The Record: Brava, Whitman

The Record
December 18, 2015

CHRISTIE HAS something to say. And in this case it is not Governor Christie, but former Gov. Christie Whitman. In a scathing opinion piece published by Politico on Wednesday and in an interview with Record Washington Correspondent Herb Jackson published Thursday, Whitman pulls no punches when it comes to the candidacy of Donald Trump and the current state of the Republican Party.

Whitman was always a moderate Republican, cut from the same cloth as former Gov. Tom Kean. She was an advocate for the environment and charted a middle course on the abortion question. In short, in 2015, she would be a completely unelectable Republican.

Her stature in her own party fell after her mismatched alliance with President George W. Bush. She did not fit in well as his head of the Environmental Protection Agency. And many in this region will never accept that she, as EPA head, ensured the safety of recovery workers at and near Ground Zero. Let history judge her for that, but let the American people – in particular Republicans – listen to what she is saying now – clear and unfiltered:

“As a Republican, I am particularly concerned by the rise of hate rhetoric within our party,” she wrote in Politico. “We cannot ignore it, and we can no longer dismiss it as a passing fluke. The damage it is inflicting and the behavior it is inciting can last for years to come.”

Whitman does what few Republican presidential candidates are willing to do: Call out Donald Trump as evil. “But people like Donald Trump are neither polite nor reasonable. At times like this, good people must rise up, call out evil for what it is and stand against it,” she wrote.

She does not tip-toe around the issue. And the clarity of her message is exhilarating yet frustrating, because not enough Republicans will read what she wrote in Politico or said to Jackson.

In her interview with him, Whitman touches on issues beyond Trump. She chastises Republicans in Congress obsessed with appealing the Affordable Care Act solely because it was a political triumph for President Obama, rather than work with Democrats on improving the law. She also treads into the abortion debate, saying that “language shapes behavior” and that Republicans who say Planned Parenthood is somehow responsible for the shootings inside one of its clinics are being irresponsible.

Whitman also advocates for sensible gun laws that keep firearms out of the hands of people on the federal no-fly list.

Yet it is the Trump attacks that are the most timely. Whitman recalls a Republican Party that fought against racial inequality and for economic justice. That party is nowhere to be found today. As Whitman writes, in recent years Republicans have moved from being “the party of no” to “the party of extreme.” She equates Trump’s tactics to those used by Mussolini and Hitler. Coming from a two-term Republican governor and a member of the Bush administration, this is no left-wing rant. This is fiery rhetoric from an impassioned moderate Republican.

Social media lights up with every utterance from celebrities and the political flavors of the moment. Trump is a master of social media – really of the media in all its forms. So Whitman’s plea for a saner Republican Party will not fall so much on deaf ears; it just will not reach enough ears.

Yet she should be heard.

She must be heard.

Whitman’s legacy as New Jersey governor and EPA head are mixed and complete. Her legacy as a stateswoman is still being written.

“We can make America great again by defeating the selfishness, arrogance and bigotry of Donald Trump,” she wrote.

This Christie has something to say. Good for her. And if they listen, good for Republicans.