Wednesday , February 14, 2018 - 5:00 AM
President Donald Trump hands a pen to Sen Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, after signing a proclamation to shrink the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase Escalante national monuments, Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Shame, it turns out, is not yet dead. But we must admit, its death rattle sounds terminal.
And not only shame; it’s been a hard week for decency, too. We were confronted with news of White House staff members who beat their wives. At the same time, and closer to home, it was revealed a family values state lawmaker paid a prostitute for the services prostitutes are known to provide. And the deeds were done in taxpayer-funded hotel rooms.
Even in our new version of reality, this was devastating news. But, let’s be honest, it’s not quite as surprising as it once would have been.
Why? Because we’ve been through a lot the past couple of years. In 2016, Americans elected a lying, racist, narcissistic serial sexual abuser to the highest office in the land. Ever since, fellow Republicans have given him a pass. They’ve set aside their moral outrage because President Donald Trump will sign any damn bill they manage to pass and put on his desk.
The best example of this kneeling, fawning abdication of character and scruples was when Trump traveled to the Beehive State to downsize two national monuments. Members of Utah’s congressional delegation dressed up to play the part of glad-handing toadies: grinning, laughing, back-slapping, hugging and praising the man.
And the stain is spreading. It turns out now-disgraced former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter – please, Lord, I pray we’re not related – had spent a year at Brigham Young University prior to heading off to Harvard and a Rhodes scholarship. But there’s more: He was a member of Sen. Mike Lee’s staff and, prior to the White House job, had been Sen. Orrin Hatch’s chief of staff.
Last week, Porter’s two ex-wives accused him of physical and emotional abuse. One said he’d punched her in the face and provided a photo of her black eye as evidence.
Oh, Utah, hold your head high.
The initial reaction by the White House and Hatch’s office, when accusations of against Porter surfaced publicly, was to defend him. Hatch’s statement read, in part, “It's incredibly discouraging to see such a vile attack on such a decent man. Shame on any publication that would print this — and shame on the politically motivated, morally bankrupt character assassins that would attempt to sully a man’s good name.”
Then, even after corroborating evidence including a photo of an ex-wife with a black eye and a restraining order were available for all to see, Hatch’s response was the boilerplate abuse-is-never-acceptable backpedaling: “I am heartbroken by today's allegations. In every interaction I’ve had with Rob, he has been courteous, professional, and respectful. My staff loved him and he was a trusted advisor. I do not know the details of Rob’s personal life. Domestic violence in any form is abhorrent. I am praying for Rob and those involved.”
Then the president weighed in by reminding journalists Porter had denied the allegations, praising Porter’s excellent work and wishing him success in his future endeavors. That, of course, is Trump’s standard response to any woman accusing a man of inappropriate behavior: skepticism.
Why have Republicans – and members of Utah’s delegation in particular – been so willing to enable, forgive and ignore this administration’s awful conduct? Is the reversal of the Obama agenda worth their moral sacrifice?
What almost nobody in the GOP seems to remember is what their parents, religious leaders and school teachers taught them in their youth. A Faustian bargain, which is trading away your soul in return for riches or success or in this case political victory, always ends the same way: You’ve lost your honor, your self-respect. You’ve become the thing you used to despise.
Bet on it, Trump supporters. This will not end well. And you will not outrun the blame.
You can email Don Porter at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @DonPondorter.