Bookman: Carr chooses truth-telling over Republican’s Trump tribalism

April 29, 2021 3:30 am

Columnist Jay Bookman writes that Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr (right) did right by his constituents when he resisted pressure to try to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election. Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, not so much he says. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

Last week, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr resigned as chair of the Republican Attorneys General Association, explaining that he had fundamental and irresolvable differences with the group’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Carr’s actions should be applauded, even by – especially by – Democrats. Across the country, only a relative handful of Republican office-holders have dared to stand up in defense of the law, the Constitution and American democracy and in defiance of Donald Trump. If you understand the seriousness of what happened on Jan. 6, if you comprehend the ongoing danger those passions pose to our democracy, then regardless of political philosophy you ought to recognize and welcome those few Republicans who also understand and who are willing to act on that understanding. We need to encourage responsibility and patriotism where we find it these days.

That doesn’t mean you have to vote for Carr. Democrats have already fielded at least two competent, well-qualified candidates to run for attorney general, and voters should make their choice accordingly. It just means that Carr has earned respect, and we used to be able to respect those with whom we disagreed politically.

To cite another example, I can’t imagine the circumstances in which I would vote for U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking officer in the House Republican Caucus. But serious political disagreements aside, I respect Cheney enormously for the principled, courageous stance that she continues to take in trying to shame her fellow Republicans into choosing democracy over Trump.

Carr’s case, however, demonstrates just how far down the rabbit hole the Republican Party has fallen. The primary job of an attorney general is to uphold the law. Carr’s former group, the Republican Attorneys General Association, claims to recognize that obligation, proclaiming its mission “to promote and protect the Constitution” and to “defend the rule of law.”

Yet after the November election, 17 of RAGA’s 26 members signed on to support an absurd lawsuit out of Texas that attempted to throw out all votes cast in the presidential race by the citizens of Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. All four states were won by Joe Biden, with no evidence of meaningful fraud, but the lawsuit asked the Supreme Court to set those votes aside and allow GOP-controlled legislatures in those states to cast their electoral votes for Trump. That was a direct affront to the Constitution and to democracy.

(Georgia’s two Republican senators at the time, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, both knelt before Trump, kissed his ring and publicly proclaimed their support for the lawsuit that would have voided the votes of their own constituents. That will forever be their shame, and may have been one reason they lost in the subsequent runoff.)

In addition, RAGA’s policy arm, the so-called “Rule of Law Defense Fund,” was listed as an organizer of the January 6 “Stop the Steal” rally that led directly to the attack on the Capitol. It also paid for inflammatory robo-calls to conservatives urging them to go to Washington to pressure Congress to overturn the election results.

There’s much we still don’t know about the planning and financing of that rally, the subsequent attack on our Capitol, and the response of law enforcement and the Trump administration. And it’s critical that we find out, to expose how this happened and to ensure it does not happen again. Unfortunately, Republican congressional leaders are blocking creation of a bipartisan commission, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission, to investigate that assault on democracy.

“If we minimize what happened on Jan. 6 and if we appease it, then we will be in a situation where every election cycle, you could potentially have another constitutional crisis,” Cheney warned in supporting a commission. “And you can’t bury our head in the sand. It matters hugely to the survival of the country.”

There are a lot of ways to defend this country, and most don’t require the taking up of arms. In this ongoing political crisis, they include the simple telling of the truth, and at even a more fundamental level, wanting to know the truth in the first place.

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Jay Bookman
Jay Bookman

Jay Bookman covered Georgia and national politics for nearly 30 years for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, earning numerous national, regional and state journalism awards. He has been awarded the National Headliner Award and the Walker Stone Award for outstanding editorial writing, and is the only two-time winner of the Pulliam Fellowship granted by the Society of Professional Journalists. He is also the author of "Caught in the Current," published by St. Martin's Press.