On Trump’s moral chaos

Five remarks, which I may expand on:

(1) To admit I’m not surprised by Donald J. Trump’s remarks is not to mitigate my own horror, or my assurance that the badly cropped dictator of the Necrocracy of North Korea heard them and giggled, relieved that the United States could not lecture him on morality.

(2) “Are we gonna take down Thomas Jefferson’s statue? Cuz he was a slave owner.” After the British were defeated in the Revolutionary War, George Washington made sure right quick that his slaves got no ideas about emancipation (he famously did manumitted those slaves in his will, however). Thomas Jefferson — well. The writer of the founding’s most stirring piece of prose situating equality as a natural right took full advantage of his slaves — sexual as well as economical. Because Jefferson was a beautiful writer, a sharp architect, and a man of genuine erudition, his reputation falls like a shroud over Southerners. When I visited Monticello in 2006, the sixtysomething guide, unprompted, remarked, “It is rumorahed that Mistah Jeffferson had…relations with one Sally Hemmings; but speaking for myself ah think he was too much of a gentleman to even consider it.” But Jefferson and Washington at least enshrined an idea of liberty over which Fredrick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, James Baldwin, and Martin Luther King, Jr. wrestled, often wielding the founders’ words as bludgeons against the hypocrisy of white hagiographers. We should continue to assess them. But it’s unusual to venerate architects of a failed rebellion like Roger Taney, Robert E. Lee, and Nathan Bedford Forrest.

(3) These remarks won’t Bring Donald Trump Down. To bring acts of impeachment requires a GOP base in the Senate so enervated that it will accept Robert Mueller’s findings and recommend, along with Democratic colleagues, charging the president for violating the Emoluments Clause. Moral chaos and abject public performances alone won’t do it.

(4) That said, there will be no “tax reform” or “infrastructure” bill in September. It would shock me. The GOP congressional base won’t abandon him yet if ever, but now most of its members see genuine danger in so much as Trump’s air.

(5) While commentators applauded (mildly, to be honest) Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III for opening a civil rights investigation into suspect James A. Fields of federal civil rights, his Justice Department is doing the following: “trying to force an internet hosting company to turn over information about everyone who visited a website used to organize protests during President Trump’s inauguration, setting off a new fight over surveillance and privacy limits.”

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