This is not what we would ordinarily call a profile in courage:
Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz again reversed his position on Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy on Wednesday night, saying he’d vote for the Republican nominee but wouldn’t endorse him.
“I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him,” Chaffetz tweeted Wednesday. “[Hillary Rodham Clinton] is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA.”
The House Oversight Committee chairman had previously backed Trump’s candidacy before withdrawing his endorsement on Oct. 8 following the revelation that the Republican nominee had made lewd and sexually aggressive comments while filming for an “Access Hollywood” interview in 2005.
Then again, this is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03) we’re talking about, so it’s not like anyone expects a lot. To that end, we should at least note the accomplishment, the e’er graceless flip-flop-flip.
We might call it dangerous and unadmired, but this is the Year of the Trump, which apparently demands even greater opportunity to attempt this most desperate of electoral plunges. Steve Benen notes the growing Republican “flip-flop-flip brigade”:
The far-right Utahan isn’t the only congressional Republican to play semantics games this election cycle, but it’s worth emphasizing that if an elected official publicly announces he’s voting for a presidential candidate, and takes steps to help that candidate win the election, pretending that doesn’t count as an “endorsement” is tough to take seriously.
What’s striking, however, isn’t just Chaffetz’s weak and malleable principles, and his willingness to put partisanship over his own conscience, but also how increasingly common this shift has become.
We talked earlier this week, for example, about Sen. Mike Crapo (R) of Idaho endorsing Trump, then un-endorsing him, then re-endorsing him. We’ve seen several others make the same move, including Sens. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), as well as Reps. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.).
It really is a ridiculous thing to publicly declare you will vote for Trump, but not endorse him. But these are Republicans in general, and Jason Chaffetz in particular, so words like conscience, principle, and accountability―traditional conservative terms conspicuously absent from the topline discourse this time around―are pretty much mere words.
Earlier this month, for instance, Samantha Bee called out Republicans aiming to distance themselves from Donald Trump:
Bee berated members of the Republican Party who still supported Trump―like vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and Sen. Mitch McConnell―but lambasted the fact that they denounced Trump by saying they themselves are the fathers, brothers and sons of actual human women.
“Trump’s comments are not wrong because you have female relatives,” said Bee, noting that 100 percent of Americans have female relatives. “Trump’s comments were wrong because women are human and if you hadn’t stood cravenly by while he insulted them for a year, then you wouldn’t be in the pile of elephant shit you are today.”
Bee also called Paul Ryan a “pussy” for not standing by his “convictions.”
It seems worth noting, since Mr. Chaffetz was among those who cited parenthood in withdrawing his endorsement: “My wife and I, we have a 15-year-old daughter”, the Oversight Chairman explained, “and if I can’t look her in the eye and tell her these things, I can’t endorse this person.”
So … yeah: Is Jason Chaffetz willing to tell his fifteen year-old daughter that it’s just fine and dandy if Donald Trump wants to grab her by the genitals?
I really should regret the preceding paragraph. I probably do. But this is the Year of the Trump, and somehow such questions become relevant. Thank you, Jason Chaffetz.
Image note: Top ― Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03) questions Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. during her testimony in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on 29 September 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) Right ― U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers a question at a news conference before a campaign rally in Hampton, New Hampshire, 14 August 2015. (Detail of photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder)
Benen, Steve. “Utah Republican joins the flip-flop-flip brigade on Trump”. msnbc. 27 October 2016.
Guarnieri, Grace. “Samantha Bee thinks Republicans upset over Donald Trump’s sexism don’t get it: ‘The comments were wrong because women are human'”. Salon. 11 October 2016.
Lima, Cristiano. “Rep. Chaffetz says he’ll vote for Trump but won’t endorse him”. Politico. 26 October 2016.