Daily Acts Of Moral Distancing

Ken AshfordRepublicans, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

I like this, from David Brooks (who I don’t usually like), talking about the Republicans in the Michael Cohen hearing who decided to rip Cohen rather than ask questions about Trump.

Normal people have moral sentiments. Normal people are repulsed when the president of their own nation lies, cheats, practices bigotry, allegedly pays off porn star mistresses.

Were Republican House members enthusiastic or morose as they decided to turn off their own moral circuits, when they decided to be monumentally unconcerned by the fact that their leader may be a moral cretin?

Do they think that having anesthetized their moral sense in this case they will simply turn it on again down the road? Having turned off their soul at work, do they think they will be able to turn it on again when they go home to the spouse and kids?

This is how moral corrosion happens. Supporting Trump requires daily acts of moral distancing, a process that means that after a few months you are tolerant of any corruption. You are morally numb to everything. You end up where Representative Jim Jordan blandly ended up Wednesday, in referring to the hush-money scheme: “I think it’s news we knew about.”

I’ve heard the rationalizations. This is gang warfare. We have to do everything we can to defend our team. The other team leaves us no choice. Those are the sorts of things people say to give themselves permission to yield to their venal ambitions. Those are the sorts of things rookies and amateurs say.

Professionals know that effectiveness in any realm, especially politics, depends on having some guiding and consistent integrity that people can trust, loyalty to something higher than your next appearance on Fox or MSNBC.

Here is the commandment that experience teaches us: Immorality usually bites you in the ass. If you behave in a way that betrays relationship and obliterates the truth and erases your own integrity, you will sooner or later wind up where Michael Cohen has wound up — having ruined your life.

In “East of Eden,” John Steinbeck writes: “Humans are caught — in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too — in a net of good and evil. I think this is the only story we have and that it occurs on all levels of feeling and intelligence. Virtue and vice were warp and woof of our first consciousness, and they will be the fabric of our last. … A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard clean questions: was it good or was it evil? Have I done well — or ill.”

That is the passage that confronts us as we decide to defend or condemn Trump. The moral drama is the central drama. Did you, at your crucial moment, side with generosity or greed?

This is the warning that Cohen himself tried to deliver:

The “silly thing” that he points to is a meme that a Congressman hung that says “Liar, Liar Pants On Fire”. Very immature.

Here is Lindsay Graham, engaging in moral distancing, if not outright denial: