With so very much going on in the country right now, the statement by former general and secretary of Defense James Mattis essentially calling his former boss President Trump a threat to the Constitution probably didn’t get the attention it deserved. But in elite military and political circles, it seems to have landed like an artillery round. Career Marines just don’t talk politics like that, and the fact that Mattis’s indictment appeared to focus on Trump’s own threats to politicize the armed forces was telling.
One public figure who seems moved by the Mattis statement is Republican U.S. senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, according to the Washington Post:
“I thought Gen. Mattis’s words were true and honest and necessary and overdue,” Murkowski told reporters at the Capitol, adding that she had been “struggling” to find the right words to express her feelings about Trump’s presidency …
“When I saw Gen. Mattis’s comments yesterday, I felt like perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” Murkowski said. “And so I’m working as one individual to form the right words, knowing that these words really matter. So I appreciate Gen. Mattis’s comments.”
Asked if she can still support Trump, Murkowski said, “I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time.”
That’s not surprising, since Murkowski is one of the Republicans who repudiated Trump after the Access Hollywood video came out in October of 2016, and she never crawled back into the party tent before the election:
Before and after that statement, Murkowski exhibited some real independence from her party from time to time. In 2010, while running for her second full Senate term, she lost her primary to hard-core conservative Joe Miller. She then won in November as a write-in candidate (six years later, Miller decided to run as a Libertarian, and held Murkowski to a 44 percent plurality win). She’s opposed Trump on several key Senate votes, including serial Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare, and the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh (she technically voted “present” in a paired arrangement with Kavanaugh supporter Steve Daines, but had announced her opposition earlier). And she’s opposed both Trump and her party regularly on abortion issues, including the recent effort to ban abortions after 20 weeks and the many initiatives designed to defund and shut down Planned Parenthood.
Given what she’s said about Trump, and her independent stature back home (her father, Frank Murkowski, who appointed her to his Senate seat when he was elected governor, gave her solid name identification) in a state where Republicans are no longer automatically in control, the possibility of Murkowski flipping parties at some point prior to her next scheduled reelection in 2022 should not be ruled out. If her endangered colleague Susan Collins loses this year, Murkowski would be the last pro-choice Republican in either congressional chamber. Thanks to Alaska’s semi-colonial relationship with the federal government, it’s entirely possible Murkowski could negotiate significant prizes — perhaps even a bidding war — for her state while considering a party switch.
Her comments about Mattis don’t represent anything like a pledge to abandon Trump’s party — or even Trump, whose removal from office Murkowski opposed earlier this year, after providing her party with a key vote against hearing witnesses in his impeachment trial.
Still, her refusal to pledge allegiance to Trump in his fight with Mattis appears to have pushed POTUS right over the ledge:
With that encouragement from the leader of her party, if Biden wins and control of the Senate is in the balance, it wouldn’t be too shocking to see Murkowski decide to cut a deal with a new administration. And even if Trump wins, he’s already declared war on her. So Murkowski “struggling” with Trump is a prospect that could warm many Democratic hearts as November approaches.