Portman has betrayed his principles to stand with Vance and Trump

October 25, 2022 4:20 am

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

Rob Portman is afraid. Even now, with his retirement from the U.S. Senate imminent, the Cincinnati Republican is afraid. Of making waves. Of drawing heat from the treasonous, corrupt  and increasingly unhinged sociopath who controls his party. Of becoming a hounded MAGA enemy of the Dear Leader. 

But whenever principle has demanded courage, Portman has caved. He kept his head down and his mouth shut through Donald Trump’s extortion of Ukraine for political favors and his attempted coup to keep power. Portman was mum as the defeated megalomaniac knowingly deceived millions of Americans about a stolen election that wasn’t.


He remains silent as the ex-president and scores of Republicans continue to repeat the Big Lie that massive voting fraud denied the rightful 2020 winner his crown. Portman knows, as do the Republicans keeping the falsehood alive, that there is no substantiated evidence anywhere of rampant fraud at the ballot box to steal an election, but he lets it go unchallenged. 

With nothing to lose but his integrity, the Ohio senator watches mutely as the cornerstone of American democracy is corroded by a con. Not only is Portman afraid to be a bulwark against the baseless conspiracy world of election deniers peddling fiction as fact, he full on endorsed an election denier and Machiavellian MAGA convert as his Senate replacement. Unlike his former top aides who rejected the phoniness of J.D. Vance and “his willingness to jettison any thread of honesty in order to win an endorsement from Trump … to gain power,” Portman reverted to form. 

After not supporting Vance in the primary, Portman joined the Vance team in service of a GOP-controlled Senate. His bland endorsement of Silicon Valley Vance was formulaic. “Vance supports commonsense policies to lower inflation and to get our economy back on track.” Worn Republican talking points, sweeping generalizations. A lackluster nod to a lackluster candidate. 

Portman strained to make a case for the political chameleon. Democrats “have gone on a reckless spending spree” — as opposed to the mammoth, $1.3 trillion Republican spending bill passed under Trump along with trillions in no-growth tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy. Democratic energy policies are ruinous. Vance, who scoffs at green energy, supports fossil fuels and personally profits from oil and gas companies, will “lower the price at the pump.” 

Portman dutifully dove into unlawful migrants and Mexican cartels streaming into the southern border and “into our communities” along with hollow assertions that “Vance understands that the border crisis was created by the Biden administration” and “Vance supports sensible policy changes to regain operational control of the border.” Just don’t ask him for a solution to the decades-old problem.


Whatever else Vance supports is irrelevant to Portman because “Ohio is key to a Republican majority in the Senate” and his victory “is essential to accomplishing that goal.” That’s how a leading advocate on Capitol Hill for Ukraine rationalized endorsing a venture capitalist-turned-MAGA extremist who, after Russia launched its illegal, unprovoked and brutal war against that sovereign nation, announced that he didn’t care “what happens to Ukraine one way or the other.” Portman, who argues that now is not the time to stop supporting Ukraine with the military aid it so desperately needs, simultaneously backs Vance (“we’ve given enough money to Ukraine”) who will end that aid if elected.

But when you’re willing to gamble the fate of a fledgling democratic ally facing Russian genocide to stay in the good graces of a traitorous deluder and the ambitious bootlickers he blesses, you’ll endorse a no vote on Ukraine. You’ll back an insurrectionist apologist and fundraiser, a promoter of the racist ‘white replacement theory,’ an admirer of Alex Jones, (another conspiracy theorist) a power-hungry phony playing Ohio voters for fools. 

You’ll affirm an apostle of radical Christian nationalism, the anti-democratic notion that America is a nation by and for Christians alone. You’ll promote a candidate consumed with incentivizing higher birth rates, (preferably white babies) disparaging mothers who work, demeaning women who are childless, condemning women who leave violent marriages (they should stay for the children) and forcing all women, girls, rape and incest victims to give birth with federal abortion bans. 

You’ll go to bat for a Republican Senate nominee who supported deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits (to pay for more tax cuts to corporations and the rich?) before he didn’t. You’ll promote an empty vessel who called the bipartisan infrastructure bill that you (Portman) helped negotiate — which included $11 billion for Ohio roads, bridges, water lines, public transit and other long overdue projects — a disaster that is not solving any real problems.

Portman, like other incumbent Republicans in Congress afraid of being primaried by the extreme right, passed on seeking another term in office. Fine. But he didn’t have to pass on principle again by championing a candidate with none. Portman didn’t have to throw his weight behind a rank opportunist who morphed into a Marjorie Taylor Green to snag an open Senate seat.  

But he did. Portman stood with Vance who stands with a depraved demagogue stoking another insurrection. He capitulated to those driving the country off a cliff. For what? To be rewarded post-Senate for not standing in the way? To keep the MAGA flank from his door? To settle for a legacy of could have, should have, didn’t?  

Afraid of making waves or a difference.

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Marilou Johanek
Marilou Johanek

Marilou Johanek is a veteran Ohio print and broadcast journalist who has covered state and national politics as a longtime newspaper editorial writer and columnist.