Sunday, October 09, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Hypocrisy

It's an often quoted moment from the classic World War II film Casablanca, when Captain Renault closes Rick's nightclub because "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on here," just before he pockets his roulette winnings.

It's quoted to quickly define a certain kind of hypocrisy that's apropos for certain Republicans at the moment.  Renault, a French official who cooperates with Nazi occupiers, excused gambling partly because he profited by it (they let him win) but now he needs an excuse to shut down the nightclub because a Nazi general demands it.

And after months of outrageous statements and behavior by Trump, Republicans are shocked, shocked by the crude admissions he made, caught on video and audio tape.

That's the tenor of this NYTimes piece, comments by Josh Marshall and other pieces appearing in reaction to the avalanche of responses especially from GOPers, that has headline writers competing for the most extreme descriptions of the R party's plight.  They were willing to look past the other outrages, when it seemed he could win.  But after some fairly tepid response, they felt the fatal outrage out there, and fell over one another to condemn this latest.

 So while the tape in question may be a bridge too far, the R response to it is also an extension of the opportunism that kept these folks on board with Trump for so long.  Which leads naturally to another cliche that seems to apply: rats fleeing a sinking ship.

At this moment, some 18.5 hours before Sunday's debate starts (I know that so precisely because Politico keeps a running countdown clock) nobody knows what's going to happen, what Hillary is going to say, what Trump is going to say, or even whether he's going to stay for the whole debate, or even show up.

But if Trump remains as combative as he was on Saturday--and with reports of his supporters booing Republicans at their events--that seems likely, it could be Trump himself who raises the question of hypocrisy.

About Clinton's first, of course; both Clintons. He already started that in his Friday apology video.  But if he's pressed to explain the fleeing rats, maybe even Republican hypocrisy.  There are some among his new GOP critics who may well have their own sordid history.

Certainly Trump's most devoted supporters must be seeing the response (Dem and especially Repub) as hypocrisy.  If Trump senses this and represents this feeling by calling out these Republican pols at the debate (and recall how often he said that he'd go it alone if necessary), it could motivate his supporters to vote for him, but not for other Republicans.  Update: Apparently he didn't even wait for the debate. The WPost quotes one of his pre-debate tweets on Sunday:So many self-righteous hypocrites. Watch their poll numbers — and elections — go down!”

Meanwhile, there will be some Republicans who vote for down ballot GOPers but not for Trump.  But it's hard to believe there would be many.  It seems more likely that R voters who can't bring themselves to vote for Trump, just won't vote at all.

Trump doesn't have enough support to win, perhaps even to avoid a landslide against him.  But what he says Sunday may doom other Republicans.  Or, if you believe the headlines, further doom them.

But Trump's own hypocrisy is a prominent feature of the video that exposed him.  After hearing his bragging about sexual advances, including trying to seduce a married woman, we see him getting off the bus to be greeted by a young actress.  He gives her a (consensual) hug and says that his wife said it would be okay.

Trump's rise was fueled in part by the image of somebody who says in public what he thinks in private, without distinction.  The video undermines this.  It's the least of what it exposes about him, but the hypocrisy of a politician is not part of his winning image.

A withering article in the WPost by Philip Rucker nails in one quote the most important and least forgivable aspect of Republican hypocrisy as centered on Trump:

“There is nobody who holds any position of responsibility who in private conversations views Donald Trump as equipped mentally, morally and intellectually to be the president of the United States,” said Steve Schmidt, a veteran GOP strategist. “But scores of Republican leaders have failed a fundamental test of moral courage and political leadership in not speaking truth to the American people about what is so obvious.

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