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Allen Johnson: Another scandal that doesn't matter to Trump's base

Allen Johnson: Another scandal that doesn't matter to Trump's base

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It. Won’t. Matter.

Allegations that Donald Trump has said crass and insensitive things about the U.S. military (yet again) would destroy any other president, or presidential candidate, especially this late in an election year.

Mitt Romney let slip references to takers in a leaked recording of a fundraising speech.

Hillary Clinton dared to describe Trump supporters as “a basket of deplorables.”

Howard Dean nailed his own political coffin with a primal scream.

Barack Obama sparked a firestorm by dismissing small-town voters “who cling to their guns and religion.”

It all seems so quaint and innocent now.

On a routine day, Donald Trump might have tweeted all of those things — or something like them. Before breakfast.

For him, indecency is the norm and dishonesty is a business model. 

As has been pointed out over and over, a new report in The Atlantic magazine that this president denigrated American war dead is hardly out of character.

The man who avoided service in Vietnam for dubious bone spurs demeaned the late John McCain for getting shot down and captured while flying a Navy jet over North Vietnam.

He disparaged Gold Star families and has done little to nothing to challenge Russia over alleged bounties on the lives of U.S. soldiers.

This isn’t born-again Christian Jimmy Carter declaring in 1980 that “I’ll whip his ass” when asked about Edward Kennedy’s challenges to Carter’s presidency.

This is Donald Trump, who even gets a mulligan on a pandemic.

“The economy was going great before the coronavirus,” Trump's most fervent followers say, in unabated awe of His Indisputable Greatness. You know, like a professor who drops your lowest grade, even if it’s the final exam.

Giving Trump an asterisk for COVID-19 is like judging Lincoln without factoring in the Civil War or Lyndon Johnson, except for Vietnam, or FDR sans Pearl Harbor or the Great Depression.

Stuff happens on your watch. And when it does, you own it. It comes with the job.

Then there's the latest revelation that Trump intentionally downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus when he knew better.

There is no disputing that Trump said this. It’s not only in Bob Woodward’s new book about Trump. It’s on tape.

So, to recap, like our own Sen. Richard Burr, Trump was saying one thing in public about the pandemic and something entirely different in private.

And even to this day he is willing to jeopardize public health — and prolong the stifling impact of the virus — by holding campaign rallies like the one last week in Winston-Salem, where few in attendance wore masks and social distancing was not even attempted.

How does this guy keep getting away with this stuff?

There is a strange magic to Trump's appeal, a secret sauce of bullying, wishful thinking, deceit, misinformation, mythology and an abject lack of remorse or conscience.

If something good happens on his watch, he takes credit. If something bad happens, it's somebody's else's fault.

Two giddy attendees at the Winston-Salem rally praised Trump for “telling it like it is.” No he doesn’t.

He has uttered 20,000-plus falsehoods or misleading statements while in office. In Winston-Salem, he repeated his promise that Mexico will pay for his border wall, this time through toll booths. He has contradicted himself and his own medical experts in his muddled messaging on the coronavirus.

In an op-ed last week, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof rattled off a list of Trump’s unfulfilled campaign promises, among them:

“We’re going to work with all of our students who are drowning in debt to take the pressure off these young people.”

“We will repeal and replace disastrous Obamacare.”

“You’re going to have great health care at a much lower price. It will cost the United States nothing.” 

“...  I’m proposing a package of ethics reforms to make our government honest once again.”  (Kristof noted that eight men associated with Trump have been charged with or convicted of crimes.)

And then this one: “We will honor the American people with the truth, and nothing else.”  

He is a "baby Christian" who plays golf on Sunday mornings.

A draft-dodger who calls protests during the national anthem anti-military.

An "America first" cheerleader who kowtows to foreign dictators.

Yet the faithful refuse to budge.

That's why the Woodward revelations and The Atlantic article before them won't erode Trump's base.

If he does lose in November, it won't be because the true believers lost faith.

It will because everybody else had had enough.

Trump said in 2016 that "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters."

That's one of the few times he probably was telling the truth. 

Allen Johnson is executive editorial page editor.


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