Remember when our current President and his now-fellow-travelers criticized President Obama in 2009 for “bowing” at the G20 summit to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? Nevermind that Obama was taller (and younger) than the king; the outrage on the right was palpable. The Washington Times, Fox News, and others – including our current Tweeter-in-Chief – continued to cite that alleged genuflection as more evidence of spinelessness, all the way through the 2012 election campaign, and throughout the 44th President’s second term. (This is not a defense of President Obama; his disappearing “red line” in Syria speaks volumes.)
But fastforward to 2018; who’s bowing now? In the face of obvious murder, and Saudi stonewalling, our President trots out a theory about “rogue killers.” And even though published photos show mops and cleaning materials being delivered to the Saudi consulate before Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, the White House merely dispatches our Secretary of State to “ask tough questions” (read: help the Saudi Crown Prince come up with a story). Gee, maybe the rogue killers called the consulate in advance to usher their cleaning supplies and garbage bags through the door because “you never know when someone might accidentally bleed out someday in your consulate.” When 15 people fly in from Riyadh and spend just a couple of hours in Istanbul before fleeing (along with the Saudi consul), everyone knows this was a premeditated killing. Unfortunately, President Trump’s comments show that any story, no matter how ridiculous, that exonerates Mohammed Bin Salman and scapegoats someone else, will do for the current Administration.
What is the President’s stated motivation for this kid glove treatment of the Crown Prince, a/k/a Jared Kushner’s lunch partner? Domestic jobs from arms sales. “[W]hether or not we should stop $110 billion from being spent in this country, knowing they have four or five alternatives, two of them very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable to me.” (It’s only $14.5 billion so far, but in any event…does even $110 billion make complicity OK?) Can that really be the reason, or does the President just not give a damn?
At least a few Republican senators (Messrs. Corker and Rubio) have indicated that they have some glimmer of understanding how our failure to speak out forcefully (let alone take meaningful action) is devastating to our image and influence throughout the world. Unfortunately, my own Texas Senators – Cornyn and Cruz – have shown no such inclination. Their disapproval of murder is in the abstract. It does not extend to individuals, or perhaps just not to journalists.
The only way to influence the behavior of our governing class is to let them know that hypocrisy and indifference to evil has consequences, including the loss of their positions. The only way to supply even a teaspoon of “Dutch courage” to Republican officeholders who are afraid to cross the President, is to provide concrete evidence that Americans disapprove of making excuses for homicidal dictators, whether they are in Riyadh, Moscow, or Tehran. In other words, we must VOTE. Expressions of dismay over the dinner table won’t do the trick. If we want to encourage truthtellers and discourage cowards, we have to VOTE.
There are well over 235,000,000 Americans of voting age, but in 2016, a presidential year, not even 60% of us bothered to vote. Voter suppression does not account for 100,000,000 citizens failing to exercise this most important right. We are better than this…aren’t we? Maybe we really don’t care, but we should. Everyone should either vote early or make it a point to find a few minutes on November 6 to confirm America’s decency and greatness.
*Thank you, Bob Dole.