WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 20: Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., questions witnesses during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Jim Crow 2021: The Latest Assault on the Right to Vote on Capitol Hill April 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. The committee is hearing testimony on voting rights in the U.S. (Photo by Bill Clark-Pool/Getty Images)
CNN  — 

Josh Hawley has an opinion on just about everything.

President Joe Biden? “This is a hard woke left administration,” said the Missouri Republican senator.

On Biden’s vaccine mandate for large companies? “It’s wrong, will make our nation’s economic challenges worse, and must not be allowed to go into effect,” according to Hawley.

Critical race theory? “Over the past year, Americans have watched stunned as a radical ideology spread through our country’s elite institutions – one that teaches America is an irredeemably racist nation founded by White supremacists,” said Hawley.

The 2020 election? “Millions of voters concerned about election integrity deserve to be heard,” said Hawley. “I will object on January 6 on their behalf.”

It’s hard to find an issue – any issue – where Hawley hasn’t sounded off. Except, that is, when it comes to Donald Trump.

Asked Monday about the former president’s claim over the weekend that he would consider pardoning those arrested for participating in the January 6, 2021 riots, Hawley had no thoughts.

“I leave to the former president – I never judge the appropriateness or not of his comments, I mean, that’s not my role,” Hawley told reporters at the US Capitol. “So, he – you know, I think, that that’s his view, then that’s his view.”

Um, what?

So, Hawley is willing to give his thoughts about, well, everything – except when it comes to the man who is the unquestioned leader of Republican Party saying he may pardon people arrested for participating in an insurrection at the US Capitol?

That seems, uh, weird right? It seems like that a) is sort of a big deal and b) might be the sort of thing that a prominent senator like Hawley might have formulated an opinion on.

Here’s the thing: Hawley likely wants to run for president – whether that’s in 2024 (if Trump doesn’t run) or in 2028 (if he does run). And right now, the only path to running a credible campaign for the Republican nomination for president is to be seen as someone in the Trump mold.

And because Trump is Trump, the only way to ensure that you stay on his good side is to never, ever, ever criticize him – no matter whether you believe him to be right or wrong. If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’s best to say nothing at all – because Trump seems to not only hear any and all criticism of him, but also tends to respond to any Republican who questions him.

This is the opposite of leadership. But it’s also yet more proof that the current version of the Republican Party functions as more a cult of personality than what we would traditionally consider a national party apparatus. The only imperative is to stay on the right side of Trump – principles or policy stances be damned.