In 1947, Sen. Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan took to the Senate floor and delivered what many consider to be a “speech heard ‘round the world.”
Vandenberg, a Republican who helped create the United Nations, led the GOP away from isolationism to internationalism. He supported the Cold War, the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan and NATO. On that day in 1947, Vandenberg, the first chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, asserted that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.”
That phrase means simply that internal debate that Americans engage in daily doesn’t extend past our shores, that the president shouldn’t be undercut by partisan politicking at home, but instead U.S. politicians should present a unified front.
In essence, it means we’re all like one big family: Sure, it’s OK for one of us to speak badly about another, but anyone outside the family? Nuh uh, not cool.
And while that has been the standard ever since, it isn’t anymore.
Democrats and the liberal media that support their every move piled on to President Trump on Monday after his summit in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin. A former Obama official deemed it “treason.” A CNN “analyst” called for a “shadow government” to take him out. An MSNBC contributor said Trump’s performance will “live in infamy” as much as Pearl Harbor or Kristallnacht. Former FBI Director James B. Comey said, “Patriots need to stand up and reject the behavior of this president.”
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow went further.
“No serving U.S. president has ever before taken sides with a foreign government against our own, let alone a foreign government that has just attacked our country. If the president did that today because he has some reason to serve that other country rather than our own, then a lot that has previously been inexplicable is now explicable. That’s the worst case scenario,” Ms. Maddow said.
So, partisan politics continued unabated, despite Mr. Trump being overseas to represent America — not Republicans, but all of America. Just as former President Barack Obama did before him, and former President George W. Bush before Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump was overseas as America’s duly elected leader.
But that’s where Democrats take issue. With the indictment of 12 Russians accused of hacking into the email of the Democratic National Committee and its 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Democrats do not believe Mr. Trump was fairly elected. So they feel it their right — nay, their #resist duty — to oppose him at every turn.
Sen. Rand Paul on Monday dubbed the phenomenon the “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”
Mr. Paul went on to say Democrats are purposely inflating the Russia connection to explain away Mrs. Clinton’s devastating loss. “It’s important when you say the Russians meddled, they hacked into Hillary Clinton’s email — and revealed some truths about her that weren’t very popular. I agree they did that. But the thing is nobody’s alleging that votes were changed, that they got into our electoral system,” he said.
But there appears to be no cure for “Trump Derangement Syndrome.” And Mrs. Clinton is fully infected. “Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?” the two-time presidential loser tweeted. No one in the media found it distasteful that a Democrat was ripping a Republican president while he was overseas.
Ari Fleischer, press secretary for former President George W. Bush, hit the nail on the head with his response. “I remember when the press would hammer a politician who questioned the patriotism of their opponent. But since the allegation is against Trump, the press looks the other way. It’s this double standard that makes so many, myself included, lose faith in the press.”
So, politics no longer stops at the water’s edge. The decorum that once governed politics, already badly eroded, is gone. Americans can now no longer can boast that the nation is unified when a president — of either party is abroad representing the United States.
Vandenberg would be very disappointed.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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