Given the multitude of investigations into President Trump’s conduct before, during and after the 2016 campaign, politicians and the mainstream media naturally focus on the legal implications of daily bombshells. On any given revelation, the conversation begins with “Was it a crime?” and soon devolves into examination of the required mental state, the testimony of one or more witnesses and the severity of the offense. When not focused on the purely legal issues, the conversation drifts into constitutional issues — what does “high crimes & misdemeanors” mean, can you only indict (not prosecute) a sitting president, etc.
Let’s put all that aside for the moment. There is a moral and political dimension that gets lost along the way: If Trump has repeatedly, compulsively lied to the American people (oh, say, thousands of times) and sent lawyers and aides out to lie for him (e.g. Sarah Sanders insisting Trump knew nothing about hush-money payments to women with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs), why should he not be disqualified from seeking reelection?
In this dimension, Republicans cannot talk about Hillary Clinton, or overturning the decision of the voters, or about whether he really, really broke super-serious laws. They need to justify why they and the American people should prefer an inveterate liar, who lied to get himself elected in the first place, over every possible candidate.
Consider that whether it was legal or not, grounds for impeachment or not, Trump lied about:
- Hush-money payments to women
- Working on a potential real-estate deal with Russia during the presidential campaign
- Incontrovertible evidence that Russia interfered in our election
- Incontrovertible evidence that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was implicated in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi
- Whether anyone on his campaign had contacts with Russians
- The purpose of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting (in the statement he drafted on Air Force One)
And then there are the incessant lies about policy and other matters: steel factories being built, part of the wall already built, the size of his actually-not-the-largest-ever tax cut, the jobs derived from the Saudi arms deal (200,000 ... no, 400,000 ... no, make it 600,000!), rampant illegal voting (by disguise!), the size of his inaugural crowd, the number of bills signed, an imaginary terrorist event in Sweden, “large-scale killing” of farmers in South Africa, Middle Eastern people mixed in with the caravan, President Barack Obama “wiretapping” Trump Tower, whether he considered firing Robert S. Mueller III, the reason for James B. Comey’s termination (before confessing to NBC News’s Lester Holt it was about the Russia probe), the Uranium One deal, and thousands upon thousands of others.
If one believes democracy requires that elected leaders shouldn’t trick, manipulate, bamboozle and flat-out lie to voters to obtain office and explain what is going on, then Trump should never, ever be elected to anything again. And this is just because he lies over and over.
Even if the payments to shut up alleged ex-paramours weren’t illegal, they were part of an effort to deceive voters. Even if working on a deal for a Trump Tower in Moscow up through June 2016 (or November 2016, if you believe Trump lawyer Rudolph Giuliani) wasn’t illegal, Trump lied about it incessantly — while praising and defending Russian President Vladimir Putin throughout the presidential campaign.
What is the excuse for Republicans to support Trump’s reelection, or worse, not be able to decide (i.e. being afraid to tell us) whether his conduct warrants reelection? Republicans, you can have theoretically any other elected Republican, but you want Trump. The moral calculus (or lack of) is mind-boggling.
No wonder Trump and his apologists keep bringing up Clinton. One could only (if at all) attempt to justify voting for Trump by raising the Clinton bogeywoman. She is not the question now; he is. What’s the Republicans' excuse for backing an obsessive liar? Someone should start asking them.