I want to address what I feel is the most significant concern facing us: the kowtowing to Vladimir Putin and the subsequent national security risk President Donald Trump poses. This is my last column as a regular columnist for the ADN, and like many issues I've addressed during the past two years, there is a unique role for Alaska's congressional delegation to play.
As a military brat, I experienced the makeshift trauma of pretending the Strategic Air Command base was under an all-out attack by Communist Russia. Having ostensibly died twice during these exercises, the sight of B-52 bombers taking off in mass has always stayed prominent in my mind as the image of America being the leader of the free world. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think an American president would keep national security officials in the dark over what was promised to Russia, or accept the word of an authoritarian leader of a hostile country over the collective conclusion of America's intelligence organizations — and do this with all the world watching.
I concur with Sen. John McCain's assessment when he said, "There's nothing 'America First' about taking the word of a KGB colonel over that of the American intelligence community. Vladimir Putin does not have America's interests at heart. To believe otherwise is not only naive but also places our national security at risk." Senator McCain then went on to declare President's Trump summit meeting with Putin "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory."
Unfortunately, Republican Party leadership in the Senate and House did not follow Sen. McCain's outrage and concern for national security. Instead of criticizing Trump directly, they merely noted that Russia is an adversary, not a friend. Furthermore, there is no action in response (save a symbolic resolution to not send diplomats to Russia for questioning) to prevent further damage to our national security interests.
Where is the resolution supporting our NATO allies? Where is the legislation calling for automatic and higher sanctions if Russia meddles in our upcoming election? Where is the call to shore up defense of NATO's vulnerable eastern frontier? And, last but not least, where is the resolution calling on President Trump to reveal the substance of his two-hour conversation with Putin to our national security officials and the Senate Foreign Relations committee?
Most political observers attribute the unwillingness of the Republican Party leadership to take President Trump on more directly is the fear of fallout in the upcoming midterm elections. As former communications spokesman for President George W. Bush and current Republican strategist Kevin Madden notes, "The criticism from Republicans in Congress, while strong, has still been very measured and calibrated. Unless you are one of those Republicans not up for re-election, there just isn't an elevated interest in testing the president's base support with more pointed criticism."
Here is where Alaska's senators can make a difference, as neither of them is up for re-election. Furthermore, Sen. Dan Sullivan serves on the Armed Services Committee and Sen. Lisa Murkowski is viewed as a pivotal player on many issues of the day. Together, they could make a difference in elevating our national security interest against a rogue president who alienates our allies while potentially making secret deals with our longest-standing adversary.
Sen. Murkowski was moving in this direction when she voiced her disappointment in President Trump's attempt to walk back a comment about putting Putin's word above our intelligence community. In an interview with CNN, she noted that she wanted President Trump to say, "'No more, knock it off, stay away, get out' and demand that Russia stay away when it comes to our elections, and I didn't hear that and I didn't hear that in his walk back so I'm still waiting."
Please don't wait anymore, Sen. Murkowski. Instead, team up with other non-exposed senators like Sen. Sullivan and stand up to this threat the way the Republican Party would do under President Reagan. Although the form of attack is different, we no longer need to argue whether our nation is under attack by Russia. It is, in no uncertain terms.
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