Fortitude refers to the strength of mind and character to endure pain and hardship. Moral fortitude is exemplified when a person does the right thing in the face of tremendous pressure to do evil. Republicans must choose between party loyalty, potential campaign loses, and the common good. I want to list some pertinent issues raised by the 2016 Republican platform and ask Republicans some questions. A party’s platform is supposed to tell the public what matters to the party. A platform is also supposed to embody a party’s values. Let’s take a look:
1. Executive Orders: “The President has refused to defend or enforce laws he does not like, used executive orders to enact national policies in areas constitutionally reserved solely to Congress….” (pg. 9) Trump echoed this plank of the platform when he spoke at a town hall in South Carolina in February 2016 when he said, “The country wasn’t based on executive order.” He also said “[r]ight now, Obama goes around signing executive orders. He can’t even get along with the Democrats, and he goes around signing all these executive orders. It’s a basic disaster. You can’t do it.” Trump signed more executive orders in his first 100 days than any other recent president since World War II.
2. Presidential Credibility: “Our most urgent task as a Party is to restore the American people’s faith in their government by electing a president who will enforce duly enacted laws, honor constitutional limits on executive authority, and return credibility to the Oval Office.” (pg. 10) Let me quote at length from an article written by conservative Kevin Williamson in the National Review:
It is impossible to get at that in a meaningful way without considering the unsettling question: What sort of man is the president of these United States? We know he is a habitual liar, one who tells obvious lies for no apparent reason, from claiming to own hotels that he does not own to boasting about having a romantic relationship with Carla Bruni, which never happened. (“Trump is obviously a lunatic,” Bruni explained.) He invented a series of imaginary friends to lie to the New York press about both his business and sexual careers. He has conducted both his private and public lives with consistent dishonesty and dishonor. He is not a man who can be taken at his word.
Conservatives used to care about that sort of thing: Bill Bennett built a literary empire on virtue, and Peggy Noonan wrote wistfully of a time “When Character Was King.” But even if we set aside any prissy moral considerations and put a purely Machiavellian eye on the situation, we have to conclude that having a man such as Trump as president and presumptive leader of the Republican party is an enormous problem for conservatives and for the country corporately. Allegations of petty corruption against Donald Trump cannot simply be dismissed out of hand, because no mentally functioning and decently informed adult thinks that Donald Trump, of all people, is above that sort of thing. Quid pro quo patronage? He’s proud of it. Dishonesty? He boasts about it in a book published under his name. Question: If a young, attractive, blonde woman employed by the Trump Organization came forward claiming to be having an affair with the president, why wouldn’t you believe her? Because Donald Trump isn’t that kind of guy? He’s precisely that kind of guy — that’s the main reason anybody outside of New York ever knew his name in the first place.
Of course it is the case that Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans are predisposed to believe the worst about the man. But the fact is that doing so is not obviously wrong or unreasonable. Trump apologists instinctively want to treat Democrats’ exaggeration and hysteria as contemptible scandal-mongering, but their defenses — no hard evidence of collusion with the Putin regime! — sound a lot like “no controlling legal authority.”
The question isn’t whether the president is a crook. The question is: What kind of crook is he?
Can anyone believe Trump can “return credibility to the Oval Office”?
3. Crony Capitalism and Corporate Welfare: “Cronyism is inherent in the progressive vision of the administrative state. When government uses taxpayer funding and resources to give special advantages to private companies, it distorts the free market and erodes public trust in our political system. By enlarging the scope of government and placing enormous power in the hands of bureaucrats, it multiplies opportunities for corruption and favoritism. It is the enemy of reform in education, the workplace, and healthcare. It gives us financial regulation that protects the large at the cost of the small. It is inherent in every part of the current healthcare law, which is packed with corporate welfare. Crony capitalism gives us special interest tax breaks, custom-designed regulations, and special exemptions for favored parties.” (pg. 28)
Donald Trump often points to his deal with Carrier as an instance of fulfilling his promise to retain American jobs. The problem is this is just another instance of crony capitalism. These are not my words. They are the words of conservative Robert Tracinski in the Federalist:
Donald Trump won the presidency with a promise to “drain the swamp” of crony insider deals in Washington DC. Then again, he won the presidency with a whole lot of promises, including one to save American manufacturing jobs from competition with cheap labor in China and Mexico.
Spoiler alert: he is not going to save American manufacturing jobs, because China and Mexico are not the reason those jobs are disappearing. The big truth is that American manufacturing output has steadily increased all along and is at record highs. We still produce things in this country. But American manufacturing employment has been in steep decline, because while we produce more things then ever, we produce them with more machines and fewer workers.
…Trump is not going to change these big trends, because he is not going to overturn the laws of economics. But Trump is a showman, and he knows that he can make a big show of reversing these trends and “bringing back our jobs.” Hence his big announcement about how he personally negotiated a deal to get Carrier to keep a thousand jobs at a plant in Indiana instead of shifting them to a new factory in Mexico. (Another 1,300 jobs are still going south of the border, but that’s buried down in the seventh paragraph, so nobody is going to notice.)
So how did Trump make this deal? With your money, of course. The company agreed after a personal call to the CEO from the president-elect—and oh, yeah, after Mike Pence, Indiana’s current governor and our vice-president-elect, offered them a big fat chunk of what the New York Times report calls “economic incentives.” That’s buried in the eighth paragraph, demonstrating that our media is doing its usual bang-up job. So in place of crony insider deals made in Washington DC, we get crony insider deals made in Indianapolis.
… So let’s see: the president cuts a deal with corporate executives to give him favors—in this case, a press conference and some good PR—in exchange for straightforward handouts and the implicit promise of greater rewards in the future, to be gained from personal access to public officials. What would you call that?
This blog series is dedicated to the examining the facts emerging in the Russian scandal. We know Donald Trump and his administration is under investigation by the FBI. Let’s rehearse what Republicans said about people under investigation by the FBI:
Senator Marco Rubio (R): “Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI? Think of the trauma that would do to this country.” November 1, 2016
Kellyanne Conway (White Counselor):
Jeb Bush: “I don’t — I only get my news from Fox & Friends, so that’s all I get. All I’m saying is that she’s under investigation by the FBI. Just pause and think about that. That’s not, that’s a pretty uncommon thing for a presidential candidate. And each and every week it just seems like there’s more information. Now there’s, according to Fox again there’s expanded investigation on the connection with the Clinton Foundation. This is a serious deal. So I’m, look, I want to win. I think the Republicans need to win. We need to unify. Hillary Clinton would be an unmitigated disaster for ideological purposes. But she also has this legal problem that would really undermine our country.”
I could go on, but I think the point is clear. Donald Trump has crossed clear red lines for Republicans and conservatives. Do conservatives have the courage to denounce Donald Trump? Will Republicans initiate impeachment proceedings at the appropriate time? Will Republicans act in accordance with their clearly stated moral convictions? Does anyone in the Republican Party have the virtue of moral fortitude?