reelection and thus faces no electoral consequences. But as Jonathan Bernstein points out at Bloomberg, “Senators, even ones who are retiring and have no fear of electoral retribution, simply don’t talk that way about same-party presidents.”
Yet Corker is apparently not alone. In the same interview, he claimed that he was not the only Senate Republican who held the same concerns about Trump:
“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”
If the “vast majority” of the Republican caucus shares Corker’s concerns—one of which, let’s be clear, is World War III—then what’s extraordinary isn’t that Corker is going against his president, but that his vocal criticisms are in the minority. If a bunch of Republicans think that we’re potentially headed toward a disastrous global conflict then they should, uh, say something, right? Even worse is the fact that neither Very Concerned Corker, nor the few other Republicans who have criticized Trump (like Jeff Flake), have done anything of substance to combat the very threat that the day care resident proposes.
It’s very likely that Corker’s decision to retire is the very reason why he has felt comfortable to speak up so emphatically and the reason why most other Republicans haven’t yet. Rex Tillerson privately muttering “moron” in a corner and then groveling publicly to Trump is the norm because it takes actual courage to risk your political career. But if Senate Republicans think the alternative might be World War III, then risking their careers should be a very small price to pay.