As Republican Senator Mike Lee recently reminded us, even smart people sometimes forget important things. On Wednesday, after leaving the Trump administration’s 75-minute classified briefing on the airstrike that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, Lee voiced his outrage in front of the cameras. Calling it “the worst briefing I’ve seen, at least on a military issue,” he went on to criticize the Trump administration for being “insulting and demeaning” and said it was “so distressing” to be told not to debate the issue. His incensed tone left Donald Trump almost speechless as he later told reporters, “I get along great with Mike Lee. I’ve never seen him like that.”
Lee seemed to say all the right things after the briefing, and he even came across as someone who is not afraid to show off an independent mind that is starting to break free. The thing is, Lee overlooked something crucial when he came out swinging last week. Apparently, Lee completely forgot that he had sold his soul to Trump, which means his little show of resistance was a huge mistake.
Lee must have then realized that he needed to figure out a way to muzzle the small remaining piece of individualism that clung to life inside him. On Sunday, he appeared on CBS’ Face the Nation ready to engage in a cleanup session with moderator Margaret Brennan. Lee mansplained that “the problem there is not with the president,” instead blaming the briefing on the briefers themselves and, in particular, Congress. Lee also made a point of praising Trump, saying that he “exercised his power with great restraint and respect for the Constitution.”
Although Lee is still planning to sign Senator Tim Kaine’s resolution that would require Trump to get Congress’ approval before further military action against Iran, he refused to take the opportunity to call out Trump’s actions. Instead, Lee suggested that his support of the measure is only “about the future question of what any president can do to get us into war.”
For a brief moment last week, Mike Lee showed us what an independent Republican senator might look like. Unfortunately, he quickly remembered who he was, cleaned up his act, and fell back in line. Having retraced his steps back from the precipice of rationality, Lee is now cleared to rejoin his GOP colleagues in the morally bankrupt land known as Trump’s good graces.