I’m not sure what is worse: Donald Trump bragging about paying off politicians, or the cheering by Republican-debate audiences when Donald Trump brags about paying off politicians. See, when I worked for the Justice Department, we didn’t just indict the slimy pols — from both parties — on the receiving end. We also indicted the deep-pocketed cronies who greased their palms, expecting top-shelf service in return.
Even if you’re not the queasy type, how nauseating to watch a crowd of people, many of whom would tell you they’re strong law-and-order conservatives, giddily applauding as a guy confesses that he’s the corrupter who makes the corruption work.
“I was a businessman,” Trump smarmed at a debate earlier this year. He was being pressed about the piles of dough he has deposited in Democratic coffers through the years — for his pals the Clintons (including the Clinton Ca-ching Foundation), Schumer, Reid, Pelosi, Cuomo, Rahm, and the rest of the gang.
“I give to everybody. When they call, I give.” Yup, although more to the progressives, to implement the very policies he now complains are destroying the country.
And why? Trump’s allocution continued:
“You know what? When I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them, and they are there for me. . . . And that’s a broken system.”
Well, yeah, when you spend years breaking something, it tends to get broken.
EDITORIAL: Against Trump
Diagnosing the break might be thought the occasion for an apology, not a curtain call. But Trump gets the curtain call. And being Trump, he knows he’s on a roll and doubles down.
Rival Rand Paul needled, “You’ve donated to several Democratic candidates. You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related affairs. And you said recently, quote, ‘When you give, they do whatever the hell you want them to do.’”
This is the point where the guy suspected of bribery, if he can afford a lawyer (or a million lawyers!), takes the Fifth . . . or at least whines, “You’re taking my words out of context!”
Not The Donald. He grins and squeals, “You better believe it.”
And the crowd eats it up. Just as they did in Iowa recently when he brayed, “I’ve got to give to them, because when I want something, I get it. When I call, they kiss my ass.”
Trump is a crony-capitalist pillar of the ‘broken system,’ and his thumb has mainly been on the Democrats’ side of the scale.
Prosecutors allege that they conspired to exchange things of value: Melgen would give lots of money and lavish favors; Menendez, in return, agreed to “be influenced in the performance of official acts.” Translation: To convict Melgen, the government must prove that he gave with the corrupt understanding that, when he called, Menendez would dutifully kiss his ass.
Melgen is facing trial on about 20 felony counts. Trump is running for president. Go figure.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling for Trump to be indicted. Menendez’s indictment may be better explained by his opposition to Obama on the Iran deal than by his sleazy dealings with Melgen. And for all I know, the senator and his patron will beat the rap. Bribery cases are notoriously hard to prove — precisely because the laws are written by the officials who, when not standing before the likes of Melgen and Trump with their hands out, are crouched behind in smooch position. The ruling donee class has made it very hard to make out the line where piggy politics as usual turns into actionable quid pro quo.
You know, “the system is broken.”No, my point is that Trump is a crony-capitalist pillar of the “broken system,” and his thumb has mainly been on the Democrats’ side of the scale. If he were to run against Hillary, it would be reasonable to ask which of them had contributed more to Hillary and her “progressive” causes. I couldn’t care less whether he’s indictable. I’m trying to understand how the consummate pro-Democrat insider gets to be electable — as a Republican, and in an election that’s supposed to be all about the outsiders.
How does the living, breathing instantiation of everything conservatives say they hate about big-government, special-interest insider dealing get to run as the scourge of Washington’s “broken system”?
(Disclosure: I support Ted Cruz for the Republican presidential nomination.)
— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.