The news is stark and brutal.
Yet again another attack from radical Islam. This time in the lovely precincts of the South of France, on a seaside boulevard in Nice during a fireworks celebration of Bastille Day. The cost in lives: 84 and possibly counting, with 200-plus wounded. Among the dead an American Dad from Texas and his 11-year old son. The images are horrific, with dead bodies littering the Promenade des Anglais.
The New York Times reported it this way in part:
NICE, France — The toll of a terrorist attack on a Bastille Day fireworks celebration in the southern French city of Nice rose on Friday to 84 dead and 202 injured, as the government identified the attacker as a 31-year-old native of Tunisia, extended a national state of emergency and absorbed the shock of a third major terrorist attack in 19 months.
The Paris prosecutor, François Molins, identified the attacker as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, 31, a delivery-truck driver who was born on Jan. 3, 1985, and raised in Msaken, a town in northeastern Tunisia. The police searched two locations in Nice on Friday, including a home with Mr. Bouhlel’s name outside it.
No organized group has claimed responsibility for the attack, although online accounts associated with the Islamic State and Al Qaeda have cheered it.
Meanwhile, an ocean and half-a-continent away, the Republican National Convention gathers to nominate Donald Trump for president and Indiana Governor Mike Pence for vice president. In the aftermath of a tough primary, the so-called #NeverTrump faction has tried to derail Trump and failed. Rebuffed by the RNC’s Rules Committee, unable to persuade their colleagues that a prospective nominee chosen by the largest numbers in GOP primary history should somehow be rejected, they face the end of their Trump-won’t-be-nominated fantasy.
But there’s something that needs to be said here.
People are dead in the streets — literally — of Nice. As they have been murdered outright in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, Boston, San Bernardino, Orlando, London, Madrid, New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania.
Hello? We — the United States of America and the entire Western World — are at war here. Facing a relentlessly ruthless enemy that wants to kill us all.
Yet as the Republican Party gathers in Cleveland, some of the most prominent Republicans in the land are busy — busy pouting. They lost to Trump or they supported somebody who lost to Trump. They don’t like this, and they don’t like that. Yes, they took a pledge but they really don’t care about not keeping their word. So, with all the dignity of a pouting two-year old they will not deign to grace the rest of us with their presence in Cleveland.
Think about that for a second. It’s as if, after the tumultuous 1860 nomination battle that produced a victory for a one-term Illinois congressman over a slew of better known and better credentialed rivals, those rivals saw the Union coming apart and decided to sit on their hands and do nothing for Abraham Lincoln. It’s as if, on the morning of December 8, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt’s political rivals surveyed the wreckage of Pearl Harbor and the Nazi occupation of Europe and decided FDR was on his own.
What are these people thinking? Do people like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush really think their reputations will be burnished by fleeing the GOP Convention and the GOP nominee when it is crystal clear we are now at war? And that like Trump or hate Trump — as people once upon a time hated Lincoln and FDR — he is in fact the only one standing between more mass murder and even more horrific attacks on Western Civilization?
In fact, both Lincoln and FDR moved quickly to bring in their defeated rivals as the reality dawned of the life-threatening crises that faced America. Lincoln had what historian Doris Kearns Goodwin famously called his Team of Rivals, noting that his GOP rivals for the presidency were “dismayed and angry” at their defeats at Lincoln’s hands. Yet as it became plain that the Union was at stake, each man rallied to Lincoln’s side, willing, as Kearns Goodwin put it, to “marshal their talents to the task of preserving the Union and winning the war.” Even before Pearl Harbor, FDR’s 1940 GOP opponent Wendell Willkie, alarmed at the rapid string of Hitler’s victories, had voluntarily stepped forward to support FDR’s then-controversial Lend Lease program. He was attacked for doing so. “Willkie couldn’t dig up ten friends if his life depended on it,” sniffed a former RNC chair of the day. Yet that changed after Pearl Harbor, as Americans rallied, with Willkie becoming an FDR envoy in a world tour to meet with world leaders. The GOP’s 1936 nominee for vice president, Frank Knox, similarly concerned about Hitler and the Japanese Empire, took on the assignment as FDR’s Secretary of the Navy.
Yet today — with, it can’t be said enough — people literally dead in the streets yet again, various Republican elites are behaving like pompous, self-serving jackasses whose egos just can’t seem to take a political defeat. Donald Trump aside, acting in this fashion suddenly says to a lot of people that Americans, not to mention Republicans, should be relieved that men with this kind of vanity did in fact not reach the Oval Office.
Then there’s this story in the New York Times, headlined:
You Mean It’s Next Week? Why Some G.O.P. Senators Will Skip the Convention
The story says in part:
In a normal convention season, most politicians are working every lever to try to get a prime speaking slot and bathe themselves in the glow of the party’s nominee.
Then there is this year. Far from straining to get close to Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, more than a dozen senators suddenly have scheduling conflicts for an event that has been on the political calendar for more than a year.
With all those bodies of dead Westerners — including an American father and his 11-year-old son — literally still lying on a French street, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake has made it known that instead of hiking himself to Cleveland and coming to his country’s aid in war time he will be “mowing my lawn.” Senator Steve Daines of Montana will be “fly fishing.” Others are offering up excuses that range from campaigning for re-election to “listening” to constituents.
What self-serving jackassery.
They are, of course, perfectly free to support the woman who was responsible for the Benghazi disaster. She the candidate who can’t bring herself to say “radical Islam” and who, when questioned by CNN’s Anderson Cooper the night of the attack in Nice, was reduced to a word-salad about an “intelligence surge.” She is certainly there to be supported if they truly believe she has shown herself to be even minimally competent in the conduct of this war of civilizations. In fact, some Republicans have gone there. Which says everything about them and more still about the network of elites who have gotten us all to these dismal failures in American and European foreign policy.
But Republicans should take note. America is under attack, to borrow a fateful phrase from 9/11. The Western world is under attack. This is no time to be playing out the drama of petty personal political snits.
Donald Trump has selected Governor Mike Pence of Indiana as his running mate. I was a Newt backer. But Newt Gingrich himself took to the air waves as the sights and sounds of the latest attack were still coming in, telling Sean Hannity not only that he would strongly support Pence but adding this:
“Let me be as blunt and direct as I can be. Western civilization is in a war.”
The Trump-Pence ticket is now in place. It’s time for Republicans to rally not just to Trump and Pence but to America and the larger Western World beyond our shores.
Thomas Paine put it famously and well:
These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Jeff Flake and others have made it clear that they are the “summer soldier and the sunshine patriot” who “will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country.”
Shameful. Embarrassing. But so be it. So while they pout and mow the lawn, for the rest of us it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get on with the task at hand.
Now. Right now.