A local man for whom I have considerable regard barked at me last week. He said, "Quit giving Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt."
Some of you weren't aware that I had ever started.
Such is the nature of reader attitude in the Age of Hyperpartisan Polarization in America. One man's libel is another's apologia.
My critic was referring to a developing theme in this space: Some of you obsess on Trump to the point that you risk trivializing the most important things by jumping to the most disdainful conclusions on everything.
What I've written is that we need to "ration our gasps" in the Trump era. To gasp at every Trump atrocity is to pull a muscle or several.
The issue, it will turn out as we go along, is Bill Clinton. Well, Hillary, too.
Then there's the general contempt all of us properly hold for the ever-unreliable blather coming out of the mouths of politicians of all persuasions in Washington.
Let me explain.
My complaining friend thought it should not be small-headline, back-of-the-section news--but bigger--that a private lawyer for the president of the United States says he gave $130,000 from his own unreimbursed pocket to a porn star. The woman, going by Stormy, was making noises late in the presidential campaign of 2016 about going public with an affair she asserts she had a decade ago with this president who was newly married with an infant son at the time.
My local friend is himself a lawyer. As I understand from his account, it apparently is customary for lawyers to receive payments from clients, not make payments for clients.
Imagine the conversation:
Lawyer: "Donald, there's this porn star and I heard she was going say that y'all had an affair, and I knew it was a lie, so I paid her $130,000."
Trump: "Of course it's a lie. Why did you pay her?"
Lawyer: "Just the accusation alone would be such an unfair imposition on you. I wanted to spare you that."
Trump: "Well, OK, then. I appreciate it. Here, let me pay you back."
Lawyer: "Oh, goodness no. It was totally my pleasure. One thing you might do is let me know if there are other porn stars likely to come forward to lie about you, so that I could get them paid as well."
My friend's point was that we have substantial news--an adulterous liar of a president cavorted with a porn star and then, through his lawyer, got the woman paid off into silence and now outrageously, laughably, denies it.
So, as I said, the issue is Bill Clinton. And Hillary. And the sorry state of politics.
Don't believe me? Bring up Trump and lying and adultery in any setting and you'll see what I mean.
Bill cavorted with interns and cabaret singers if not porn stars. He lied about it. Hillary helped him lie by coordinating the securing of affidavits from women subjected to rumors.
What's the difference? That's always the question in American politics anymore: What's the difference? Its brilliant convenience is that it eliminates personal accountability and pre-empts personal introspection.
Clinton endured the inconvenience of being impeached. Trump might yet face it, though probably not about porn star entanglement--sex being impeachable only when Clinton does it.
A Republican House majority is what got Clinton impeached. A Democratic takeover in the midterms in November could get Trump impeached. Clinton was spared conviction in the Senate and Trump likely would be spared there as well.
The scandal, thus, is partisan criminalization of political differences, not a couple of old, insecure tomcats whose pants had a habit of falling off whenever a porn star or an intern smiled at them.
Here's another matter, arguably more important, its being a matter of policy: Weeks ago, Trump insisted on appearing before live television cameras for a meeting with congressional leaders on immigration. He said he was relying on the legislators for a solution and would sign whatever they sent him.
Late last week a bipartisan group in the U.S. Senate arrived at a compromise by which the so-called Dreamers would get their continued residence and Trump would get a stream of money for his border wall.
What sayeth Trump, the man who declared in front of the nation that he would defer to Congress on a solution?
He said he'd veto such a bill.
Plainly, Trump is a liar on whom those of good faith cannot rely. Or so my friend might insist that it be put.
But I suspect Trump simply didn't have any idea what he was talking about in the first place, and that Tom Cotton had explained his position to him later.
Did I give Trump the benefit of the doubt just then? Or, did I attack him with a ruthless broadside?
Yes, I did.
I could see how people could get confused.
John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at email@example.com. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.
Editorial on 02/18/2018
Print Headline: In the age of polarization