Democrats and Republicans alike decried the remarks Trump made during his visit with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. Yet two of California’s most vulnerable Republican incumbents — Congresswoman Mimi Walters (Irvine) and Congressman Steve Knight (Palmdale) — refused to call out Trump by name in their tepid statements following the disastrous event.
At a press conference after his meeting with Putin, Trump declared he believed Putin’s word over the word of U.S. intelligence agencies. His statements were so outrageous that former CIA director John Brennan called the behavior “treasonous.”
Yet most Republicans in Congress refused to speak out directly and forcefully against Trump’s behavior. “Yes, almost every elected Republican we talk to privately thinks President Trump’s warm embrace of Vladimir Putin was unexplainable, unacceptable and un-American,” reports Axios. “Yes, they wish they could say this publicly. No, they won’t — not now, and probably never.”
Why won’t they? Political cowardice, explains Dave Wasserman, editor of the well-respected nonpartisan Cook Political Report. “Most Republican members are willing to admit POTUS [the President of the United States] doesn’t operate in reality, but know they’re doomed in their next primary if they say so publicly. As long as that’s true, we’re headed for a world w/ zero accountability.”
In response to Trump’s appalling actions, Walters could only muster a mere 13 words with no references to Trump: “Putin cannot be trusted. Russia’s meddling in U.S. elections is undeniable and unacceptable.”
Walters’ reticence to criticize Trump is not too surprising given her voting record. She has backed the Trump agenda an astounding 99 percent of the time, despite the fact that her district backed Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Walters seems to have no trouble finding words when she is praising Trump. For example, the Sacramento Bee quoted Walters in 2017 saying, “It is very important that Republicans back the president. He’s the president of our party. He stands for what we stand for.”
Knight was similarly unwilling or unable to saying anything negative about Trump. Like Walters, Knight condemned Russias interference in the 2016 election. But Knight could not muster the political courage to directly address Trump himself.
“I have full faith in the American intelligence community, which has unanimously concluded that Russia meddled in our 2016 election,” Knight said. There was no condemnation of Trump’s words or behavior.
Like Walters, Knight has voted for the Trump agenda 99 percent of the time. Knight is repeatedly mentioned as one of the most vulnerable Republicans, not only in California, but in the entire country. He sits in a district that supported Hillary Clinton in 2016, yet goes to great lengths to avoid saying negative words about Trump.
“You had a rare moment where virtually every Republican was aghast at Trump’s words,” writes Axios. “But almost every Republican — except those leaving the stage — softened their direct criticism of Trump and ran from TV or reporters like the plague.”
This lack of political courage is on full display in Southern California.