Have body snatchers invaded the GOP?

Hollywood made several different versions of the classic science fiction horror film, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers," but some canny producers could be sizing up a new one. All they need to do is watch the scary remodeling of the Republican party under Donald Trump, especially the amazing conversion of once normal, pragmatic GOP senators and bureaucrats into obsequious, robot-like mouthpieces for Trumpian snake-oil.

Several GOP senators stand out as picture-perfect actors to play key roles, notably Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.


To recall, "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" was a big screen hit movie in 1956 in which the people of a small town were being rapidly replaced by exact duplicates in the form of brain-dead, emotionless pods from outer space. A dramatic, spine-tingling film on its surface, many critics saw it as an allegory about the hysteria of the (Joseph) McCarthy period and the fascist rantings of the eventually disgraced Republican senator from Wisconsin.

Well, today, something very similar is happening to the Grand Old Party as so many of its members cave into the erratic, racist, constantly lying and wholly unprincipled presidency of Donald Trump. Nominations:


Best Actor in a Leading Role: Sen. Graham.

During the 2016 campaign, Senator Graham characterized Mr. Trump as "a jackass." He told interviewers Mr. Trump’s "domestic and foreign policy is gibberish" and that Mr. Trump is "the most unprepared person I’ve ever met to be commander-in-chief."

Today, Senator Graham is Mr. Trump's leading toady on Capitol Hill, repeatedly defending the president's reckless abuse of power, his constant lies and 180-degree switchbacks on foreign policy. Senator Graham's complete conversion is reflected in his willingness to ignore the massive Russian interference in the 2016 election along with the president’s demeaning of his supposed best friend, John McCain.

Best Supporting Actor: Sen. Tillis.

Senator Tillis excoriated President Trump in The Washington Post two months ago for his declaration of a national emergency over a border wall as an abuse of executive power. A few days later, he voted with Mr. Trump.

Honorable mention: Senator McConnell is a strong contender for this award. The majority leader who famously said his No. 1 goal was to keep Barack Obama from gaining a second term instead of promoting the national interest, has been ridiculed by Mr. Trump and called a failure. Yet, with his re-election upcoming, he now salutes and surrenders his integrity and American governance to Trumpian whims.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Attorney General William Barr.

Mr. Barr served as A.G. under George H.W. Bush, compiling a respectable record as the nation's overseer of law and justice.

Today, instead of performing his constitutional duties, Mr. Barr has become a virtual echo chamber for Mr. Trump, repeating his chant of "no collusion, no collusion" like a parrot when there are actually many instances of collusion and obstruction in the Mueller report — just not enough to prosecute a president.

Mr. Barr's rush to judgment with a misleading four-page summary of the report has now been criticized by Special Counsel Robert Mueller as not accurately reflecting the substance of the investigations and multiple episodes of obstruction by Mr. Trump and his acolytes.

There are dozens of other such empty suits in Washington taking over the party of Abraham Lincoln these days. They mimic Mr. Trump’s suggestion that climate change is "a Chinese hoax." They twist themselves into contortions to support a tax cut that sent the deficit through the roof. They show up at Trump rallies and still chant "lock her up" even though it’s Mr. Trump’s associates who are the convicted felons.


The director of a 1978 remake of "Body Snatchers," Philip Kaufman, sees a frightening parallel between the end of his movie and Trump rallies of today — especially when Mr. Trump, employing a favorite Stalinist phrase, turns on the press as "the enemy of the people."

"The way Trump points to the press at the back of the auditorium and everybody turns (to jeer at reporters), you get that scary, 'poddy' feeling,” Mr. Kaufman told The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s a kind of contagion that’s going on here."

Who said "truth is stranger than fiction?" They're both strange in this case.

Frederic B. Hill, a correspondent for The Baltimore Sun in Europe and Africa, served as foreign affairs director to a Republican senator, Charles McC. Mathias Jr. of Maryland, and later conducted wargaming exercises on national security issues for the Department of State. He is co-editor of “The Life of Kings, The Baltimore Sun and the Golden Age of the American Newspaper” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).