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What They'll Do for Donald Trump ...
In Robert Bolt’s 1960 play A Man For All Seasons, an overly ambitious little man named Richard Rich commits perjury against his friend, a great man of conscience, Sir Thomas More – perjury that he knows will send Thomas to his death.
And why does he do it? Because Richard Rich needs to be somebody bigger than he is. He needs recognition. He betrays his friend in exchange for a job he thinks will give him status – Attorney General of Wales.
After the trial, when Sir Thomas knows he is doomed, he confronts Richard Rich and utters a verse from the Bible – with a twist.
“It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for Wales?” – making sure Richard, a status-seeking careerist, understands what he has just done: that he gave his soul not for the whole world – but for a trivial job in a trivial place.
None of us is pure. Few of us are as noble as Sir Thomas More. We make accommodations. Sometimes we convince ourselves that our motives are noble, when in fact they’re selfish.
But if we’re going to sell out our principles, we should be motivated by something of great significance. Each of us can decide what that might be, what would cause us to abandon our long held beliefs.
Selling out always comes with a price.
Sir Thomas lived in the 16th century, but his stinging observation holds a message even now, some 500 years later. And so in his final days in office, a question comes to mind about our current president: If it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … why do it for Donald Trump?
Donald Trump no longer fascinates me. By now, I know who he is and I wish he would just go away and leave us alone, his legitimate accomplishments notwithstanding.
But his most loyal supporters are another matter. Not his rank and file passionate allies, many of whom aren’t as formally educated as the liberal and progressive elite. They aren’t as sophisticated, at least not as the elite define sophistication. They’re more likely to vacation in Branson, Missouri than in Martha’s Vineyard. They felt the scorn, the disrespect of the elite class. And they saw Donald Trump as a man who cared for them.
They also understood that he wasn’t the Hitler or Mussolini his unhinged critics claimed he was.
And I’m not talking about the Latinos or African Americans who voted for Donald Trump in numbers many on the left found both surprising and troubling. Under Donald Trump’s stewardship the economy helped minorities and they understandably wanted four more years with him at the helm.
They’re not the ones who fascinate me. I understand why Donald Trump was and still is a hero to many of them. But the media elite, the ones who abandoned their conservative principles for Donald Trump; the ones who sacrificed their dignity for Donald Trump … they fascinate me.
In a recent column on this site, John Daly names names. “People like Mollie Hemingway, Mark Levin, and Greg Gutfeld, who were once outspoken Trump critics, turned into some of the president’s most shameless sycophants and defenders,” he writes. “When one looks back at National Review’s famous ‘Against Trump’ issue from 2016, they’ll find contributor names like Glenn Beck, Ben Domenech, Brent Bozell, Katie Pavlich, and Dana Loesch … all of whom now bend over backwards not to say anything the slightest bit disparaging about Trump. Some [were] even busy … promoting Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy theories.”
There are others in the media who sold out for Donald Trump, a man who if it suited his purpose would abandon them without a second thought.
Does Rush Limbaugh really admire a chronic liar and narcissist like Donald Trump? I have trouble believing that he does. Yet Rush can’t say enough good things about Mr. Trump. Such is the hold our soon-to-be former president has on otherwise strong willed individuals.
Evangelical leaders are just as bad, maybe worse. I understand why they believe Donald Trump would be more in tune with their conservative values than Joe Biden.
But surely they know that Donald Trump maliciously ridicules and humiliates his opponents. That he mocks their looks. That he makes fun of their physical disabilities. That he lacks empathy. If white evangelical leaders don’t like Joe Biden, fine. But enthusiastically supporting a man like Donald Trump who has trashed so many Christian values strikes me as shameful.
And in Donald Trump’s world, no one is safe, not even his political allies. Just ask Jeff Sessions, his earliest supporter in the U.S. Senate. One “wrong” move and he was banished -- and humiliated by his former boss on the way out.
Or more recently, ask the president’s treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, who spent many long hours negotiating a COVID relief bill with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer only to have Donald Trump blow the deal up at the last minute, calling it a “disgrace.”
Loyalty is important to Mr. Trump – but it’s a one-way street.
In addition to everything else, “Trump has taught his opponents not to believe a word he says, his followers not to believe a word anyone else says, and much of the rest of the country to believe nobody and nothing at all,” as Bret Stephens put it in the New York Times.
The sycophants must know this. Maybe they’re afraid of Donald Trump, afraid of what he might say about them if they held him accountable. Maybe they just like being close to power, to give the president advice, to convince him that he’s as wonderful as he thinks he is. Don’t overestimate the lure of a pat on the head from the man at the helm. Maybe the pols fear retribution from his adoring base if they stand up to him. But is any of that worth their dignity?
Or to put it another way: “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world” … but for Donald Trump?