Earlier this year, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jim Risch stated : “My repertoire does not include sparring publicly with the president of the United States. . . . For many, many different reasons, I think that’s counterproductive, and you won’t see me doing it.”
Well as "the church lady" character on Saturday Night Live might say, "How conveeeenient!"
Mr. Risch not only refuses to "spar" with the president, he fails to make public his views on key issues. The title “chairman” would suggest a leadership role, but Risch offers little more than smug silence.
By keeping mum on all matters relating to foreign affairs, Mr. Risch gets to have it both ways. If Trump does something that plays well, Risch can always say, "Yeah, I encouraged him to do that." And if Trump does something utterly horrible, say abandoning the Kurds? Well, Risch can insinuate that he bent Trump's ear in the other direction, ever so softly of course, behind the scenes. As I write this, Risch has uttered not a word on Trump’s latest reckless foray, one which has been condemned by even the usual sycophants Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham.
With this playbook, who is to know what Risch actually said to the president? For that matter, who is to know if Risch talks to the president at all?
Standing in the shadows of former Idaho U.S. Senators William Borah and Frank Church, both of whom served with great distinction as chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Risch looks small. Church and Borah were giants in the field of foreign relations. Unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom or to call out unwise executive branch policies, even from presidents of their own party, they trusted the people of Idaho to know exactly where they stood on the issues of the day.
But Risch? He’s basking in Trump’s “full and complete” endorsement. That likely means one of two things: Risch is either in lock step with Trump, which is concerning, or he’s never voiced any disagreement to Trump, which I think more probable. Either way, he’s playing it safe and trying mightily to have it both ways. What he’s not doing is being forthright with the people of Idaho.