Few things in our benighted nation are more pathetic than the spectacle of Trump toadies trying to worm their way back to some semblance of respectability.

Now that the tinpot authoritarian seems destined for defeat (he's even trashing Dr. Fauci - a brilliant strategy), some of his seasoned Republican enablers, anxious not be sucked down the drain as well, are starting to say that, gee, maybe this fellow Trump really is a tad unhinged.

Case in point: Republican John Cornyn, second in the U.S. Senate hierarchy, currently locked in a tight re-election race thanks to Trump's unpopularity in the Texas suburbs - and thanks to his own long fealty to Trump. The other day, it finally dawned on Cornyn that it might be a good idea to put a wee distance between himself and the demagogue.

Too late, pal.

In a meeting with a Texas newspaper's editorial board, he confessed that his relationship with Trump has been "maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they're going to change their spouse, and that doesn't work out very well. I think that what we found is that we're not going to change President Trump. He is who he is... .What I tried to do is not get into public confrontations and fights with him because, as I've observed, those usually don't end too well."

Wow. I am reminded of T. S. Eliot's poem entitled "The Hollow Men." Eliot captured the essence of cowardice: "Our dried voices, when / We whisper together / Are quiet and meaningless / As wind in dry grass / Or rats' feet over broken glass / In our dry cellar."

Meaningless indeed. A purportedly powerful U.S. senator says that he's nothing more than an abused spouse who's been cowed into submission; that the abusive hubby "is who he is," so there's no point in doing anything about it.

The apparent solution (Cornyn's as well) was to keep the hubby in office by exonerating him during the impeachment trial. Things were sure different in 1974, when top Senate Republicans went to the White House and told corrupt Richard Nixon that it was time to go. Those Republicans didn't rationalize by saying "he is who he is," or "we're not gonna change him." Precisely for those reasons, they took decisive action.

Cornyn also said he has disagreed with Trump on numerous issues, but that he has preferred to do so "privately" (thus keeping the public in the dark about his true feelings). He said that by airing his disagreements behind closed doors, "I have found that has allowed me to be much more effective, I believe, than to satisfy those who say I ought to call him out."

For instance, Cornyn said that he privately opposed Trump's decision (remember this one?) to swipe money from the defense budget and use it to build his fantasy border wall. But what Cornyn purportedly said in private is meaningless. Twice in 2019 he publicly supported Trump's maneuver, voting in the Senate to swipe that defense money, insisting that "border security is part of national security."

In other words, there's zero evidence that any private dissent has made Cornyn more "effective." What he basically told the Texas newspaper was that he stayed mum in public because he didn't want Trump to say mean things about him on Twitter.

Actually, his hapless mea culpa boils down to this: He and other Republicans have known all along how bad Trump is, so apparently the only choice they had was to go along and vote for his wall money, vote to exonerate him, vote to repeal Obamacare, vote with him 95 percent of the time (Cornyn's stat), stay silent while he tweeted racist insults and demagoguery, and stay silent while the anti-science dolt fueled a pandemic that continues to ravage the nation.

Back in April 2018, I wrote that "as Trump creeps ever closer toward emulating the autocrats in Russia, Turkey, and Hungary, the Republicans who run a so-called equal branch of government continue to disgrace themselves." Cornyn, by dint of his eleventh-hour rationalizations, has compounded that disgrace.

Long after Trump is gone, the GOP Cowardice Corps will live in infamy.

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Copyright 2020 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Dick Polman, a veteran national political columnist based in Philadelphia and a Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, writes at DickPolman.net. Email him at [email protected]