Tuesday, November 21, 2017

What did Donald Trump do today?

He settled on a strategy for endorsing accused child molester and Senate candidate Roy Moore.

Trump, who flirted with an endorsement of Moore in the GOP primary even as he was officially backing the incumbent, has been facing a dilemma over what to do about revelations that at least nine women have accused Moore of inappropriate sexual contact with them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers as young as 14.

On the one hand, Trump cannot really speak too freely about matters of sexual harassment or coercion, since even more women have accused him of inappropriate sexual contact than Moore. But on the other hand, Trump cannot afford to lose a vote in the Senate: even with a 52-vote Republican majority, he has so far failed to get any of his legislative priorities accomplished.

Speaking on the White House lawn today before departing for his winter vacation home, Trump took questions about Moore for the first time in the two weeks since the scandal broke, and said this:
Q: Is Roy Moore, a child molester, better than a Democrat? He's an accused --

TRUMP: Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it. I mean, if you look at what is really going on, and you look at all the things that have happened over the last 48 hours, he totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen. And, you know, you have to listen to him also... Let me just tell you, Roy Moore denies it. That's all I can say. He denies it. And, by the way, he totally denies it.

Q: Do you believe Roy Moore's denials? Do you believe him?

TRUMP: Well, he denies. I mean, Roy Moore denies it. And, by the way, he gives a total denial.
Trump promised last year to sue every woman who has ever accused him of sexual misconduct for libel, and maintains that they are all liars, so there is a certain consistency in him accepting Moore's blanket denials at face value.

But it may just be that Trump is prone to believing people who insist often enough that they are innocent of terrible crimes. Trump himself has said that he believes Vladimir Putin (and not the "leakers" and "liars" of the US intelligence community) on the question of whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election precisely because Putin has so often denied it.

Why is this bad?

  • A president should have enough moral authority to be able to condemn child molestation without worrying about how it will look.
  • A president who believes anything that is politically convenient is a president who can be manipulated.