Ed Rogers, a veteran Republican operative, is a man who's regarded as civilized and well-mannered. Over at The Washington Post today, he joined Trump in the Lewis pile-on -- but politely.
John Lewis: A predictable partisanOkay, here it comes -- but first, some pro forma praise for Lewis:
I have watched the back-and-forth between President-elect Donald Trump and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) over the past couple of days and I am saddened by what it reveals. I think the entire exchange says more about Lewis than it does about Trump.
To state the obvious, Lewis is an American icon. He was on the front lines of the American civil rights war. His bravery cannot be questioned.Obviously, this is just a set-up for what's coming:
But that’s the romanticized Lewis of long ago -- this week, the pedantic, partisan Lewis that lives today was on display."Romanticized"? That implies that people who praise Lewis for his actions in the civil rights years are creating a sentimentalized version of the truth about what Lewis did. Rogers, having just praised Lewis, suggests that he himself is exaggerating the reality of those years to create a good story. That's absurd. The violence was real. Lewis's bravery was real. The cause was unquestionably right.
But maybe Rogers doesn't really know what "romanticized" means. He also calls Lewis "pedantic," which doesn't seem like the right word either, and which he apparently chose because it has a negative connotation and begins with the same letter as "partisan." (Rogers comes from the "repeal and replace" party. Republicans love alliteration.)
Lewis has taken something precious, something bigger than just himself, and spoiled it.Some of us would say that a man who insulted and bullied his way through a presidential campaign, who threatened to jail his opponent, and who'll take office on Friday because of skulduggery by partisan FBI agents and a foreign government is the one who spoiled the inaugural. But I'm sure Rogers wouldn't concede that.
His behavior deprives the rest of us of the leadership he could provide and that we so desperately need. After a certain point, heroism is bigger than the person who performed in the moment. To contribute to the greater good, strength of character must endure, which in today’s case would mean rising above his obvious dislike of the president-elect and being among the voices calling for cooperation.You know, in emulation of Trump, who's always so cooperative.
Lewis has exhausted his ability to speak outside of a partisan context. According to the CQ voting record rankings, Lewis voted with his party 99 percent of the time in 2015. And, Bloomberg’s profile of Lewis describes him as having “one of the most liberal and party-line voting records in Congress.” What a waste.A party unity score of 99% sounds awfully high, but what Rogers doesn't want you to know is that the average party unity score for House Republicans was 92% in 2013 and 91% in 2014 (the most recent years I can find). Democrats have high party-unity scores these days as well.
In 2014, Senator Jeff Sessions had a party-unity score of 97. Does Rogers think Sessions "has exhausted his ability to speak outside of a partisan context"? No -- he praised the attorney general-designate after his confirmation hearing last week, writing that he "comported [himself] in a graceful and respectful way" and adding that "we are in good hands" with him. He didn't write, "What a waste."
... It’s too bad Lewis has squandered his potential. Just think about what could have happened if he had taken the opposite approach with Trump. What if he had been among the first to say that he would shake the new president’s hand, would work with him and would challenge Trump to meet him halfway on some of the key issues we face?Plenty of Democrats said that in the aftermath of the election. Chuck Schumer said that. Bernie Sanders said that. And Trump's Cabinet picks made clear that he is in no mood to compromise. He clearly wants to dismantle as many Democratic accomplishments as possible. He seeks no middle ground. (What Republican in recent years ever has?) We know "what could have happened" because we know what did happen after Trump won.
If Lewis had taken this approach, there would be pressure on Trump and the leverage of Lewis’s legend might be contributing toward something good.Ed, apparently you haven't made the acquaintance of any Republican base voters lately. They don't like Lewis. They don't regard him as having any "leverage." Conciliatory words from Lewis wouldn't have made a damn bit of difference, because Trump knows which voters got him to where he is, and they want to see people like Lewis rebuffed.
Instead, he is lost among the pack of usual suspects, the malcontent Democrats who won’t get anything done.You guys control the whole damn government, Ed. You'll fully control the Supreme Court soon because of an outrageous decision to blockade a sitting president's High Court pick for nearly a year. You intend to use end-arounds like reconciliation to diminish Democratic power even more.You're like the school bully who trips a kid in the hallway and then mocks him for being clumsy.
You had a chance to praise John Lewis sincerely and to show that some things are more important to you than partisan hackery. You failed. You're no better than Trump on this -- you just use slightly less inflammatory words.