We’re now almost 33 months into the one of the darkest eras in American political history – a period during which the President of the United States has been essentially indistinguishable (in his mendacity, in his self-dealing, in his narcissistic self-importance, in his demands of absolute obsequiousness from underlings, and in his ignorance of, and disregard for, the rule of law) from an organized crime boss.
The latest scandal surrounding his effort to bribe/coerce the leaders of Ukraine into abetting his 2020 presidential campaign seems to be a new low. As veteran journalist Edwin Yoder explained this week:
This time the evidence of presidential misbehavior is too obvious to be misinterpreted. The president of the United States willingly jeopardizes the military security of a small client state and in that errand misuses both the U.S. Attorney General and his personal lawyer. The latter violates the Logan Act of 1799 which forbids a citizen who is not an authorized official to confer with foreign governments against the interests of the United States or negotiate on behalf of the United States. And bribery, which is attempted here, is along with treason one of two explicit grounds of impeachment.”
And as for Trump’s embarrassing efforts to stifle the investigation into his outrageous behavior, commentator Jay Bookman of the Georgia Recorder succinctly summed it up in a fine column this week:
If you’re innocent, why would you keep all the copious evidence of your innocence locked away from Congress and the world? Why would you tell eyewitnesses to your innocence that they can’t utter a word about it? Why would federal judges feel it necessary to order you not to destroy evidence of this innocence?
The most obvious explanation is that you in fact are not innocent. The most obvious explanation is that you realize that your only hope of retaining office and any degree of public support is to hide as much evidence of your wrongdoing as possible, for as long as possible, using every desperate measure at your command.”
A culture of self-preservation and self-dealing
If there’s a most distressing aspect to Trump’s hold on the American body politic in these dark days, however, it might just be the way in which the President’s sordid penchant for dishonest self-dealing and self-preservation seem to have spread like a virus across the country and infected so many politicians who should know better.
Take North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis, for example. There have been no allegations of unlawful or legally unethical behavior by Tillis, but when it comes to morally unethical conduct, Tillis keeps sinking into the swamp.
There have been several of these instances of late – moments in which the state’s junior senator has clearly placed basic decency and any inclination he might have harbored to care about other human beings in what amounts to a blind trust as he seeks reelection. There was the infamous “flipflop for the ages” that took place when Tillis penned an op-ed opposing Trump’s planned national emergency declaration with respect to the U.S.-Mexico border situation and then performed a craven pirouette under pressure from Trump lackeys on the far right.
This week, however, Tillis stooped even lower when he endorsed Trump’s stunningly irresponsible go ahead to a Turkish assault on Kurds in Syria – an abandonment of principle and policy so outrageous that even many of Trump’s leading bootlickers (like South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham) were moved to protest.
Infecting the General Assembly
But, of course, Tillis is far from alone when it comes to North Carolina politicians who seem to have embraced the “what’s in it for me?” culture of Trumpism.
As noted on The Progressive Pulse yesterday, the recent report by WRAL’s Travis Fain that Rep. David Lewis – one of the most powerful men in the state House of Representatives – secured a half-million dollar personal loan from a man affiliated with a business that was registered to lobby the General Assembly at the time (and who was later indicted as part of the Greg Lindberg-Robin Hayes bribery scandal) casts an odiferous air of impropriety.
The same can be said for the latest in a long list of questionable money-making ventures by Tillis’ successor as House Speaker, Tim Moore. Moore, who has previously faced questions about how he has conducted his private law practice – including questions about his service as the part-time attorney for his home county of Cleveland, as well as his involvement in controversial business dealings involving land and pharmaceuticals – was in the news again this week for representing a client in a personal injury case against Duke Energy.
Duke, of course, is one of the biggest political actors in the state and an entity with which the Speaker of state House must invariably interact on numerous controversial issues every year. The fact that Moore sees no problem in negotiating with Duke on a private matter on which he presumably stands to make a sizable fee, even as he presides over and helps decide the fate of other matters impacting the energy giant’s bottom line, is remarkable.
Even more remarkable and indicative of Trumpian immorality at work is the fact that Moore has hired Rep. Lewis as an “expert witness” in the case!
The bottom line: From Donald Trump on down, we seem to be witnessing a rapid and dispiriting decline in the ethical standards of powerful politicians – elected leaders who treat notions like putting the public good ahead of their own wellbeing and avoiding even the appearance of impropriety as quaint anachronisms.
We can only hope that a day of reckoning is not too far off.