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*Staff Photo by Dan Henry / The Chattanooga Times Free Press- 11/16/15. Janet and Bill Horton speak to Senator Bob Corker during the Chattanooga History Centerճ annual History Maker Award luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center on November 16, 2015.

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Coook: Bob Corker's Joe McCarthy Moment

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David Cook

You do not seem yourself, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker.

For years, as others have jestered and abused their way through Washington, you have remained our elder statesman, above the fray. Amid the ongoing, dirty feud of juvenile politics, you have represented the old guard, a last vestige of compromise, wisdom and senatorial virtue.

"A senator from another time, an era when reaching out to the other side was more the norm," praised The New York Times.

"A good and decent man," offered President Barack Obama.

Last year, as you took charge of the Foreign Relations Committee, Time Magazine named you one of the Most 100 Influential People on Earth.

Yet now, you — one of the Most Influential — have chosen to slum with One of the Most Indecent.

Donald Trump.

In the last several days, your name has surfaced as an early candidate for Trump's inner circle as a possible vice-president choice.

"Corker a good VP pick for Donald Trump," Politico headlined.

You two have spoken over the phone, your people, warming to his people. You confessed to USA Today that you'd offer foreign policy help to Trump. You praised his recent foreign policy speech, even comparing him to former Secretary of State James Baker. You seemed eager to do so.

(James Baker? What the ?!?)

Senator, this is no casual association. To align yourself with Trump — to even entertain the notion — is to not just participate in the moral erosion of America, but to side with a veiled barbarism that is ruinous, degrading and anti-democratic.

Trump is a screwtape candidate, slouching toward Washington.

"Make no mistake," wrote Republican columnist Michael Gerson. "Those who support Trump, no matter how reluctantly, have crossed a moral boundary."

That moral boundary? It divides the choice between pluralism and authoritarianism. On one side, there is the extended hand of compromise and fellowship. On the other? The middle finger. Trump's a wrecking ball — half-billionaire, half-political monster. (He is a centaur, Senator).

"The most dangerous presidential nominee in American history," declared Peter Beinart in the Atlantic.

"A presidential disaster," wrote Eliot Cohen, former State Department counselor to Condoleezza Rice, in the New York Times.

Your early association with Trump cannot be another chapter in your story of compromise politics; even the idea of you joining forces in order to save Washington — like some spy novel double agent — is hollow, for blind party loyalty has always been beneath you.

So why now?

(A hypothetical question: how repugnant would a nominee have to be for you to outwardly distance yourself from him or her? Exactly what type of disgraceful platform would it take for you to publicly refuse and deny support?)

Your complicity with Trump is as dangerous, if not more so, than Trump himself, for you are telling America such Trumpian ideas are acceptable, thereby legitimizing by your presence what should never be legitimized.

"A candidate who mocks the disabled, demeans women, engages in ethnic stereotyping and encourages religious bigotry," Gerson continued.

Yes, of course, such VP talk is early and perhaps premature. No one's named you as anything yet.

But if Trump does invite you to become his right-hand man, have you considered the depths of that road? Do you remain quiet as he continues his gutter-mouth barrage against Muslims, Mexicans, women and the least of these? Do you stand and smile as he suggests outlandish and horrific foreign policy ideas?

What will you say to reporters when they ask if you, too, believe we should build a border wall?

How much of your own ethics do you have to swallow in order to befriend Trump?

"This is a Joe McCarthy moment," wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks. "People will be judged by where they stood at this time."

Including you, good and respected Senator.

Especially you.

David Cook writes a Sunday column and can be reached at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329.

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