How low will the president go?

How low will the president go?
© Greg Nash

Many presidents in history had dogs. This current one has a dog whistle. Americans witnessed it shown in a raging Sunday morning tweet about Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffMask rules spark political games and a nasty environment in the House CIA says 'Havana syndrome' unlikely a result of 'worldwide campaign' by foreign power The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta MORE, calling him a “corrupt politician” and probably a “very sick man” who has “not paid the price” for “what he has done” to our country.

We keep wondering just how low the president will go and just how deep his capacity is for the vile and virulent. But this is not just the frothing of a commander in chaos. It is dangerous. It is also a reminder to Republican senators to summon the moral courage to stop this erratic and vengeful president, not because of his threatening behavior to Schiff, but because of his threatening behavior to our national security and our social stability.

How can anyone on the White House staff remain, unless they are entirely at ease with a boss who fans hatred as much as Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE? If they are, in fact, willing and able to condone this bad behavior, they will learn that the history books are filled with disgraced accomplices to crimes of hate.

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How can decent Republican lawmakers remain silent in the wake of such a tweet? I am not talking about the loyal cheerleaders of the president like Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, Devin Nunes, and so forth. I am talking about those who know it in their hearts but somehow cannot let it escape their lips that a tweet such as that one is dangerous and even unpatriotic.

Does genuine support for tax cuts and deregulation require silence when the president takes it too far? Would you be similarly quiet if a Democratic president had tweeted the same about McConnell? Or McCarthy? Or you?

How can the great swath of decent Americans, including many of those who now question giving the president the benefit of the doubt in 2016, read a tweet like that and have any doubts about how he will behave if he is reelected? Does the dog whistle not raise any alarm bells about what he is willing to do without checks and balances or another general election?

How can any of the handful of Republican senators in the balance, such as Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Lamar Alexander, believe that exonerating the president will not set him loose on any remaining and wobbly restraints that are holding our decency and democracy together? Is a tweet like that really the work of one who has nothing to hide? Does it not smack of someone so vengeful that he would view nothing wrong in trying to extort the Ukrainians for opposition research on his opponent?

If the answers to any of these questions place political tribe ahead of the country, then it is not the president who bears the shame. It is all the rest.

Steve IsraelSteven (Steve) J. IsraelRedistricting reform key to achieving the bipartisanship Americans claim to want Biden seeks to avoid referendum with sharp attacks on GOP Stopping the next insurrection MORE represented New York in Congress for 16 years and served as the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now the director of the Institute of Politics and Global Affairs at Cornell University. You can find him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.