If only Idaho’s congressmen had the courage of those who fought in World War II | Opinion

There was Idaho Sen. Jim Risch with his fellow Republican lapdogs in the United States Senate all looking adoringly at a convicted felon now running for president. The brazen Trump was talking to the media after meeting with Republicans on Capitol Hill on June 13, returning to the scene of the crime where he instigated an insurrection by a misguided and violent crowd of MAGA supporters..

Behind the façade of support and approval, what these Republican senators demonstrated for the cameras is abject fear of being tagged as an anti-Trump Republican. Even the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has publicly differed with Trump on the 2020 election, was there to kiss Trump’s ring. I didn’t see Sen. Mike Crapo, who must have been at a free lunch with Wall Street bankers, but he sure would defend his support of Trump.

Just a week and a day before Trump’s inglorious return to the Capitol, western democracies celebrated the 80th anniversary of D-Day which secured democracy’s place in western civilization to this day. I simply could not erase from my mind the incongruity of so many lives lost to preserve freedom and democracy and a gang of United States senators cooing over a draft dodger who has no respect for those who died for the freedoms we enjoy today.

And Trump is not your ordinary draft dodger who just might like to forget it. He has amplified his lack of respect for those who serve as he did in France in 2018 when he questioned why he should go to a cemetery of fallen Marines. He said it was “filled with losers.” And then he referred to 1,800 Marines who lost their lives in the Belleau Wood battle as “suckers” for getting killed.

With Idaho’s Crapo, Risch, Simpson and Fulcher onboard the Trump train to autocracy, they dishonor those who were thrust into inestimable danger as they fought off enemies in Europe and the Pacific in World War II. They chicken out and submit to Trump and his MAGA crowd with such short memories of how over 400,000 Americans died to guarantee the very same freedoms Trump now promises to eliminate. He has already declared the free press to be an “enemy of the people.”

I thought of Paul Hendrickson, whose son of the same name I interviewed recently about his book, “Fighting the Night: Iwo Jima, World War II and a Flyer’s Life,” in which he writes about his father’s heroism in World War II. From his impoverished beginnings in Kentucky, he rose to be a pilot of the P-61 Black Widow, the only plane made then just for night fighting where it could go undetected by enemy anti-aircraft guns. Hendrickson would fly around 75 missions in the dark of night patrolling the islands around Iwo Jima. He narrowly missed an attack by Japanese soldiers who beheaded pilots in his squadron no more than 30 yards from his tent on Iwo Jima. He also flew what were called Intruder missions and survived the terror of spotlights trained on his plane as he dropped bombs on the enemy.

Hendrickson returned home with what we know today as PTSD and had a difficult relationship with family, but he would fly for Eastern Airlines in a long and successful career that fulfilled his love of flying. Paul Hendrickson, his son, reminds us that returning veterans of any war carry battle scars that do not heal with surgery or casts. They live on to impact the lives of their families for decades.

What is so difficult for me to grasp is how these ordinary Americans who were celebrated on the 80th anniversary of D-Day could muster the courage to live and die for their country while Republican public officials who represent us today have been unable to muster the courage to challenge this crude thug who has destroyed what we knew of the Republican Party.

I understand why a Republican official cannot vote for Biden, but these four Republicans representing Idaho, like so many of their Republican colleagues in Congress, had numerous opportunities to stand up before their constituents and call out Trump as he undermined faith in our democracy. But they remained silent and returned home to Idaho as usual, selfishly promoting their own candidacies.

Unlike the cost of courage in war, there is no serious risk to life and limb by simply standing up to a man who bears significant responsibility for deeply dividing the nation and casting doubt on free and fair elections. It’s a far safer and easier act of courage compared to those who fought and died for their country.

I do not write these words without knowing something about these Idahoans who represent us in Congress today. As Boise State President, I met with them in Boise and Washington where Boise State would apply for federal funding. I find it hard to believe for one moment that Risch, Crapo or Simpson approve of Trump’s behavior toward minorities, the disabled, women, nor his disregard for the sanctity of our electoral process. (Fulcher’s extreme turn to the right is a different story.) They must know in their heart of hearts that he is not who should be parading around the world as the American president as he did so dangerously for America in North Korea.

Trump’s recent meanderings as he spoke to 80 CEOs in Washington is just the latest example of his incoherence and confusion over simple facts of history or public affairs. One CEO was quoted as saying: “Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” If Risch, Crapo and Simpson know better, then there is only one most unfortunate conclusion— they are lying to please Idaho’s MAGA right so they can hold on to their jobs at whatever cost to their integrity and their place in history. Webster defines a lie as an assertion of something known or believed by the speaker or writer to be untrue with intent to deceive so you can draw your conclusions.

Imagine if just one of these lawmakers announced to the people of Idaho that:

“Enough is enough. Because of Donald Trump’s inability to grasp the details and complexities of American government, the wreck he made of his personal and business life resulting in his felony conviction, his refusal to accept the results of the 2020 election and the peaceful transfer of power, and, finally, his inciting and supporting to this day those who stormed the nation’s capital in 2021, I urge the upcoming Republican Party Convention this summer to reject Trump and nominate someone who can honorably represent the Party on the ballot in November.”

Will that happen? Hey, I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, but I do know what an honorable and courageous act it would be to save the Republic from another Trump term. To date, honor and courage are missing in Idaho’s congressional offices.

Bob Kustra served as president of Boise State University from 2003 to 2018. He is host of Readers Corner on Boise State Public Radio, and he writes a biweekly column for the Idaho Statesman. He served two terms as Illinois lieutenant governor and 10 years as a state legislator.