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Lone Republican stands up to Trump, more needed

Jules Witcover, syndicated columnist

WASHINGTON — A solitary Republican congressman, Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, has called for the impeachment of Donald Trump. He breaks the GOP silence on the president that up to now has confirmed his total domination of the party that once had a proud reputation for upholding the rule of law amid its core conservative principles.

Whether this breach will kick off an internal movement to save the party remains unlikely, however. What may be needed is a more prominent Republican establishment member to speak out.

There is one such party stalwart who owes his party and country a heartfelt apology for his behavior in his presidency: George W. Bush. He vigorously and mistakenly led America to war by selling the false premise that Iraq had a huge arsenal of weapons of mass destruction aimed and ready to attack the United States and its allies.

It soon was revealed that Iraq had no such arsenal, and the resultant war led to the annihilation of hordes of American and allied forces in the Middle East region, as well as tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, with serious consequences that continue to today.

Bush managed to survive this political blunder and won a second term over ineffective Democratic opposition. But since then he has been a silent, powerless and toothless figure in a shattered Grand Old Party.

No other similarly prominent establishment figure in it appears ready and willing to take on the sitting president, and bring back its earlier glory and reputation for honorable conservatism.

One might think that the elder son of the late President George H.W. Bush, whose death generated throngs of mourners lamenting the passing of this kind old gentleman, might use the occasion to come to his party’s rescue in this time of its obvious peril.

But Dubya’s modus operandi as the cocky, towel-snapping wise guy seldom reflected his father’s somewhat befuddled manner of an easy-going Yalie liked by everybody but who rarely demonstrated leadership qualities in a harsh world environment.

An exception came in the fact that the father, faced with his own challenge of statesmanship, mobilized an international coalition that drove Iraqi forces of strongman Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait and back to Baghdad.

Later, when it came to George W. to mobilize US military power in Iraq, he did so without obtaining United Nations sanctions that might have forced an enemy retreat, leading to a catastrophe there and in the broader region.

Did it ever cross George W. Bush’s mind that here, in opposing Trump’s lies and other misdeeds, was an opportunity to redeem himself for the wrongful blunder of his invasion of Iraq predicated on utter false intelligence?

In any event, it would not be too late for him to re-enter the political game and give the GOP a bit of backbone against the damage Trump has done to it, and to the Constitution’s clear commitment to the separation of powers.

If only to pay Trump back for the insults and humiliation he administered to Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, in the 2016 Republican presidential debates, you might think George W. would enjoy imposing a little verbal abuse on America’s worst character assassin.

But maybe he just doesn’t give much of a damn about the political party that has given so much to the Bush family and dynasty.

If ever there was a time for the voice of his father’s staid conservative establishment to be heard it is now. A sharp public rebuke from a Republican former president might stiffen other old guard spines as the would-be dictator continues to demean the office he serves.

The only open Republican challenger to him for 2020, former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, is an admirable figure of distinctly different manner, principles and style, but little remembered now or of political influence.

Maybe Rep. Amash should throw his hat in the ring as a call to action.

Jules Witcover’s latest book is “The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power,” published by Smithsonian Books. You can respond to this column at juleswitcovercomcast.net.