Commentary: Why Aren't More Ohio Republicans Rebuking Trump?
A week ago, in the aftermath of a violent, destructive and deadly rampage of the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters – a rampage that could have been much worse – we were inundated by tweets and press releases from Republicans in the Ohio congressional delegation decrying what had happened in their workplace, the very center of American democracy.
But barely a word about who inspired a frenzied mob of thugs to scale the walls and cause chaos in the halls of Congress – the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump.
He literally sent them there, with a speech to a large pro-Trump crowd on the Ellipse. He stoked the fire with months of false claims about how mail-in ballots were corrupt and the election was rigged, all without offering a scintilla of evidence.
It took an Ohio Republican elected official who was not even there to call out Trump and place the blame for what happened directly at his doorstep.
It was Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who took considerable time last Thursday at the top of his regular update on Ohio's war against COVID-19, to speak truth to power.
DeWine had the chops to do it – he has spent 20 years of his life working in the U.S. Capitol – eight in the House and 12 in the Senate – and, last Thursday, he let loose after watching the assault on a place he truly loves.
"The incendiary speech yesterday, the one (Trump) gave to the protestors preceding the march, served only to fan those flames, encouraging the mob behavior that ensued,'' DeWine said.
Trump's refusal to accept the results of the election and his own defeat, with no credible evidence "has started a fire that has threatened to burn down our democracy,'' DeWine said.
I searched high and low and there was nothing even approaching this from Ohio's junior Senator Rob Portman until Tuesday, when he issued the following statement:
"President Trump bears some responsibility for what happened on January 6," he wrote, noting the rumbling threats of additional violence on Inauguration Day. "Today, I call on President Trump to address the nation and explicitly urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence. If our nation experiences additional violence and destruction at the hands of his supporters in Washington, D.C., and state capitols around the country, and he does not directly and unambiguously speak out now when threats are known, he will bear responsibility."
Meanwhile, still mostly crickets from Ohio GOP congressmen.
We did receive this from Brad Wenstrup the day after the incident: "There is no excuse for what happened today,'' he tweeted. "No one in a leadership position, including the president, should make any excuse for this violent and destructive behavior."
There is no excuse for what happened today. No one in a leadership position, including the President, should make any excuse for this violent and destructive behavior.— Rep. Brad Wenstrup (@RepBradWenstrup) January 7, 2021
Meanwhile, statements from Steve Chabot and Warren Davidson – who both voted against accepting Pennsylvania's electoral votes even after the riots (Davidson also voted against Arizona for good measure) – were tepid at best.
Monday, Chabot's staff sent this written statement from the congressman who is beginning his 13th term in the House:
"Last Thursday, President Trump made a public statement in which he conceded the election and committed to cooperating in the transition of power to the new administration. At this point, we need to turn our attention towards coming together as a nation. To do so, we must find common ground and work together on bipartisan solutions to the problems we face. Encouraging the President's Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and launching another impeachment, as House Democrats plan to do this week, will only serve to further divide the American people. And that would be a mistake for our country."
Asked about whether or not Chabot put any of the blame for the violence at the Capitol on the president, there was nothing but silence from Chabot's staff.
Yes, there are many GOP members of Congress who have felt the heavy hand of Trump and his penchant for retribution over the past four years hanging over their heads; and, yes, they have bowed and scraped and done his bidding. Some have actually believed in Trump and his message.
But a week from now – if not sooner – he will be gone, no longer the president, no longer wielding the power to punish states and congressional districts where the elected officials don't bend to his will.
They should feel liberated. Free to say and do what they think and believe, without the threat of Trump's wrath hanging over them.
Liberated might be a good term to apply to DeWine.
Nobody had more reason to fear Trump than Mike DeWine.
The Ohio governor has had to tip-toe around the Trump administration as he tries to get the help the state needs from the federal government to fight the war against the pandemic. Trump was not above threatening to withhold help from states where the political leaders had crossed him.
And, shortly after the election, DeWine went on CNN and said that Biden had won the election, which, of course, enraged Trump. He sent out a cryptic tweet implying that DeWine, who says he will run for re-election next year, might have a primary challenger.
And, lo and behold, former congressman and Trump loyalist Jim Renacci, has ratcheted up his tweet storms of criticism of how the government of Ohio is being run.
DeWine may well be beyond caring what Trump says or does to hurt him politically.
Why aren't the others? Afraid of the retribution from Trump voters in primary elections? Trump did, after all, win Ohio by eight percentage points. Again.
But is that a good enough reason?
Not all Republicans are very happy with the way Trump is leaving office, spreading bitterness, hatred and violence – all because he can't admit he lost the election.
Last week, when Cincinnati City Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning the violence, Republican Council Member Steve Goodin was critical of members of the local congressional delegation.
"History will judge those involved on the congressional level in questioning these results without evidence,'' said Goodin. "History will judge them very harshly and rightfully so."
There's a baseball analogy I think applies here:
Years ago, when Ken Griffey Jr. was a member of the Cincinnati Reds, he got very angry at Reds radio broadcaster Marty Brennaman for saying on the air that Griffey wasn't hustling.
There was a shouting match inside the clubhouse between the two which ended up with Brennaman saying, "I was here long before you came here and I will be here long after you're gone."
Marty was right.
Ohio Republican politicians need to get it through their heads – Trump is gone. And they are still standing.