Evangelicals gave President Trump a “mulligan” on his alleged affair with Stormy Daniels. If Trump’s attempt to disassociate himself from lawyer Michael Cohen’s hush-money payment proves untenable — and who believes Cohen paid for this out of the goodness of his heart? — will the religious mop-up squad give him a second mulligan for lying? Maybe they should find out how many paid-off women are out there before offering more absolution.
Evangelicals, who thundered disapproval of Bill Clinton (and even Rudy Giuliani for multiple marriages), have turned a blind eye to each and every new Trump scandal, thereby forfeiting any claim to religious or moral leadership. (Their cult of resentment, their stunted and unattainable political agenda, and their disregard for public morality and culture are a dismal tale told brilliantly by my Post colleague Michael Gerson in an Atlantic piece.)
On a more comic level, Anthony Scaramucci (the former communications director for less than a fortnight) got taunted (and laughed at) by fellow CNN panelists when he insisted Trump was “very presidential” and for saying Cohen definitively (!) claimed it was he — and not Trump — who paid off Daniels. The price one pays for defending Trump is self-humiliation, as one aide and ex-aide after another have learned.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin likewise was skewered on “Meet the Press” for his slavish refusal to speak ill of Trump’s vulgar campaign appearance in Pennsylvania. Host Chuck Todd started with Trump’s insult against Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.):
TODD: I think you most recently appeared before her committee. She’s the Ranking Member on House Financial Services. If somebody on your staff referred to her that way in public, would that person still be on your staff?
MNUCHIN: Chuck, you know I’ve been with the president and at campaigns. You know he likes to put names on people. He did that throughout the entire presidential election. Including all of the Republicans that he beat. So these are campaign rally issues.
TODD: So is that acceptable—so you’re saying that’s acceptable behavior for the rest of the administration too? . . . .
MNUCHIN: Again Chuck. This is something that is at a campaign rally. And the president likes making funny names.
After Mnuchin whined that Todd was focusing on the “wrong things” instead of the economy, Todd bore down:
TODD: You keep saying that’s what we should be focused on, then why can’t the president be focused on that, sir?
MNUCHIN: I think the president has been very focused on that.
TODD: Would you call last night’s speech a focused speech on that?
MNUCHIN: I wasn’t at the campaign rally, as you know. But again don’t take these campaign rallies and focus them on that’s what it is, okay.
TODD: So should we stop covering the campaign rallies? Do you think it’s a mistake then for us to cover them at all? That it doesn’t matter what he says? If it doesn’t matter what he says there. If we are to dismiss everything he says at a campaign rally as I think you’re trying to imply, then are you saying we should cover these things?
MNUCHIN: No, you’re putting words in my mouth. I wasn’t in any way saying you should dismiss that whatsoever. . . .
TODD: When he uses vulgarity to talk about individuals, what are they supposed to tell their kids?
MNUCHIN: Well again, I’ll be with my kids this morning, and I’ll be focused on them on what the president is doing to protect the United States, it’s citizens, and more importantly it’s economy.
TODD: So he’s not a moral– don’t worry about his values, don’t worry about him as a role model.
MNUCHIN: I never said that whatsoever. So I don’t know why you’re putting these words in what I’m trying to say. Okay. So again, I am very comfortable with what we’re doing, okay? And again I think you’re trying to take this out of perspective, and implying something I’m not saying.
TODD: Fair enough, what do you…what are you supposed to say when he’s using these vulgarities, to kids?
MNUCHIN: Again, I think you should be focused on what the policies are. He’s using these vulgarities in the context of a campaign rally and obviously there were a lot of funny moments on, on, on that rally.
TODD: Yeah, they were hilarious. Anyway, Secretary Mnuchin. I appreciate you coming on, again.
Hey, no one forced Mnuchin to work in this administration. While he might want to ignore Trump’s terrible public conduct, that doesn’t mean the rest of us should — or that he should get spared the indignity of defending Trump. His record of normalizing Trump will define his tenure as secretary just as much as his role in passing a tax bill.
Evangelical leaders, Mnuchin, the hordes of GOP apologists, Trump’s current and former White House staff — all of them — have chosen to ignore, minimize or even defend Trump’s vulgarities, lies, racism, misogyny and anti-democratic antics. If they think they can escape accountability by peers and by history — not to mention by future employers — because, well, “because Gorsuch” or “because corporate tax cuts,” they may be surprised. Their ongoing buffoonish defense of Trump may turn out to be the most memorable thing they have done in public life.