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OPINION | JOHN BRUMMETT: You know, that Arkansas guy …

by John Brummett | May 17, 2023 at 3:56 a.m.

A leading anti-Trump Baptist theologian lamented Sunday on "Meet the Press" the absence of morality-based and character-based resistance to Donald Trump among Republicans, including among the party's candidates for the presidential nomination.

I know of two people who thought ... what about Asa Hutchinson? I was one. Asa was the other. I'm unaware of any others.

I was made aware, though, of a new tracking poll from Morning Consult showing Trump favored for the presidency by 61 percent of Republicans and Hutchinson favored by a fraction rounded up to 1 percent.

Dr. Russell Moore of Nashville once was head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. But then he left the SBC over more issues than Trump--but certainly including Trump--and became editor-in-chief of Christianity Today, a moderate Baptist publication.

He was a guest Sunday on "Meet the Press" on the subject of Trump's jury-determined sexual abuse, and his derision and flippancy about his accuser and that verdict amid the laughter of his cultists in that CNN spectacle last week.

Moderator Chuck Todd introduced a video of motor-mouth Lindsey Graham saying in the late 1990s that the problem with Bill Clinton wasn't sin, but his not owning up to it. Todd remarked that, now, even professed evangelical Mike Pence, who presumably is still running against Trump, took a pass on criticizing Trump after the verdict in New York.

Moore, who said he'd never vote for Trump, said he couldn't begin to say what might be going on in Pence's mind. Nor, he said, could he understand why leading Republicans across the board were shying from the character issue they once used appropriately and successfully against Clinton.

Upon the New York verdict against Trump, Hutchinson, alone among GOP presidential candidates, if you could call him one, issued an immediate statement that jury verdicts are to be taken seriously and that the matter provided "another example of the indefensible behavior of Donald Trump."

I was reminded that Hutchinson had previously told me he saw an opportunity for inroads in Iowa among evangelical voters weary of Trump's damaging conduct.

On that basis, I asked Hutchinson on Monday if he'd talked with Moore in the context of his demonstrated willingness to speak out against Trump's politics of grievance and self-absorbed, low-character bluster.

"I have not," Hutchinson replied. "I saw [Moore's] interview on MTP. It was excellent. The most frustrating part was Chuck Todd's failure to recognize my comments. He referred to Pence but not to mine. I guess he did not want to recognize the diversity of thought."

Alas, I suspect it's as likely that Todd didn't think of Asa at all, and that Moore, who could have brought him up as an exemption to his general lament, didn't either.

So, there are two political observations to be made.

One is that, while Hutchinson's admirable essence is a hard sell in a Republican Party that tends to rally around Trump from resentment of liberal harassment, he failed in this case to gain even attention, much less traction, when a seeming opportunity for sound footing presented itself. If he can't get on Russell Moore's theological and political radar, he's seriously bogged down.

A character-claiming, Trump-decrying Republican presidential candidate might get up to 15 percent in a primary here or there. The candidate who goes unmentioned or un-recalled, even in his seeming wheelhouse, will likely stay closer to zero.

The other observation is that Republicans should not be allowed to get away with the hypocrisy of their righteous cries that Clinton was a character-flawed womanizing truth-splicer wholly unworthy of the moral responsibilities of the American presidency as compared to their current devotion no matter what to Trump amid his flagrant indecency made evident near-daily.

It's one thing to mortgage your soul one time for three nominations to the Supreme Court that took away women's control over their bodies. But, now that that's accomplished, it's another thing entirely not to want to redeem that soul, even to seek a second mortgage.

John Brummett, whose column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a member of the Arkansas Writers' Hall of Fame. Email him at Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.

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