President Donald Trump in the Brady Briefing Room in the White...

President Donald Trump in the Brady Briefing Room in the White House on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

For there to be disappointment at childish behavior presumes an expectation of adult behavior. No such expectation exists where Trump is concerned. So his weeks of sulking and floating bizarre conspiracy theories since he lost the election, while embarrassing in the extreme, doesn't really let me down so much as confirm what I already knew. One might as well be disappointed in an infant for soiling his diaper as to be disappointed in Trump for soiling his office.

But I must admit that prior to this I did harbor some tiny, flickering expectation that, if pushed to the limit, the Republican Party, the party always lecturing the rest of us on patriotism, would stand up for the country. I did expect — or maybe it was just a vestigial hope — that when rubber met road, the GOP would finally put America . . . ahem, first.

Well, call it expectation or call it hope, but it's dead. And it died, quite literally, in silence.

That silence descended four days after the election when every major news organization declared Joe Biden the winner and, more to the point, Donald Trump the loser. Soon, news broke that Trump's General Services Administration was refusing to allow the presidential transition to officially get under way (a blockade it did not lift till Monday). Experts said this would hamper the incoming president's ability to conduct foreign policy and manage the pandemic. They called it a threat to the nation. The GOP's response?


That silence persisted as Trump tried to steal Michigan's electoral votes by pushing to discard ballots from majority-Black Detroit. As he and his allies filed dozens of lawsuits and failed dozens of times to prove allegations of corruption. As he denied the incoming president access to classified security briefings. As he openly undermined the democracy he was sworn to protect.

Almost three weeks later. Trump retreats ever deeper into his delusions about election fraud — the resemblance to Hitler in his bunker, ordering nonexistent armies into action, cannot be denied — yet it is still news whenever some lonely Republican musters the guts to refer to the president-elect as the president-elect. Even more so when some still-serving party member rebukes Trump.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said it was inexcusable, in the summer of 2014, for President Barack Obama to wear a tan suit. Yet about Trump's subversion of democracy, he has said nothing. Monday, on Twitter and CNN, respected reporter Carl Bernstein named 21 GOP senators, including McSally, Grassley, Cornyn, Collins, Rubio and Rick Scott, who in private, he says, "have repeatedly expressed extreme contempt for Trump and his fitness to be POTUS."

Yet almost none has been willing to say so publicly. Why? Well, they're scared Trump might tweet at them. That could even cost them an election. But if fear of losing your job keeps you from defending your country, you don't deserve the job. Frankly, you don't even deserve the country.

We are a people of notoriously short memories. But one hopes we recall the stink of this cowardice for a very long time. At a minimum, let Republicans never again presume to lecture the rest of us on patriotism, a concept they plainly know nothing about. Because when it came time to put muscle behind that pretty word, to risk something for the country they purport to love, they swallowed their tongues, lost their voices, fell mute. This is a display of gutlessness historians will be dissecting for years.

And yes, I did expect better. Obviously, I was wrong.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a syndicated columnist with The Miami Herald.


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