Rep. Martha McSally’s short political career has been most notable for her gravity-defying fence sitting, trying to maintain her perch on the fence having it both ways without ever taking a principled stand on anything. She literally stands for nothing.
It’s long past time for you to get off the fence, Martha: “You’ve Got To Stand For Somethin’, or you’re going to fall for anything” (John Mellencamp).
The Arizona Daily Star’s Tim Steller writes today, McSally’s tentative Trump support galvanizes Dems:
Whichever way U.S. Rep. Martha McSally turns, there’s a trap.
If she supports President Trump’s initiatives, that galvanizes the already-energized Democrats and potentially puts her seat at risk in 2018. If she rejects Trump, she turns off the 44 percent of the Congressional District 2 electorate who voted for Trump, the base of McSally’s GOP.
It’s a trap she’s long tried to avoid in the southeast Arizona district that has gone to both Democratic and Republican candidates. On Aug. 31, the day candidate Trump visited the Mexican president and gave a dark anti-immigration speech in Phoenix, she declined to say whom she would vote for in the presidential election, saying “My vote is between me and God and the ballot box.”
But now she is emerging tentatively from her neutral stance, supporting Trump in two of his more controversial initiatives. That’s already bringing out critics and potential challengers.
McSally’s first small step out of the neutral zone came on Jan. 26, when she deemed Trump’s executive order on border control and the proposed wall “strong steps in the right direction.”
“For years, Southern Arizonans have called for the federal government to step up and secure our border, and this order is a strong start in the right direction. They untie the hands of our Border Patrol agents and allow them to do their jobs. They also mandate the release of regular border effectiveness data, which is critical to fully understanding the problem.
“When it comes to barriers, they are important where appropriate, but only part of the equation. What we need is a comprehensive strategy to grow situational awareness, build operational control, and dismantle the cartels and their networks.”
So, in essence, she liked most of Trump’s executive order that day, but thought there was too much emphasis on the border wall. A rather nuanced response to a president who is mostly garnering polarized reactions.
Trump’s more controversial executive order took place on Jan. 27, and caused airport chaos, confusion and demonstrations over the weekend. McSally made no public statement until Monday afternoon. Then she again offered tentative support.
“We are a nation of immigrants, but that must be balanced with the foremost priority of the federal government — protecting the American people. I served on a Congressional task force focused on combating ISIS that found very real and dangerous gaps in our vetting processes. Likewise, our own intelligence officials have expressed vulnerabilities with these processes, which is why taking a comprehensive look at them is prudent and should be expected of any new administration.
“However, I have concerns about certain individuals being denied entry, such as green card holders, those who served alongside our military, and partner military service members who train here, such as Iraqi pilots in Tucson. Those issues must be addressed and remedied immediately.”
Again, she quibbled with the details of the Trump policy, objecting only to the mistreatment of green-card holders and those who have assisted our military. She ignored the impacts on everyday travelers and U.S. residents with family in those seven countries from which travel is banned. Not a particularly strong response to a measure that demanded it, in my view.
Now opponents are sensing vulnerability. Protesters are gathering regularly at McSally’s office, urging her to protect the Affordable Care Act and to oppose Trump. Democrats are already lining up support as possible challengers in 2018.
Among the Democrats at various stages of considering a run: Brian Bickel, a retired hospital executive who ran unsuccessfully for Pima County supervisor last year; Mo Goldman, a local immigration attorney and new candidate; Stephen Portell, a local civil attorney in private practice and also a new candidate; Victoria Steele, a former legislator who ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination in CD2 in 2016; and former legislator Bruce Wheeler, who said he has been attracted to the race by McSally’s reactions to Trump.
“McSally is signing off on his behavior and serving as an enabler to him,” Wheeler said.
As strong as McSally was in her first term . . . she won’t be able to ride the fence forever on Trump’s policies. There are risks in either direction, but she will have to take them.
Or as the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu reminded us all: