Tuesday, August 7, 2018

A morality play - three and a half presidents

This letter to the editor (by Deb Klumpp, Oro Valley) in this morning’s Daily Star caught my attention. It reads in part:

Letter: If Obama had behaved like Trump

What if President Obama had conducted himself, personally and professionally, like Donald Trump? What if Obama had cozied up to Putin, knowing Russia meddled in our elections, and then put on a performance like we witnessed in Helsinki? What if Obama unabashedly admitted paying off sexual partners, after first denying the affairs? Can you imagine the outrage, scathing criticism and calls for impeachment that would have erupted from Republicans? Yet they remain mostly silent — committed to coddling and protecting this treasonous, inept man who is destroying our democracy.

The leading question occasionally pops up in speculative comments on Trump’s morality (or lack thereof). The thing is, we will never know what Republicans might have done because Obama never did conduct himself in the mentioned ways. However, we can go back in history and ask whether another Democratic president would have behaved in those ways - and ask whether Republicans remained silent.

The president in question is Bill Clinton. The Republicans of those days certainly did not remain silent. Instead they pushed through articles of impeachment and ran a trial in the Senate. Apparently the criticism applied in that case by the GOP does not apply to one of their own. Today the Republican-controlled congress is mostly silent, as the author writes, “committed to coddling and protecting this treasonous, inept man who is destroying our democracy.”

We can also go back in time and ask what a currently potential president had to say about Clinton and has to say about Trump. This is important to ask because Vice President Mike Pence is potentially the president should Trump leave office in one way or another. Pence had lots to say about Clinton’s behaviors but little if anything to say in objection to Trump’s behaviors. The Huffington Post reports. (h/t Sherry Moreau)

These Old Mike Pence Columns On How A President Should Behave Have Not Aged Well. “If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet.”

At the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Mike Pence penned two opinion columns calling for former President Bill Clinton to quit or be removed from office.

But the current vice president’s moralistic writings from the late ’90s and early 2000s, which CNN unearthed from the Wayback Machine internet archive on Monday, have not aged well.

Pence’s preachy prose on how presidents should behave, in particular, seems irreconcilable with the conduct of President Donald Trump.

Mike Pence Show

In the above column, titled “The Two Schools Of Thought On Clinton” that was posted on the now-deleted website for Pence’s Indiana talk radio show, Pence argued the office of president required its incumbent to be of the highest integrity.

Pence wrote:

If you and I fall into bad moral habits, we can harm our families, our employers and our friends. The President of the United States can incinerate the planet. Seriously, the very idea that we ought to have at or less than the same moral demands placed on the Chief Executive that we place on our next door neighbor is ludicrous and dangerous. Throughout our history, we have seen the presidency as the repository of all of our highest hopes and ideals and values. To demand less is to do an injustice to the blood that bought our freedoms.

In another column on his congressional campaign website, titled “Why Clinton Must Resign Or Be Impeached,” Pence condemned Clinton’s affair with college intern Monica Lewinsky and the subsequent attempts to lie about it.

Pence concluded:

Our leaders must either act to restore the luster and dignity of the institution of the Presidency or we can be certain that this is only the beginning of an even more difficult time for our land.

It’s unclear whether Pence still believes what he wrote in his old essays. Trump is accused of multiple extramarital affairs and coverups with hush money payments. And he was recorded bragging about sexually assaulting women.

To get a better, if rather nauseating view, see The Atlantic story on God’s Plan for Mike Pence. Will the vice president—and the religious right—be rewarded for their embrace of Donald Trump?

No man can serve two masters, the Bible teaches, but Mike Pence is giving it his all. …

In Pence, Trump has found an obedient deputy whose willingness to suffer indignity and humiliation at the pleasure of the president appears boundless. When Trump comes under fire for describing white nationalists as “very fine people,” Pence is there to assure the world that he is actually a man of great decency. When Trump needs someone to fly across the country to an NFL game so he can walk out in protest of national-anthem kneelers, Pence heads for Air Force Two.

… in early 2015, Pence stumbled into a culture-war debacle that would come to define his governorship. At the urging of conservative-Christian leaders in Indiana, the GOP-controlled state legislature passed a bill that would have allowed religious business owners to deny services to gay customers in certain circumstances. Pence signed it into law in a closed-press ceremony at the statehouse, surrounded by nuns, monks, and right-wing lobbyists. A photo of the signing was released, and all hell broke loose. Corporate leaders threatened to stop adding jobs in Indiana, and national organizations began pulling scheduled conventions from the state. The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, put out a statement suggesting that the law might imperil “future events.” The Indianapolis Star ran a rare front-page editorial under an all-caps headline: “FIX THIS NOW.”

After seven chaotic days, Pence caved and signed a revised version of the religious-freedom bill—but by then it was too late. His approval ratings were in free fall, Democrats were raising money to defeat him in the next gubernatorial election, and the political obituaries were being written. Things looked grimmer for Pence, and the religious right, than they ever had before.

Deliverance manifested itself to Mike Pence on the back nine of Donald Trump’s golf course in New Jersey. …

True to form, Pence spent much of their time on the course kissing Trump’s ring. You’re going to be the next president of the United States, he said. It would be the honor of a lifetime to serve you. Afterward, he made a point of gushing to the press about Trump’s golf game. “He beat me like a drum,” Pence confessed, to Trump’s delight.

Pence has so far showed absolute deference to the president — and as a result he has become one of the most influential figures in the White House, with a broad portfolio of responsibilities and an unprecedented level of autonomy. But for all his aw-shucks modesty, Pence is a man who believes heaven and Earth have conspired to place him a heartbeat—or an impeachment vote—away from the presidency.

And when will Pence ascend to Trump’s throne? "It’s not a matter of when Republicans are ready to turn on Trump. It’s about when they decide they’re ready for President Pence.”

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