"God showed up and showed out last night in Alabama," an old college friend exclaimed in a phone call on the morning after Republican Senate hopeful Roy Moore's surprising and ignominious special-election defeat. That Moore took down with him the arrogant but hapless President Trump, his chief cheerleader and rally sponsor, delighted my caller all the more. Email and social media across the country lit up with cries of jubilation.
Whether divinely inspired or voter driven, Democrat Doug Jones's victory Tuesday night should have been the moment for Moore to realize that his self-depiction as Christ's chief crusader, waging a holy war against a backsliding and sinful America, was finished.
He now faces his inevitable destination: political irrelevancy, not Washington
Alabamians cannot be thanked enough for keeping Moore at home. They, as great Americans, did all they could. The awful truth, however, is that Tuesday's voting went only so far. It kept Moore out of the U.S. Senate. But keep that glee in check. Tuesday's result did not rid Washington of Moore. He remains ensconced within the fence and barricades that circle 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Yes, beloved: Roy Moore is in the White House.
Moore is all there in Trump: the pomposity and overweening egotism, the predatory behavior that causes women to line up to tell their stories about sexual misconduct and abuse. In Trump, as in Moore, can be found the inability to come clean about anything, the ability to tell bald-faced lies, the harboring of racism and religious bigotry. Their capacity to pander to base instincts has no equal. Neither does their meanness.
Though Trump may have a slight edge in the vice of cruelty.
How much worse can it get when the president of the United States publicly tweets that a U.S. senator is a "lightweight" and "flunky" and slyly insinuates that she would trade her body for campaign donations?
That is the smear Trump slimed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) with this week.
Is that rock bottom, even for Trump? A large slice of Gillibrand's congressional colleagues thought so, along with longtime observers of American politics.
The revulsion at Trump's attack reached a peak, however, that I never expected to be scaled by the editorial board of a major newspaper such as USA Today.
I say this as a former Post editorial writer who worked for several years with a small but plucky stable of colleagues carefully assembled by legendary editorial page editor Meg Greenfield. We were known to turn a remarkable phrase or two from time to time.
But I have difficulty recalling anything that got quite to the heart of our disgust with a public figure as well as the members of USA Today's editorial board did. Taking note of Trump's implying that Gillibrand would trade sexual favors for cash, USA Today declared: "A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush."
Editorial boards across the country are probably muttering, "We wish we had said that." I know I do.
But that gets us to the centrality of the problem with Trump's presidency: As with Moore, most of the country doesn't like him. Not his policies or decisions, though many are just awful. But him, who he is, and for some, what he has turned out to be.
We have a president who is not trusted. He is thought to be unethical and morally unmoored. He scores points with his shrinking base when he sticks it to people of color and those outside the cloak of Christianity.
And he deludes himself into thinking he is beloved when he finds himself on a stage with thousands of adoring fans eating out of his hand — ignoring the fact that they, despite their fervor, do not represent how the majority of the country feels about the job he's doing or the conduct of his presidency.
But why should I, a critic of Trump's policies, decisions and personal conduct, care about his low standing with most of the electorate? Am I not seeing Judgment Day for Trump unfolding as I wished in an October column?
It's one thing for a president to be estranged from a few members of his party, or even occasionally from party leaders themselves.
But estranged from his country, when rumbles of war are heard offshore, when Americans are polarized by race, class and religion, with creeping uncertainty in our political institutions?
Today's America, with an out-of-control president, is a toxic brew. Moore didn't win a ticket to Washington, but he's with us because Trump is still here. That's why I care.
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