Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) is in a tough spot. She’s managed to stay on the sidelines in the Republican Civil War that Donald Trump’s primary campaign ignited. By tip-toeing on the fence through the November election and refusing to endorse or speak-out against the divisive Republican candidate, she secured her own reelection even though Hillary Clinton beat Trump in her district.
She’s maintained that posture through the first 6 tumultuous months of Trump’s presidency, but it appears now that the cat is out of the bag. A leaked audio recording of a meeting she had with bankers in her home state finally gives us a glimpse of how she really feels about the President and what he’s doing to the Republican party – and the country. The recording was leaked to Tucson Weekly, and the White House is not going to be happy about what’s on it.
“It’s basically being taken out on me,” McSally is heard saying according to Tucson Weekly, referencing the President’s unsettling behavior. “Any Republican member of Congress, you are going down with the ship. And we’re going to hand the gavel to [Rep. Nancy] Pelosi in 2018. They only need 28 seats and the path to that gavel being handed over is through my seat. And right now, it doesn’t matter that it’s me, it doesn’t matter what I’ve done. I have an ‘R’ next to my name and right now, this environment would have me not prevail.”
For over a year now, McSally has steered clear of the intra-party bickering that has pitted Trump’s angry, xenophobic base against the “Never-Trump” party establishment personified by party elders like Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.
She declined to endorse Trump during the campaign, even after he secured the party’s nomination, but she did not take a principled stance against him, either, telling a local Tucson news outlet, “I have never endorsed a politician in my life and I’m not going to start now.” Asked if she would vote for him, she dodged again, saying, “I have a vote just like you have a vote, and I personally believe that is between me, God and the ballot box.
Since the election, both her opinions of Trump the man, and her degree of support of his presidency, remains a mystery. She’s hedged on the few occasions where she’s been confronted publicly and asked to comment on his administration, choosing to express her displeasure in very general terms.
“Some of their decisions and the way they have implemented them have certainly not been well coordinated, not well implemented,” she told a town hall meeting in her southern Arizona district a moth after Trump’s inauguration. “I’m concerned about distractions. I’m concerned about not shifting from campaigning to governing,” she added later.
The problem with hedging on someone as controversial as President Trump, who’s now the subject of a sweeping investigation by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, is that not taking a side is, in fact, taking a side. Every Republican that refuses to call this President out on his antics, his tweets, and his lies, is instead offering tacit but clear support for them.
If lawmakers like Rep. McSally won’t stand on principle and hold the president accountable, then voters must hold them accountable at the ballot box. Maybe now that Rep. McSally’s big secret is out, she’ll grow a spine and encourage others on the sideline to do so as well.
Peter Mellado is a writer, producer, and a branding and messaging specialist with over 15 years experience. He studied history at San Jose State University, and resides in Los Angeles.