Editor’s Note: David Jolly is a former Republican congressman from Florida. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.
David Jolly: Congressional Republicans should respond to Trump's nonsensical approach to policy by ignoring him
The President can own his own legacy, members of the GOP Congress don't have to be involved
With President Donald Trump’s nonsensical Twitter approach to both domestic and foreign policy, his tweets regularly descending into depravity, congressional Republicans often find themselves facing the question: “Do you agree with the President’s irreverence and self-contradictions, and if not, what will you do to restore sanity – to restore credibility, dignity?”
We have seen too many of them answer by remaining silent, or dodging, or merely offering their own 140-character criticism that distances themselves from the President. At best, those are attempts to quell the American people’s anxiety over the President’s behavior. At worst, they come across as affirmations of the public’s suspicion that the GOP is only interested in self-preservation.
But in the eyes of many, to simply criticize the President and then immediately return to working with him is a tacit acceptance of his approach to a free press — which smacks of authoritarianism – his subtle misogyny, and his perversion of what was once respected conservative ideology: He has turned it into a platform for self-promotion that draws its strength from our country’s darkest angels.
It is fair for both the media and concerned voters to demand more: a tangible, substantive GOP strategy that honestly confronts the President’s waywardness in policy and personal integrity.
Congressional Republicans’ response should be this: Ignore the President. Isolate him.
You see, when members of Congress condemn a tweet and then fall in line with the President’s awkward leadership of domestic and foreign policy — such as when they race to be his guest at a South Lawn ceremony celebrating passage of a flawed health care bill that even the President himself now disowns – all their condemnation, and congressional resolve itself, is exposed as meritless.
This Republican Congress needs to take a stand for the party and for the country. It must rise to the responsibility and the privilege that Article I of the Constitution vests in Congress as a co-equal branch, the first branch envisioned by the founders, even ahead of the Presidency.
Consider for a moment the congressional elections of 2016. The vast majority of Republican candidates ran on their own agenda, not Trump’s. Remember that, after the “Access Hollywood” tapes confirmed the candidate’s (potentially criminal) arrogance, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told House members, myself among them: Do what you have to do to get re-elected. And so Republican candidates presented their platform to their constituencies, and steered away from their party’s presidential nominee.
So if you were a Republican elected to Congress on your own platform, distancing yourself from Donald Trump before the election, why would you fall subservient to his agenda and his moral failings now?
Recall that Republican members of Congress were not elected on the platform of President Barack Obama, and understandably never fell in line with his agenda. Well, this Republican Congress largely wasn’t elected on Trump’s platform either, yet today engages in subordination to a President who appears to have no understanding of policy nor traditional Republican orthodoxy.
So to my former colleagues – good people, so many with very honest and sacrificial intentions on behalf of their country and constituent – the prescription for dealing with this President is simple.
No more trips to the White House. No more flights on Air Force One. No more accepting his gratuitous offers of signing ceremonies, White House cocktails, or meetings with his children. No more asking the White House for permission, for policy advice, or for the President’s priorities.
Honor your oath as a fiduciary of Article I, who holds the public trust. Strike out with your own bold agenda that wins the hearts and minds of the American people. And leave this President behind. Leave him to his Twitter account and to placating his base with disgusting Tweets.
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Tell the President of the United States that Congress will do its job. He can do his. And the next time the speaker of the House will need the President is when he’s dropping legislation on the Resolute desk, handing the President one of the speaker’s own pens, and saying, “Here Mr. President, sign on the dotted line.”
The President can own his own legacy. It’s time for Republicans in the House to once again own theirs.