President Donald Trump’s fitness for office came into question anew last week. The man sworn to uphold America’s laws raged that his Justice Department shouldn’t be prosecuting two allegedly crooked congressmen, because it could hurt GOP chances in the midterms.
The man sworn to defend our constitutional rights suggested that political protests shouldn’t be allowed. People close to Trump are sounding warnings about his dangerous behavior.
And yet, Josh Hawley, Missouri’s attorney general and Republican Senate nominee, still won’t allow even a wedge of daylight between himself and Trump.
Since constitutional principle alone appears not to be enough to shake Hawley from his Trumpian trance, let us try another approach: A new poll indicates that Trump’s star is dropping in Missouri. Maybe that’s why Hawley himself, who has strained to publicly demonstrate his fealty to Trump, is polling at only a tie with highly vulnerable Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. Hawley needs to rethink his strategy heading into the final two months of the campaign.
Trump on Monday rage-tweeted about the prosecution of two “popular” GOP congressmen, noting they’re being prosecuted “just ahead of the Mid-Terms” by Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office.
“Two easy wins now in doubt,” Trump tweeted, sarcastically adding: “Good job Jeff.” Democrats and some Republicans aptly expressed fury at Trump’s apparent belief that the Justice Department works for the GOP rather than the country.
But Hawley, campaigning in Blue Springs last Tuesday, said he couldn’t comment on the controversy because he is “not familiar with the details” of the two cases — as if there is any case-file detail that could justify Trump’s statement. “Obviously … the rule of law needs to be applied fairly and equally,” Hawley added, avoiding any mention of a president who plainly disagrees.
Trump, referencing the protests at Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings, told an interviewer, “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters.” The closest thing to outrage heard from Hawley was directed at Democrats challenging Kavanaugh’s confirmation. It was without apparent irony that Hawley accused them of creating a “clown show.”
A new NBC News-Marist poll finds Hawley in a dead heat with McCaskill in a head-to-head matchup, and losing to her when the third-party candidates are added. Given McCaskill’s own problems, how is this possible? Might it be Hawley’s carefully cultivated association with Trump?
The poll shows the president’s Missouri approval numbers have dipped below 46 percent — a steep drop from Trump’s 19-point victory margin over Democrat Hillary Clinton in Missouri in 2016.
Something has changed. Maybe episodes like those of this week, and all that preceded it, have finally convinced Missourians that they, and the nation, made a huge mistake 22 months ago.
Perhaps in that realization, Hawley will finally find the courage — or at least the political motivation — to step out of Trump’s shadow.
Copyright St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Reprinted with permission.