I’m a Donald Trump supporter. I voted for him and right now I’d vote for him again. As a former member of Congress, I found his call to “drain the swamp” in Washington particularly appealing. D.C. needs a kick in the rear and I see Trump as the boot.
But I’m not here to be a cheerleader for President Trump, and I’m not on his payroll. When he does something wrong, it’s my duty as a talk-show host, and as a citizen, to call him out. I always have and always will, so let me be clear: Trump was wrong to fire FBI Director James Comey. And we, his supporters, should be honest with ourselves about it.
Not all my listeners agree. When news of Comey’s firing broke Tuesday while I was on the air, I criticized the president and a lot of his supporters didn’t like it: Comey had it coming; Trump is playing chess; he’s draining the swamp; he’s hitting back against the deep state; and Joe, you’re getting weak again, time to get on the Trump train are all typical of the calls I got.
But, to me, the debate has never really been about Trump. It’s about the issues. It’s about freedom, old-fashioned patriotic values and a government that serves regular Americans, not political elites in New York and Washington. When Trump moves the ball forward, I hug him. When he doesn’t, I take him out to the proverbial woodshed. It’s not always great for ratings, but that’s the only way I know how to be.
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Trump said he fired Comey because “he wasn’t doing a good job. Very simply.” According to the Justice Department’s memo that went along with Comey’s termination letter, the administration lost faith because of the way Comey handled the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton. But to believe that’s the real reason, you have to believe that Comey — the guy overseeing the investigation into possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign -- was let go for doing the same things Trump praised Comey for six months ago, when Trump said the FBI director had “guts” and “did the right thing.”
There’s nothing normal about that. That’s tin-pot dictator territory. It’s an abuse of power. And not only that, if it was meant to put a lid on the Russia investigation, it backfired. Firing Comey just keeps Russia in the headlines.
Whenever I criticize Trump, I lose listeners and Twitter followers. And I don’t take that lightly — I don’t want to lose the folks who are good enough to tune in daily to hear what I have to say. But if I start pulling my punches just because I’m a Trump backer, then I’m not really doing my job. It’s wrong that he hired so many Goldman Sachs guys for his Cabinet and White House staff. It’s wrong that he questioned the credibility of our intelligence community when the Russia story broke. He shouldn’t have agreed to Congress’s b.s. spending bill, and he should quit stalling on building the wall.
These days, for a conservative radio or TV talker, the easiest way to go is to be pro-Trump 100 percent of the time. Exhibit A is Sean Hannity, who opened his show Tuesday night by calling Comey a “national embarrassment” and a “political hack,” and spent most of his time attacking Clinton. Trump couldn’t have scripted a better show — but I won’t kiss up to him, or anyone else, for ratings.
I believe a true Trump supporter should call him out when he’s wrong. It’s the only way to help him make good on the promises he made. You do it because you love him, not because you’re against him. You want him to do right. That’s the only way I can support this president, because at the end of the day, it’s not about him. It’s about cutting taxes, bringing back jobs, getting rid of Obamacare, building the wall and — yeah — making Mexico pay for it.
Every time he does wrong, Trump makes it harder to get those things done.
Joe Walsh is a syndicated talk-radio host and a former Illinois congressman.