It was a speech for the ages, urgent and eloquent.
"We are gathered in the cause of liberty," the speaker said. "This is a unique moment. The great democracies face new and serious threats, yet seem to be losing confidence in their own calling and competence.... The health of the democratic spirit itself is at issue."
As the speech progressed, there was no doubt that its target, though unnamed, was America's forty-fifth President, Donald Trump.
"We have seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty," the speaker lamented. He condemned the "nationalism distorted into nativism" that has led Americans to forget "the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America." He warned of the threat to American democracy posed by Russian meddling in our elections by spreading divisive messages, and the danger to civic values caused by "bullying and prejudice in our public life." He added, optimistically, "Self-correction is the secret strength of freedom."
The speech, delivered October 19 in New York City, was by George W. Bush, until now arguably the worst President in at least modern U.S. history. It was one of a spate of jaw-dropping rebukes directed at Trump by members of his own party.
Senator John McCain of Arizona issued a dire warning about "half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems." Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee called Trump an "utterly untruthful President" engaged in "the debasing of our nation." Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona topped them all, blasting Trump from the floor of the Senate for his "reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior" and his "flagrant disregard for truth and decency."
"None of this is normal," Flake asserted.
None of it is. Donald Trump presents an existential danger to American democracy and institutions, from the courts to the press to the rule of law. That does not overstate the case.
On the world stage, Trump, in his recklessness and incompetence, constitutes the single greatest threat to U.S. national security. His response to the acceleration of North Koreas nuclear program under Kim Jong-Un has consisted of juvenile name-calling, coupled with deliberate efforts to undermine diplomatic solutions.
In Iran, he ignored the counsel of his own national security advisers in taking steps to scuttle a nuclear nonproliferation pact that everyone agrees is working as intended. The move has alienated U.S. allies and been a boon to hardliners in Iran...