Chris Smith, Republican from New Jersey’s Fourth Congressional District, often portrays himself as a moderate, bipartisan leader from a pre-Trump era. He tries very hard to not let the worst of Trump tarnish this carefully maintained image, but the act has been stretched beyond credulity.
Unlike a true bipartisan leader, Smith refuses to condemn even the most egregious of Trump’s actions and lies, and fails to provide a conservative voice for truth that might be accepted by Republican voters.
For instance, when Trump called Russian election interference a hoax, attempted to extort Ukraine into investigating political opponents, and pushed Putin’s propaganda that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in 2016, Smith endorsed his behavior and then said nothing.
When Trump fired Inspectors General and scoured the DOJ to remove anyone disloyal, intimidated prosecutors into lighter sentencing recommendations for co-conspirators, commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, and removed a U.S attorney who was investigating Giuliani, Parnas, and Furman - his collaborators in the Ukraine scheme, Smith said nothing.
When Trump potentially refused to accept the upcoming election’s legitimacy, lied about vote-by-mail, primed his base to assume a delay caused by counting mail-in ballots equates to a stolen election, and admitted to undermining the Postal Service to disenfranchise voters, Smith affirmed the value of he USPS, but said nothing to counter Trump’s lies about the security of vote-by-mail.
And when Trump lied that Democrats, the CDC, and the FDA were deceiving Americans about coronavirus to hurt him electorally, or retweeted articles claiming the real COVID death toll was only 9,000, Smith said nothing.
All of these Trump falsehoods are dangerous - they could cause a crisis of confidence in our election and hamper our ability to defeat coronavirus. But Smith’s most shameful silence has come on the heels of a Trumpian truth.
But there has been no condemnation yet from Smith. Worse yet, this Labor Day weekend, Smith literally “got on the boat” for Trump and participated in the “Law Enforcement Officers and Veterans Supporters of Trump Boat Parade.”
Yes, days after corroboration that Trump considers our veterans suckers and losers, Smith has issued not a word of criticism. Instead, he got on a boat, Trump flag flying, supposedly in their name.
Smith’s usual silence would have been better. To wrap himself up in the Trump brand with a smile right now is incomprehensible.
Sure, if Smith starts to feel pressured he'll come up with a statement about his long support for veterans, and that would be true. But he won’t condemn Trump directly, he doesn’t have the courage. That he waited so long - if he speaks at all - would smack of someone only speaking because they fear the political winds.
Set aside Smith’s bipartisan statistics accumulated through genuinely good but generally non-controversial votes. Trump is attacking pillars of our democracy, those who defend it, and hampering our ability to deal with a pandemic. This should be easy. If Smith, with his 39 years in Congress, can’t summon the courage to condemn Trump directly on such serious issues, he can make no claim to bipartisan leadership.
We will always have differing political philosophies in our country, but some things are supposed to be universal. Faith in our elections, freedom from foreign election interference, respect for those who defend our democracy, and life-saving public health facts should be among them. Trump has acted with disdain towards each with Smith’s silent acceptance or outright endorsement. Smith will not speak, he will not moderate, and he will not lead.
This election, the Fourth Congressional District has an opportunity to elect a real leader. Stephanie Schmid is a former Foreign Service Officer who has worked to strengthen democratic institutions internationally. She’s served in countries dealing with health crises. She will not stand silently by while democracy and it’s guardians are attacked, and the life-or-death realities of a pandemic are ignored.
Smith has shown he will remain silent in the face of any lie, abuse, or disgusting revelation from Trump. Both men should be out of a job this November.