Since he launched his campaign for Congress in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional district, voters have been wondering if Tom Kean Jr. would have the independence and integrity to oppose actions by President Trump that are harmful to New Jersey and offensive to our values. Instead, Kean Jr. has endorsed Trump’s reelection, hosted events at Trump’s properties, and attended a Trump rally. Yesterday, the Kean-Trump marriage became official: the president tapped long-time Kean advisor Bill Stepien to manage his re-election campaign. Just months ago, Stepien launched Perfect Together PAC, a dark money group that has already spent more than $150,000 to back Kean’s Congressional bid.
Kean Jr. wants Trump’s money, campaign advisers, and organizational support while avoiding questions from voters about Trump’s policies. Whenever he is asked about the president’s conduct, he says the election is about the “people’s House, not the White House.” That evasion is not going to cut it.
Voters understand that a basic function of the people’s House is to oversee the White House – to support or oppose a president’s initiatives, to ensure the laws are executed faithfully, and to provide a constitutional check against abuse of power. If Tom Kean wants the job of being a member of Congress, he’s going to have to tell people whether and how he intends to do that job.
Until then, we will have to assume that his silence equals consent. By that principle, in just the last few weeks, Kean Jr. has consented to:
– The president asking the Supreme Court to strike down the Affordable Care Act, including its protections for people with preexisting conditions, while proposing no alternative plan.
– The president’s admission that he ordered officials to “slow down” coronavirus testing even as new cases and deaths keep rising across the country, and the wait time for test results in New Jersey is up to ten days.
– The president’s threat to defund schools across America that don’t reopen in the fall, even as he takes no practical steps to help states safely reopen and continues to encourage practices that help the virus spread.
– The president’s order to teargas peaceful protestors so that he could walk across the street for a photo op, and pressure on our military leaders to police peaceful protests on American soil.
– The president’s efforts to readmit Russia to the G-7 and withdraw U.S. forces from Germany, while taking no steps to punish or condemn Russia for offering bounties for the murder of our troops.
– The president’s corrupt use of his pardon power to commute the sentence of a person convicted of lying to protect the president.
– The president’s efforts to punish a decorated army officer for obeying a Congressional subpoena, while firing five government inspectors general who were investigating allegations of corruption and wrongdoing in his administration.
– The president’s defense of confederate monuments, rejection of bipartisan Congressional efforts to rename military bases named after confederate traitors, and continued efforts to foster racial divisions.
President Trump would not be able to sell out our country and our ideals if not for the inaction of members of his party who fear retribution if they speak their minds. Kean Jr. thinks he is being “bipartisan” by ignoring obvious bad behavior; in fact, he is projecting weakness and signaling that Trump and Trump operatives like Bill Stepien own him.
There is a true bipartisan coalition of decent Americans who have put aside past differences about policy to reject this president’s destructive and divisive leadership. It includes the last two living Republican nominees for president, multiple Republican former governors, Senators, and cabinet officials, and some of President Trump’s own senior appointees, like former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. It is far too late for Kean Jr. to share in the honor of standing with them. But he still owes the people he seeks to represent a straight answer about what, if anything, he will stand for.