Like every president, Donald Trump has broken a lot of campaign promises. However, one that was completely within his power to keep but didn’t should cause Alaska’s U.S. senators to declare they’re not supporting his reelection.
“I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize” Trump said after the Hollywood Access Tape was leaked. And after explaining that traveling the country during the campaign had changed him, he pledged “to be a better man tomorrow and will never, ever let you down.”
In that recording from 2005, Trump bragged about how fame allowed him to grab women by their genitals. He hasn’t resumed such disgusting behavior. But he has taken the power of the presidency as a license to be disrespectful and cruel in other ways.
His latest offense was aimed Joe Scarborough. As a co-host on NBC’s “Morning Joe” and a frequent contributor to the Washington Post, he’s been a very harsh critic of the president’s actions and behavior. And since last weekend, Trump has made numerous suggestions that Scarborough should be investigated for the murder of a congressional intern 19 years ago.
David Frum, who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, called it an abuse of “presidential immunity.” He’s shielded from the defamation lawsuit that would be filed against any other citizen inclined to “accuse an innocent man of murder.”
Rush Limbaugh, however, contends that Trump has “never asserted” the accusation himself. It’s just “his way of getting these conspiracy theories out there.”
But as Sen. Dan Sullivan rightly stated during the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh, “the presumption of innocence is sacrosanct and a fundamental American principle” that applies “to the court of public opinion.” He was referring less to the accusations by Christine Blasely Ford that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her 30 years earlier than to the ones that “appear to be patently false claims” which followed.
In that regard, it’s impossible to defend the Trump’s attack on Scarborough.
“What happened to the Kavanaugh family violates every notion of fairness, decency, and due process” Trump said during Kavanaugh’s swearing-in ceremony.
But he had no issue with promoting the unfounded claim that Barack Obama wasn’t born in America. He wasn’t the first to make it. But in 2011, Trump became the ringleader of the so-called “birther” movement and helped convince a sizable segment of the population that Obama’s published birth certificate was a forgery and he illegally occupied the White House. In their eyes, Obama was guilty until he proved himself innocent by publicly releasing his official birth certificate.
In his own race for the White House, Trump encouraged his supporters to chant “lock her up” without proof that Hillary Clinton was guilty of any crime. Sadly, flinging false accusations is considered free speech during political campaigns. But that doesn’t excuse him for tweeting two months after the election that she “should never have been allowed to run” because she was “guilty as hell.”
The 1989 case of the Central Park Five is evidence he’s never really believed in the presumption of innocence. Under great duress, five youth under the age of 17 confessed to the assault and rape of a woman who had been jogging there. Before they were convicted, Trump took out a full-page ad demanding they “serve as examples so that others will think long and hard before committing a crime or an act of violence.”
And he refuses to acknowledge their innocence even though they were fully exonerated 12 years later.
Sullivan called the Hollywood Access revelations “reprehensible.” That’s why he and Sen. Lisa Murkowski withdrew their support for Trump’s candidacy. I have no problem with them setting aside their judgments after he won because they needed to respect the choice made by the voters. And they weren’t wrong to hope his promise to change would be reflected in his words and actions as president
But Trump hasn’t changed. What they need to recognize now is he’s either not interested or not capable of living up to the moral responsibility of the office he holds. That should disqualify him from having their support for his reelection.
And if they can’t publicly take that position again, it’s only because they’ve become smaller politicians during the three and half years since he was elected.
•Rich Moniak is a Juneau resident and retired civil engineer with more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector.