Republican Charlie Dent is a former US congressman from Pennsylvania who served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee from 2015 until 2016 and chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies from 2015 until 2018. He is a CNN political commentator. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
(CNN)The Trump years have been exceedingly hard to take for many traditional, pragmatic, center-right Republicans. Quite often, I felt very lonely in speaking out against President Donald Trump. There were too few of us to counter the Trump narrative being amplified by conservative media outlets. (As they say, a leader with no followers is just a guy taking a walk.)
Charlie DentApparently, it takes an insurrection to finally raise a counter force.The fact is, too few Republican elected officials spoke out against the daily outrages of President Trump before Wednesday’s Trump-encouraged violent mob besieged the US Capitol. The violent insurrection left five people dead, sent members of Congress ducking for cover and left offices and corridors vandalized.”We’re going to walk down to the Capitol. And we’re going to cheer on our brave senators and congressmen and women. And we’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them, because you’ll never take back our country with weakness, you have to show strength and you have to be strong,” Trump told the crowd before they stormed the Capitol.The outrage did not just begin after the November election — the President started discrediting its legitimacy months before. The outrage has been a daily fact of life before he was elected and throughout his presidency. He belittled Sen. John McCain’s heroic service as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, called Mexicans coming to the US “rapists,” mocked a reporter with a chronic medical condition, speculated about the benefits of ingesting bleach to treat the coronavirus, and so on. The list is almost endless.Read MoreImpeach Donald Trump — againNow, as Trump’s presidency comes crashing to an end, is the rush of resignations from staffers and cabinet officials seeking safety outside of Trump’s unsavory orbit surprising to anyone? It took a presidentially incited mob bent on destruction to make some of these people head for the exits two weeks before Trump’s term ends. “Profiles in Courage” is a thin book for a reason.No, I’m not impressed by these eleventh-hour conversions. The resignations of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Thursday conveniently help them sidestep any uncomfortable 25th Amendment conversations, a constitutional recourse that allows the Vice President and the Cabinet to remove the President from office.Chao said in a statement that she was “deeply troubled” by the “entirely avoidable” events at the Capitol building. As for DeVos, she described the events in an open letter to Trump as “unconscionable for our country” and found the President’s rhetoric on the situation as “the inflection point” for her. Surely these and many other administration officials understood the President’s glaring unfitness long before Wednesday’s violent, frontal assault on the constitutional order and peaceful transfer of power.Saving our democracy requires more than removing Trump from officeJust days earlier, in fact, Trump was caught on tape pressuring Georgia GOP state election officials to overturn a fair and honest election — and there was nary a peep of protest from the usual Washington enablers. Trying to steal an election in plain sight was not a bridge too far for some of these folks.Nor was a horribly implemented travel ban, separating families and placing kids in cages, placating despots and enemies like Russian President Vladimir Putin and accommodating tyrants, and Trump’s equivocating reaction to White supremacists rallying in Charlottesville. None of these events pushed administration officials to step down.No doubt we will hear the refrain that they all stayed to protect us from much worse things that would have happened but for their heroic hanging in. They were the adults running the adult day care at the White House, were they? Forgive me for vomiting as I hear such claptrap.Get our free weekly newsletter
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If any of these folks harbored deep misgivings about the President’s misconduct in office, they would have said so at the time of these and other outrages, and walked. But they didn’t. So many wanted power or to be close to power. With 11 days left in the administration, relinquishing power as the hourglass runs empty is hardly a sacrifice or statement of conscience. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement that they bear some responsibility for the misconduct of a grossly unfit and dangerous president, whom they served so faithfully.The GOP reckoning has arrived. Those who enabled or turned a blind eye to the offenses of President Trump over these past four years should not be conducting the impending GOP autopsy. Instead, they should sit silently — as they beg us all for forgiveness.