Commentary: Reagan Reed
The endless spectacle that is Donald Trump is like a ten-car pile-up or a derailed train-wreck: you can’t help but look over and survey the sheer mayhem. Even though the media’s millions of dollars worth of free publicity in 2016 arguably contributed to Trump’s victory, they still can’t seem to help themselves, running wall to wall coverage of Trump’s indictment in New York for allegedly violating the law in the course of making hush-money payments to pornstar Stormy Daniels. The media can’t help but cover it non-stop because they know we can’t help but watch it.
In full disclosure I’m not a lawyer (although I did study some textbooks in an attempt to self-teach myself to pass the LSAT in my teens). However, from reading Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment and statement of facts, and reading the reactions of legal scholars I trust, it really seems like the legal case against Trump in this instance is quite a stretch.
National Review’s Andy McCarthy has done a good job explaining why Bragg’s legal arguments just don’t hold up. Even revered Never Trumper David French is skeptical of the prudence of bringing the case.
The Stormy Daniels case is not even Trump’s only legal problem, and it is arguably the weakest of all the potential cases against him. He’s currently facing the possibility of an indictment in Georgia over his call pressuring Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find the votes”, and a federal investigation into his refusal to return classified documents he illegally took to Mar-A-Lago. And of course there’s always his role in the attempted coup and riots of January 6. All three of these cases are much more serious and are on much stronger ground legally than the Stormy Daniels case.
Politically, the indictment may actually strengthen Trump’s chances of winning the Republican nomination, as he is now a martyr and may experience a rally around the flag effect. However, while the indictment may help Trump rally his base, it will make it even less likely that he can win a general election- which is good for President Joe Biden.
However, let’s put politics and law aside for a moment and just reflect on the fact that we are talking about a former president of the United States having an affair with a pornstar while his wife was at home with their newborn son and then paying off the pornstar to keep the affair from the public. Even though Trump probably didn’t do anything illegal, I don’t think anyone doubts that he did it. Does anyone seriously thing that this is out of character for a man who has cheated on all three of his wives and brags about, “grabbing women by the p****?” Trump is a man of very low moral character who is unfit to serve in any position of public trust.
The most telling thing in all of this is the fact that Melania Trump was notably absent from both Trump’s arraignment and his remarks at Mar-A-Lago later in the evening. I genuinely feel sorry for her and thinking about what she’s going through makes me sad.
Weak and politically motivated indictments happen all the time (see Rick Perry, Tom DeLay), and I have full confidence that our country’s legal system will sort everything out and render a just verdict. What is far more important is the question of what verdict Republican voters will render in the 2024 primaries.
Nobody is perfect, but I believe that character still does matter when it comes to picking leaders. An unethical leader will encourage those under him to be unethical as well. So many of Trump’s woes have been self-inflicted, and most of them stem from a fundamental flaw in his character. Trump’s character flaws have dragged him down, and the GOP with him.
Trump always acts in what is his own best interest- not what’s in the best interest of the Republican Party or the country. Republicans continue to pay the price for elevating such an unethical man to such a position of prominence and will continue to suffer until they ditch him.
Do we really want someone who cheated on his wife with a pornstar and then gave her hush-money to be the face of the Republican Party? We’re not even talking about a binary choice between Trump and a Democrat right now. The choice in the primaries will be between Trump and any number of Republican alternatives. Why should the GOP continue to excuse and defend Trump’s baggage when there are other Republicans of better moral character without the baggage who could enact the conservative policies the base likes?
Why not Mike Pence, who has a lifelong record of advancing conservative policies and will not even have dinner alone with a woman who isn’t his wife? Or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who stood by his wife’s side during her battle with cancer and who’s wife is his closest confidant and most influential advisor? There’s no reason for Republicans to go down with the Trump ship, especially when we have so many better options.
Do Republicans really want to spend the next few years defending Trump’s hush-money payments to a pornstar? What do Evangelical Christians, a core component of the Republican base, think that standing by Trump amid his moral peccadilloes will do to their Christian witness?
One final thought: One of my younger brothers asked me the other day why Trump was being arrested. I couldn’t think of an appropriate answer to tell him. Is Donald Trump the kind of role model you want for your children as the leader of this country?
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