And yet many of those same Republicans who stuck by him then, ready to ignore his indefensible conduct and gross moral failings, are now grousing about the most recent McCain insult. Had they not noticed Trump was a nasty, boorish liar? Back in the campaign they said none of those qualities mattered because he would deliver on taxes or court nominations. Character was an afterthought; the right simply wanted its own pugilist. Since gaining office, neither serial lying nor revelations about paying off a porn star have shaken the GOP’s faith in Trump. If they have qualms, they lack the moral courage to express them.
Peter Wehner, former adviser to President George W. Bush, has written extensively on the moral collapse of the GOP and of the evangelical community specifically. He excoriates evangelicals who give unqualified support to Trump, “a man who has been accused by nearly 20 women of sexual misconduct and has a long history of misogynistic attacks; and for the losing Republican Senate candidate from Alabama, Roy Moore, who was accused of varying degrees of sexual misconduct by nine women, including one who was 14 years old when the alleged incident occurred.” They haven’t batted an eye during the revelations about Trump’s reported infidelity and payment of hush money. They haven’t exercised any independent moral judgment when it comes to Trump’s moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and counter-protesters or in the face of an inhumane immigration policy of family separation; they’ve become both enablers and lackeys. The result is a president and a White House for whom manners, decency, honesty, kindness and contrition are an anathema and who are assured the blessings of a loud evangelical base.
If anyone is entitled to seethe now, it is the majority of the electorate who rejected Trump as unfit but watched slack-jawed as the party of family values lined up behind Trump. Those who haven’t drunk the Trump Kool-Aid are justified in seething about a Republican Party that leaves Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) in place to jeopardize intelligence sources, compromise the special counsel’s investigation and put out a misleading memo used to vilify the FBI. The rest of the country surely is allowed to seethe that the Republican leadership and most every GOP member of Congress refused to take Trump to task for insulting “shithole” countries or for flaunting grotesque conflicts of interest (including receipt of foreign emoluments).
In short, Republicans should spare us the crocodile tears. They handed their party over to Trump, stuck with him and manage to rationalize virtually all of his behavior. Their party sold its political soul for a debt-generating tax cut. They have no right to trot out their indignation when Trump acts like Trump.