Consider all the things wrong with this meeting. First, the president is conducting an explicitly campaign-related meeting in the White House. He simply doesn’t understand that it’s not his house; it’s the American people’s. Second, once more he is hinting at, if not holding the threat of, violence over the heads of Americans. Pitting one group of Americans against another by suggesting one side will commit violence is the stuff of tinpot dictatorships. Third — and this concerns the evangelicals far more than it does Trump — the degree to which these religious leaders throw themselves at Trump’s feet, ignoring all manner of immoral and un-Christian conduct for the sake of political power, is bracing and has hurt both religion and politics.
A veteran of three Republican administrations, Peter Wehner recently wrote: “For Republicans, honor and integrity are now passé. We saw it again last week when the president’s longtime lawyer Michael Cohen — standing in court before a judge, under oath — implicated Mr. Trump in criminal activity, while his former campaign chairman was convicted in another courtroom on financial fraud charges. Most Republicans in Congress were either silent or came to Mr. Trump’s defense, which is how this tiresome drama now plays itself out.” A party once hyper-attuned to family values and decency, whose base fancies itself as ethical and a religious watchdog of our civic culture, is now just a cog in the Trump machine. “In any case, the Republican Party’s as-yet unbreakable attachment to Mr. Trump is coming at quite a cost,” Wehner warns. “There is the rank hypocrisy, the squandered ability to venerate public character or criticize Democrats who lack it, and the damage to the white Evangelical movement, which has for the most part enthusiastically rallied to Mr. Trump and as a result has been largely discredited.”
Trump’s lack of candor, respect for democratic norms and personal decency has spread to the far corners of the GOP. As we saw with the win Tuesday by one of Trump’s staunchest allies, Rep. Ron DeSantis, who ran as Trump’s mini-me in the Florida GOP gubernatorial primary, there is no daylight between Trump and his party. They should and will sink or swim together.