Opinion: Making excuses for the president

April 15, 2018


“We kind of gave him — ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.”

— Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, on the white evangelical response to Donald Trump’s alleged tryst with a porn star

“He’s new at government, and so therefore I think that he is learning as he goes.”

— House Speaker Paul Ryan on allegations that Trump sought to interfere with an FBI investigation

“[Politicians] say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.”

— Chief of Staff John Kelly on Trump’s promise to build a border wall

“He’s a human male. ... So he’s not perfect.”

— Pennsylvania voter Joey Del Signore on Trump’s boast of sexually assaulting women

“It’s not policy. It’s social media. You know the difference, right?”

— Former aide Sebastian Gorka on why people should not take Trump’s alarming tweets seriously

“All people lie.”

— North Carolina voter Bill Wallace on Trump’s frequent untruths

“Let’s not judge the president on what he says.”

— Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, on reports that Trump called Haiti, El Salvador and Africa “shithole countries”

“I’m not going to blame him. Absolutely not.”

— Pennsylvania voter Pam Schilling on Trump’s failure to deliver on his promises

Our topic for the day (as if you couldn’t tell): “Excuses for Donald Trump.”

Spoiler alert: There aren’t any. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped people from trying.

Indeed, 16 months into this crisis presidency, one of the most troubling things about it is not the revolving door White House, the indictments, the lies, the sex scandals, the racism, the decline in American prestige, nor the daily drumbeat of war, but rather, the refusal of his followers to hold the Dear Leader accountable for any of it.

Consider the excuses above, each more threadbare than the last. It’s a litany of rationalizations and justifications of a sort depressingly familiar to anyone within earshot of a Trump believer.

“He’s not perfect, but ...”

“He says crazy things, but ...”

“What about when Hillary ...?

“What about how Obama ...?

“What about ...?”

Granted, Trump, a rich man’s son with a long history of walking away from responsibilities and debts, has probably never known what it is to be held accountable. But his failure to take responsibility is a personal problem. The failure of 89 percent of Republicans — Trump’s most recent Gallup approval rating — to demand responsibility is a national scandal.

Christian leaders are breaking faith, political leaders are sacrificing moral authority, average people are doing violence to decency and logic — all to excuse the inexcusable and explain away the objectively awful. That’s not political loyalty. Would so many people have so readily dismembered conscience on behalf of Reagan, Clinton, Bush or Obama?

No. So, the explanation for this lies beyond reason. This is less a presidency than a cult.

We often talk about people “drinking the Kool-Aid.” The young among us may not know the origin of that term, how it came into the language after cult leader Jim Jones led over 900 people to their deaths by inducing them to drink punch laced with cyanide.

The moral of that story is this: Unquestioning obeisance to unaccountable power is a recipe for disaster, a lesson we may be poised to re-learn. No one can say what form some new disaster might take, but that one is coming seems more likely every day. If and when it does come, nine out of 10 Republicans will be its authors.

Something else for which there will be no excuse.

— Leonard Pitts is a Pulitzer Prize-wining columnist for The Miami Herald.


Ken Lassman 1 month, 1 week ago

So many hard core Trump supporters are practicing the double bind school of ethics:. On the one hand, their fearless leader lives in a world where the ends justify pretty much any means over and over again. As long as the wall is promised, regulations and taxes are lifted, and perhaps most importantly, the unborn are given personhood and the judiciary is shored up with like-minded judges, then all other ethical lapses, offensive statements and other excesses can be overlooked.

On the other hand anyone who is a productive long term member of their community but doesn't have the right paperwork should not be allowed to vote even if they are citizens, and if they are not citizens, well then they should be sent back to their countries of origin even if their fellow family members are citizens or other extenuating circumstances. Their role in our economy and the support they provide back in their country of origin means nothing because the inviolate letter of the law has been transgressed.

Transparent lying, denying, or using anecdotal stories as a substitute for the dynamic complexities of reality are seen as acceptable ethical costs when it comes to the way the Trump Administration operates in exchange for its compliance with the GOP agenda, which leans heavily on intolerance of other views.

Such double standards are not new in national politics, and yet the degree to which the Trump supporters have embraced this philosophy is unprecedented in my lifetime. Unfortunately, the removal of checks and balances leads to a snowballing of ethical lapses that requires more suppression in a slippery slope that is characteristic of totalitarian regimes.

Gary Stussie 1 month, 1 week ago

As far as Pitt's most recent attack ... the louder he whines, the better I feel the President is doing.

Never again should anyone stand for lectures from the left on ethics, freedom of speech, or the rule of law. The Obama administration and the Democratic deep state have made short work of all of those.

History will put Lois Lerner, Loretta Lynch, Eric Holder, Rod Rosenstein, James Comey, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, crooked Hillary and most of all, President Obama in the right context.

The left is in a panic right now ... 18 months of witch hunt have produced no "Russian collusion" except on the part of the DNC and Hillary campaign. I suspect Mueller and the left would like nothing better than to have Trump fire Mueller .... that way Mueller won't have to publish a report that shows how merit-less his investigation has been.

Talk about double standards ... has anyone ever heard of attorney-client privilege being violated? If this had happened to ANYONE else, the left and the ACLU would be marching on Washington. Does anyone remember the lefts outrage when Watergate shenanigans were uncovered?

Ken, don't worry about checks and balances! By the time President Trump is done draining the Swamp, it will take several generations of Democratic involvement to muck it up again!

Ken Lassman 1 month, 1 week ago

Trump draining the swamp? Trump is Agent Orange, and he's defoliating all three branches of government. He has made a shambles of the already weak legislative process and his executive branch is losing leaves every day. His GOP cronies kept Obama judicial nominees at bay so they could strip the judicial branch of impartiality to boot. You can't get rid of special interests when you are the lead special interest--he can't even separate his and his family's financial interests from his political interests, and if the Russian extortion doesn't get him, the corruption from his lack of blind trusts will.

Gary Stussie 1 month, 1 week ago

Not hard to imagine that a billionaire might have broad financial interests that would be hard to entirely isolate from any political decision/position.

If the situation were reversed would the DEMs have approved a lameduck REP President's appointment in the last year?

Obama and the legislative process??? Obama openly admitted the Constitution was standing in his way of just going ahead and enacting his progressive agenda. So when Obama wanted to “reform” our nation’s immigration system and didn’t have the votes in Congress, what did he do? He simply implemented illegal alien amnesty through executive fiat by instructing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to look the other way and not apprehend and deport most illegal alien lawbreakers.

Most of what Obama "accomplished" in his 2nd term was done without legislation, through executive orders, agency rule-making and administrative fiat ... why President Trump has been able to unwound most of it!

BTW .... President Trump's approval rating above 50% ... higher then Obama's at same point!

Ken Lassman 1 month, 1 week ago

Actually one third of presidents have nominated Supreme Court candidates during a presidential election year, Gary. So yes, Dems HAVE approved lameduck Republican candidates and vice versa in the past. For more details, check it out: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/02/29/one-third-of-all-u-s-presidents-appointed-a-supreme-court-justice-in-an-election-year/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.2e53eaa6ad5e

Your revisionist history about the immigration reform debate is appalling as well, Gary. I won't even bother to provide a link that reminds you that the Obama reformed the broken immigration system after the House Republicans blocked the bipartisan legislation that came after months of hard work by both the Dems and the Republicans, NOT Obama.

To complete your revisionist sweep, your adding 10 points to the approval ratings that came out today is equally pathetic: https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/15/politics/two-polls-donald-trump-republicans/index.html

Cary Ediger 1 month, 1 week ago

Ken please stop using facts and logic with the Trump lovers..... it only confuses them :)

Ray Mizumura 1 month, 1 week ago

The louder Donald Trump whines and lashes out on Twitter, the more he proves Leonard Pitts right, and then some.

When he's not whining, he's going public with his plans for military strikes in Syria, giving Syria and the Russians more than ample time to prepare.

Gary Stussie, the very first line of your post is the only one that really matters because it also proves Pitts right. You could've stopped there, but you went the extra mile in the next dozen or so lines, continuing with the same kind of nonsense that Pitts so effectively denounces.

Armen Kurdian 1 month, 1 week ago

The President has made missteps and has said things inappropriate, untrue, or otherwise unbecoming of the office, and his behavior has definitely been less than stellar at times.

However, coming from LP, it seems to lose any legitimacy. If George Will were to have written this, I might be more inclined to concur. But nothing that comes from LP has any smattering of objectivity, so we can ignore what he has to say and instead do something more meaningful with our time.

Greg Cooper 1 month, 1 week ago

In other words, "I don't pay attention to anyone who says anything Chump doesn't approve of." Brilliant.

Steve Hicks 1 month, 1 week ago

So if a conservative (George Will) says (whatever), you might agree with what he said: but if someone you consider a "liberal" (Leonard Pitts) says (the same whatever), you blow it off.

If your only criteria of public discourse is partisanship, not truth, you'll understand why people whose criteria is truth blow off what you say.

Ken Lassman 1 month, 1 week ago

Even ignoring the specious logic of only listening to folks you agree with, pointed out by others, I'll call your bluff. George Will has been highly critical of Trump too. A quick cursory look back at his columns in the past few months, he's raked Trump over the coals for his supporting property seizures by law enforcement as a means to finance their departments, he's hated the appointment of John Bolton, disapproved of the way the tax cuts have gutted endowments and charitable giving, hates the tariff strategy, despises the deficit spending that comes hand in hand with the tax cuts, thinks the Administration policies toward Afghanistan are doomed, thinks backing Ray Moore was horrendous, and thinks his depictions of immigrants associations with MS-13 to be wrongheaded.

And that's just been in the last 6 months or so. So what is your excuse now? When are you going to admit that the Emperor has No Clothes?

Bob Smith 1 month, 1 week ago

Trump's most important accomplishment was keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House.

Ray Mizumura 1 month, 1 week ago

The comment shows you know more about which side of a boat is which than you do about what's good for the country.*

This is typical of the majority of statements by people who stick up for Trump. They are incapable of arguing for him on positive grounds. They are forever on the defensive, lauding their hero for annoying their perceived victimizers ("the media," "the liberal elite") and preventing politicians they loathe (often women and people of color) from winning elections.

Can't totally blame them, though. Not easy to make a case for the merits of someone who lacks them as a political leader, a businessman, and a human being.

*see comments for the 4/12/2018 Pitts column on Shaun King

Daniel Kennamore 1 month, 1 week ago

When you say you prefer someone colluding with Russia over Clinton it does nothing but reveal you as a person with a questionable grasp on reality.

Keep on spewing your nonsense if it makes you feel better about your choices though.

Marc Wilborn 1 month, 1 week ago

Collude with Russia? The only person that we have seen evidence of collusion is our previous President promising to go easy on Russia once the 2012 election was over.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 1 month, 1 week ago

Diversion again. Why don't you try to defend your lord and master, instead? Because you can't. How many of his cohorts, including his son, has had meetings with the Russians? How many have been indicted? Even if Trump himself managed to keep his hands clean, his campaign staff didn't.

Marc Wilborn 1 month, 1 week ago

Why not respond to my statement instead of attacking me? Do we not have a video of your lord and master telling the Russian President that he will have much more flexibility after the election?

Divert much?

Steve Hicks 1 month, 1 week ago

A special nod to "Evangelicals" who mindlessly follow the current president, justifying every lie he tells, and excusing his every corrupt or immoral deed. Sarah Huckabee Sanders isn't the only one: just the only one who gets paid to do it.

Evangelicals have tried to confuse people by claiming to be Christians. But everyone knows Christians' values are truth and righteousness.

Ray Mizumura 1 month, 1 week ago

Yes. The behavior and BS of so many Evangelicals is accomplishing one thing with flying colors, however--ensuring that the trend of young people abandoning religion will intensify.

Young people, in general, also do not like 45th President at all. The "kids" are all right--and right.

Steve Hicks 1 month, 1 week ago

"Conservatives" reject any narrative but their own...and "liberals" can't understand why they don't get it.

Both mistaken, for opposite reasons.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect strikes again.

Bob Summers 1 month ago

Good job President Trump.

Let the emotionally hypersensitive Liberals scurry about blaming others for their natural shortcomings. That is what they are born to do.

SEOUL, April 21 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced that the country will suspend nuclear and missile tests and shut down a nuclear test site in the northern area, state media said Saturday.

"From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles," the Korean Central News Agency said.

"The North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country's northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear test," it added.

The decision was made at a plenary meeting of the central committee of the ruling Worker's Party of Korea (WPK) Friday, according to the KCNA.


Bob Summers 1 month ago

North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit.

Donald J Trump

Steve Hicks 1 month ago

Rational people should believe what a notorious liar says ?

When TWO notorious liars say it...does that make it MORE, or LESS, likely to be true ?

Mindless tools of Dear Leader will of course believe what he says: and their devotion to him can be measured by how immediately they proclaim so.

Rational people will wait and see.

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