Opinion by Charlie Dent
Updated: Wed, 19 Aug 2020 21:20:11 GMT
Editor's Note: Republican Charlie Dent is a former US congressman from Pennsylvania who served as chairman of the House Ethics Committee from 2015 until 2016 and chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies from 2015 until 2018. He is a CNN political commentator. The views expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion on CNN.
I cast my first vote at the age of 18 in 1978 for Dick Thornburgh. That year, he won the race for Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and would later serve as Attorney General under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Two years later I voted for Arlen Specter, who replaced outgoing moderate Republican Senator Richard Schweiker. In 1990, I received a powerful endorsement during my first race for State Representative while standing next to Pennsylvania's other US Senator, the much beloved John Heinz. Four years later I campaigned for -- and was a very early supporter -- of then-US Congressman Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker in their successful run for Governor and Lieutenant Governor, respectively.
This is the Pennsylvania Republican Party, in which I proudly and very comfortably grew up. Label these great public servants however you choose — center-right, pragmatic, common sense conservative, moderate or centrist — it really doesn't matter. What these men represented, most assuredly, was the governing wing of the Republican Party. They were all thoughtful, measured and steady leaders who came from the tradition of former Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton, Sr., who unsuccessfully challenged Barry Goldwater for the 1964 Republican Presidential nomination.
All of them, like myself, would have no doubt called themselves Abraham Lincoln Republicans. From that noble heritage came Presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and the Bushes, all of whom we hailed as decent, honorable and impactful leaders. The same would be said of GOP Presidential candidates Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney.
So here we are, with President Donald Trump, who has never been part of this great tradition. In fact, he speaks disparagingly and disrespectfully of his predecessors. What's worse, he has spent the better part of his presidency undermining the international order — methodically and carefully built, defended and repurposed on a bipartisan basis after World War II and again after the Cold War.
Whatever its faults, this American led rules-based international order, which prevented conflicts between great powers and provided for unprecedented levels of prosperity and global stability, thanks to strategic alliances and a trading system that advanced our national security and economic interests, as well as those of our allies, friends and partners.
Are there problems with this order? Of course. But to blow it all up, as President Trump has attempted to do without any thought of how to replace it, is unforgivable and disqualifying. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a Republican President praising autocrats and advancing Russian President Vladimir Putin's foreign policy interests in Europe and the Middle East. In one of the most baffling and bizarre displays of public diplomacy, President Trump professed his love of murderous North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un — and has gotten nothing in return for this ludicrous bromance.
And now the Republican Party of Lincoln is led by a man who is determined to honor and defend symbols of the traitorous Confederacy. President Trump imposed punitive tariffs in the name of national security on America's dearest and closest friend and neighbor, Canada, whose soldiers bled and died alongside ours on the sacred beaches of Normandy. And he demeans and disrespects great leaders like Germany's Angela Merkel, a dear friend and ally who is now the world's strongest voice in defense of democratic values and institutions.
Speaking of institutions essential to sustaining our Republic, if we can keep it, President Trump has been destructive. He attacks the independence of the judiciary, abuses his authority with executive actions, tramples on Congress' constitutionally granted "power of the purse" authority under Article I, and detests a free press. In short, he is a threat to the rule of law and functional democracy.
Which brings me to why I will be voting for Joe Biden. Joe Biden has campaigned for my opponents and I have campaigned for his. To be sure, Joe Biden and I have policy disagreements. Should he become our next president, I will no doubt question and disagree with some of his policy decisions, and I will do so respectfully.
To my friends and supporters who tell me they dislike Donald Trump but like his tax and regulatory policies, and judicial appointments — I like lower taxes and a lighter regulatory touch, too. But there are principles more important than a tax cut or a beneficial regulatory change. Subordinating the role of Congress to the Presidency and Judiciary disrupts the constitutional order that undergirds our system of government. President Trump's policies on national security, trade and health care are reckless, ill-considered and short-sighted.
Donald Trump is not a conservative: He is an illiberal populist and nativist whose chaotic approach and managerial malfeasance have undermined the functioning of government. If you don't believe me, just ask some of his former appointees like Jim Mattis, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn and John Bolton; others no doubt will speak out after this national nightmare has ended. And we have all born witness to his utterly incoherent and ineffective response to the global pandemic, which by almost any metric has significantly lagged behind other developed nations.
Why so many good leaders have acquiesced to a man so glaringly unfit and stunningly incapable of carrying out the duties of his office is one of the great mysteries and disappointments of our time.
Biden is fundamentally a decent and honorable man who respects the American tradition, supports the rule of law, embraces America's friends and allies, and will restore some semblance of normalcy to the functioning of government. That's all I want -- and not too much to ask of a President. Biden will perform these duties respectfully and with dignity. I hope a President Biden can resist the extreme demands from the left wing of his party that will attempt to drag this country into a direction every bit as reckless as President Trump has. Elements of the left are completely misguided on federal spending, taxation, regulation and are appallingly indifferent to public safety. They've also demonstrated a real hostility to industrial and agricultural America, as well as law enforcement. We will have those debates on another day.
For now, Americans are exhausted by the never-ending chaos and daily drama emanating from the White House. They just want stability. That's why I'm supporting Joe Biden. It's as simple as that. And if electing Joe Biden is what's needed to return the GOP to a better place where it becomes more socially tolerant, constructively engaged on the international stage and supportive of reasonably regulated free markets, all the better.