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Flash: Lindsey Graham shows sign of spine

Trump pulling troops out of Syria is bad for the Kurds and for the war on terror. But there is a bright side: mute GOP enablers finally objecting to a misstep.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has been vocal in disagreeing with President Trump on the decision to pull U.S. troops out of northeastern Syria.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., usually a reliable source of support for the president, has been vocal in disagreeing with President Trump on the decision to pull U.S. troops out of northeastern Syria.
Associated Press

Slavery is bad. I think we can all agree on that. We don’t want to be slaves.

Yes, when referring to the slavery of others, consensus breaks down. I haven’t seen a group of GOP senators put on burnt cork and break into a rousing chorus of “Swanee” (”HOW I love ya, HOW I love ya, my ... dear old ... Swanee!”) marching vigorously in place, knees and white-gloved fists pumping.

But that wouldn’t surprise me either. At this point, nothing should surprise anyone, even though it does. “I, in my great and unmatched wisdom,” the president tweeted Monday. Golly. How could you not be surprised? Who would want to live in a world where that was accepted with a shrug?

Don’t answer.

Maybe I assume too much. Just as I could not imagine anyone defending the prospect of living in chains, so I would not have previously thought it possible to defend inviting other countries to jump into the American electoral system.

But there was our president and his Dick Tracy rogue’s gallery of supporters, first denying Russia’s obvious undermining of the 2016 elections, then lining up to rationalize his pressuring Ukrainian officials to join the Republican National Committee and start digging up dirt on Joe Biden, his most prominent opponent in the 2020 election.

That is the Usual Bad News, the permanent fog of corruption that this week was cut by a flash of hope: prominent Trump sycophant Lindsey Graham at long last objecting to something, even though Donald Trump did it.

Graham, mirabile dictu, was as usual kneeling before the feet of the president. The South Carolina senator drew in his tongue then, using this newly discovered spine, rose shakily to his feet, stood, took a step back from the Moloch in Chief and objected to Trump’s sudden withdrawal of American troops from Syria, leaving the Kurds, our allies in the fight against ISIS, to be slaughtered by the Turks.

”A stain on America’s honor,” Graham tweeted. “A disaster” and “a nightmare.”

For the Kurds, no doubt, assuming Trump doesn’t wheel around and change directions, as he often does — this move being the latest example. Last summer he was still bragging about being the Kurds’ savior.

The Republican reaction to Trump’s misstep almost makes the misstep worthwhile. Sure, you can’t help but wonder why the freedom of the Kurds is more important than the freedom of Americans.

That’s a quibble, however. The important thing about this development is that if Lindsey Graham can wobble to his feet, we now know it is at least theoretically possible. This doesn’t mean the Senate will hold a fair trial for the president after the House impeaches him.

But it could.

Do I expect that? Sadly, no. The smart money is always on “WORSE” when it comes to the Trump administration. An erratic, deeply ignorant man, with no dignity or strategy, of course things will continuously go wrong under his watch. Played by the Turks, making up foreign policy on the fly without consulting the generals he professes to adore.

The next question: Is this a fluke, just an off note in the harmonious hallelujah chorus of deference? Democrats are susceptible to our own fantasies, and the most extreme of late is the dream that the tide of Republican flirtation with despotism will simply crest and recede, the emperor’s nakedness finally grasped with a gasp, as the nation flees, running back to some previous Elysium of good government and civil society.

Ain’t happening. Donald Trump wasn’t elected in 2016. He was elected in 1788, when the Constitution was ratified giving each state two senators, so ranch land in Montana counterbalances people in Illinois. That’s why the United States is saddled with a government far more conservative and change-averse than its people. That will be true long after Donald Trump is shoveling hot coals in perdition. The Republicans aren’t going to renounce him; they’re going to imitate him, hoping to reproduce his success.

So a flash of good news in a storm of bad. Still, even a hairline crack in Trump’s base is something to celebrate. Because as loathsome and tragic as our president is, the uniformity of his support is an even greater reason for patriotic Americans to fear for the future of our once great, now stumbling nation.

U.S. military vehicles travel down a main road in northeast Syria on Monday.
U.S. military vehicles travel down a main road in northeast Syria on Monday. U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria said American troops began withdrawing Monday from their positions along Turkey’s border in northeastern Syria, ahead of an anticipated Turkish invasion that the Kurds say will overturn five years of achievements in the battle against the Islamic State group.
Hawar News Agency/ANHA/Distributed by the Associated Press