By Billy Ball, The Pulse, NC Policy Watch
Whatever you think of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, add “utterly clueless” to the list.
North Carolina’s Republican senator, pilloried last year for his bizarre flip-flop on President Trump’s emergency declaration, is now earning a lashing for his most recent flattery of the president.
He deserves it too, encouraging folks to sign a birthday card for Trump’s son Eric. There are, of course, a few things going on this week, including a crisis in the Middle East and the president’s pending impeachment trial in Tillis’ chamber.
Fittingly, The Charlotte Observer editorial board excoriated Tillis for the bizarre Tweet on Monday. Read a portion of the editorial below:
There’s nothing wrong with sending someone a happy birthday wish, public or private. So why did Thom Tillis’ acknowledgment Saturday of Eric Trump’s 36th birthday elicit some social media groaning?
It could be that the senator from North Carolina didn’t merely wish the president’s son a happy birthday. Tillis invited Americans to “add your name” to a birthday card for Trump that “we’re putting together,” he said in a tweet. That birthday card, which declared the president’s son an “American Patriot” and said “We’re so thankful for Eric Trump’s work in fighting for America,” was an unusually public and intimate gesture for a U.S. Senator to make for a member of the president’s family.
It could be the timing of the gesture that prompted some eye-rolling. At a moment when the country is grappling with the unsettling U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani — a time when we’d like our members of Congress to position themselves as a thoughtful check on any president’s action — Tillis was acting more like a party planner.To be fair, few people have an expectation that Tillis would raise questions about the president’s killing of a foreign official and the ramifications it might have on U.S. interests and foreign policy. Republicans have decided such examination is a fool’s errand, that any questioning of Donald Trump will bring backlash from his base and maybe a nasty tweet from the president himself. Tillis, who’s running for re-election in 2020, has been especially hesitant to raise an eyebrow at Trump. The senator long ago laid his political future at the feet of the president, and he’s dutifully made the rounds on television of late to declare the Trump’s impeachment hearings a sham.
So while it’s disappointing, it’s not unexpected that Tillis, like other Republicans, is declining to push for evidence to back up Trump’s assertion that Soleimani posed an imminent threat to U.S. interests. It’s not surprising that Tillis is publicly untroubled by reports that Pentagon officials were stunned Trump took the most extreme option of assassination instead of more measured, prudent approaches to tension with Iran. It’s hardly unforseen that Tillis has declined to utter a peep of protest over Trump vocal willingness to commit war crimes and attack Iranian cultural sites.
But soliciting Americans to sign a birthday card for Donald Trump’s son? Yes, such “cards” are often designed to help build databases of potential friendly voters. But the gesture showed a troubling lack of distance between a U.S. senator and a president, one that surely had some of Tillis’ fellow Republicans wincing, too.
Rob Schofield, Director of NC Policy Watch, has three decades of experience as a lawyer, lobbyist, writer and commentator. At Policy Watch, Rob writes and edits daily online commentaries and handles numerous public speaking and electronic media appearances. He also delivers a radio commentary that’s broadcast weekdays on WRAL-FM and WCHL and hosts News and Views, a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina.