Republicans rarely miss an opportunity to major in minors. No matter is too trivial to devote the entire attention of the Republican Party. Remember, this is the party that brought the government to a virtual standstill over Elian Gonzales and Terry Schiavo but has been unable to muster the courage to pass a budget, defund Obama’s illegal executive orders, or impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen who used his role as head of the most powerful, most feared arm of the federal government to harass and intimidate political opponents of the Obama administration.
Symbolism is always easier than substance. And Donald Trump’s comments about the women he tried to have sex with caught on a hot mic offered the GOP’s prissy moralizers yet another opening to leap on top of a soap box.
It didn’t take long for the knives to come out, but it was mostly from the expected quarters of vanquished foes and yesterday’s men hoping for another moment in the sun. In other news, Bush, Romney, Ryan, and company had no comment on John Podesta’s leaked emails.
Was Trump lewd and crude? Yes. Would I do it? No. But I’m also aware that it’s pretty standard fare among both men and women these days. That’s no excuse, of course, but these recordings reveal exactly nothing that we all didn’t already know about Donald Trump.
And Trump’s lewd and crude comments 11 years ago do not diminish the dangers of a Clinton election in 30 days. Trump might have venal appetites, but the Clintons are lawless—and have venal appetites to boot. It’s no contest.
Still, that doesn’t stop the feckless prigs in the Republican Party from rushing to Twitter or the nearest MSM reporter to denounce Trump and let everyone know they are appalled to find out that he likes the ladies. Mitt Romney tweeted: “Hitting on married women? Condoning assault? Such vile degradations demean our wives and daughters and corrupt America’s face to the world.” You might be excused if you thought he was talking about Bill Clinton. Of course a big difference between Trump and potential First Husband Bill is that when women turn down his sexual advances, he takes no for an answer. Trump tries seduction, Clinton uses force: it’s an apt analogy for this election.
But for some reason Republican leaders still can’t distinguish between the personal and the political—and not just that but between relatively petty personal vice compared with massive public corruption. At least not when it comes to Donald Trump. They’re pretty forgiving when it comes to Democrats. JFK had multiple affairs in the White House. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an adulterer too but today he is honored with a national holiday on the premise that his public service outweighed his private vice. And then there’s Bill Clinton. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t take no for an answer. Just ask Juanita Broaddrick or Richard Epstein. But that doesn’t bother Republican pols who can’t wait to knock one of their own on the head.
Trump did what, let’s face it, a lot of rich (and not so rich) guys do: he indulged his taste for the ladies. And it’s not confined to men. These trysts do require a partner, remember. Again, that’s no defense of the behavior, but it also shouldn’t be news that we live in a time of sexual license.
When we’re talking about the future of the republic should not our statesmen (and I use the term very loosely) be able to see what is better for the country?
This election still comes down to three things: Who will control immigration, advance a common sense trade policy that benefits all Americans, and promote an interests based foreign policy? And the fourth issue that become increasingly important during the campaign is law and order. Who will back police and support a return to order on the streets?
But Republicans, keener to take down Trump than they ever have been on opposing Obama or Clinton, are hyperventilating over the Trump tape. If you’re being rushed into the operating room for an emergency bypass operation do you screen surgeons based on personal piety or skill in cardiac surgery? If you’re a Republican pol I’d guess it’s the former. But that’s not a very good policy if you want to live.
Too many conservatives have foolishly invested the presidency with a moral importance it should not have and have allowed their idea of the office to outgrow the capabilities of fallen man. It’s based on a misunderstanding or a perversion of republican government. The president is a not a prophet, a priest, or a king, but an executive with powers delegated from the people and even then just one of three coequal branches. Inflated expectations are bound to meet disappointment. This fundamental misunderstanding of republican government is the result of a worrying lack of understanding of basic human nature.
Still their lack of interest in the Clintons’ corruption—or even in Bill’s sexual assaults—is telling. Compared to Trump’s poor adherence to the 7th and 10th commandments (adultery and coveting)—serious personal failings to be sure—we have Hillary Clinton’s 40 years of public corruption. A partial list includes her involvement in the Whitewater land fraud; the White House Travel Office scandal; the murder of four Americans in Benghazi and her subsequent lies to their families; her multiple illegal email servers that exposed American national security secrets to foreign powers’; her illegal destruction of 33,000 emails; and her selling of influence to both domestic and foreign agents while at the State Department.
Whose scandals are more pertinent to the presidency?
Politics is serious business. The fate of the country and all of her citizens is on the line. Hillary Clinton is easily the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency and all Jeb “Please Clap” Bush can do is tweet something treacly about having two “precious granddaughters.” Ineffectual congressman Jason Chaffetz warbled some saccharine platitudes about looking his daughter in the eye before turning on Trump.
This election remains a binary choice. It’s Trump or Clinton. (Sorry Gary Johnson fans.) The actions of Bush and Chaffetz and people like them make clear they prefer Clinton, despite the fact that she has repeatedly endangered national security in order to enrich herself and her family. But for some reason, the most important thing on these Republicans’ minds is Donald Trump’s bawdy talk from 2005. It’s weak and unserious.
This is not a defense of what Trump said or did. It’s an argument for a sense of proportion. For many Republican leaders the Trump tape is disqualifying but Benghazi isn’t, pay to play at the State Department isn’t, selling weapons to ISIS isn’t, harassing Bill’s victims isn’t, compromising national security isn’t. Do whatever you want to the country, just don’t talk dirty!
To save their virginal ears they would inflict on the country a gangster and a kleptocrat. The moralizing and fussiness of the Right is embarrassing. For all their complaints about Donald Trump’s shortcomings they prove time and time again that they are unserious and fundamentally unfit to lead.