The Corner

Politics & Policy

Social Conservatives Should Condemn Trump’s Porn-Star Hookup

The allegation that Donald Trump cheated on his wife — the current first lady — with a porn star and then paid to cover it up is gaining attention. Given the legal paperwork involved in that cover-up, never mind everything else we know, I think most people are inclined to believe it happened. The relevant question is, Who will care?

I thought this Twitter exchange was revealing.

Josh Hammer tweeted:

I have a few observations.

First, I think saying, “I’m a libertarian, so I’m fine with people having sex with porn stars” sails past a few important details. I know plenty of libertarians who are not fine with people cheating on their spouses with porn stars or anybody else. There is literally nothing inherent to libertarianism that requires people to be “fine” with adultery. That’s libertinism, not libertarianism.

It seems to me that libertarianism only enters the picture on things like this when the question is “What should the state do about it?” or, perhaps, “Should this matter to voters?” The answer to the former is, of course, nothing. The answer to the latter would probably elicit different responses from lots of people, including among libertarians. But any serious understanding of libertarianism must allow for people to be free to judge other people for their moral failings. I certainly think Glenn is a serious libertarian. And I suspect he was just writing in shorthand, because it’s Twitter.

As for his second point that lots of conservatives are tired of having their principles used against them, this seems incontestable to me. This was a big psychological and political undercurrent among Trump enthusiasts in 2016. It could be summarized in the famous line from Huey Long, “What’s the use of being right only to be defeated?”

And, without spelling it out for liberals who might seem flummoxed by this widespread attitude on the right, I think it’s a legitimate gripe. I can even understand why many rank-and-file GOP voters would throw their hands up and say, “If liberals aren’t going to play by the rules, why should conservatives?”

But I think this is ultimately the wrong way to think about this. It’s a bit like the bureaucrat or cop who won’t take bribes feeling like he’s a fool since everyone else is on the take. He’s not a fool. If it’s wrong to take bribes, it’s still wrong if “everybody does it.”

But while voters are perfectly free to make their own decisions about what factors they want to take into account in their estimation of politicians, I am at a loss as to how various social- and religious-conservative leaders can, with clear conscience, or even a straight face, shrug off this kind of thing, never mind defend it. If you’ve dedicated your professional or pastoral life to upholding and enforcing public standards of decency, there is no principled argument for giving Trump a pass. There are any number of transactional, prudential, “pragmatic,” or instrumental arguments for doing so. But when liberals — and many other Republicans — were embroiled in sex scandals, those leaders were at the forefront of repudiating such defenses as moral relativism. At the very least, Jerry Falwell & Co. should be condemning Trump’s behavior.

Morality is supposed to be way, way upstream of politics. If your position is that your team doesn’t have to do right because the other team does wrong, you don’t really believe in doing right for its own sake.

Most Popular

Val Demings vs. Susan Rice

The website PredictIt now shows California senator Kamala Harris as the clear frontrunner in the Biden veepstakes, with close to a 50 percent chance of getting the nod. The second most likely Biden VP, according to the site, is Florida congresswoman Val Demings -- who is at 14 percent -- and in third place is ... Read More

Val Demings vs. Susan Rice

The website PredictIt now shows California senator Kamala Harris as the clear frontrunner in the Biden veepstakes, with close to a 50 percent chance of getting the nod. The second most likely Biden VP, according to the site, is Florida congresswoman Val Demings -- who is at 14 percent -- and in third place is ... Read More

The Year of Stupid

It turned out that the novel coronavirus was only the second-most-infectious disease to spread through the U.S. this year. Satan’s Cupcake has, after all, been diagnosed in less than 1 percent of Americans. The not-so-novel imbecility virus is, on the other hand, ravaging the minds of everyone from news ... Read More

The Year of Stupid

It turned out that the novel coronavirus was only the second-most-infectious disease to spread through the U.S. this year. Satan’s Cupcake has, after all, been diagnosed in less than 1 percent of Americans. The not-so-novel imbecility virus is, on the other hand, ravaging the minds of everyone from news ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Good Riddance to the Blaine Amendments

It took a century and a half, but the Supreme Court finally rejected the Blaine amendments. The Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue is a victory for religious believers, schoolchildren, poor and working-class parents, and the rule of law. It is a loss only for bigots, militant ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Good Riddance to the Blaine Amendments

It took a century and a half, but the Supreme Court finally rejected the Blaine amendments. The Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue is a victory for religious believers, schoolchildren, poor and working-class parents, and the rule of law. It is a loss only for bigots, militant ... Read More

What Are Schools For?

In his excellent new book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies (full review forthcoming in National Review) Thomas Sowell advises that it is necessary for us to remind ourselves from time to time of a first truth: “Schools exist for the education of children.” Sometimes, the most obvious truths prove to be ... Read More

What Are Schools For?

In his excellent new book, Charter Schools and Their Enemies (full review forthcoming in National Review) Thomas Sowell advises that it is necessary for us to remind ourselves from time to time of a first truth: “Schools exist for the education of children.” Sometimes, the most obvious truths prove to be ... Read More
U.S.

Individual Actions Matter

On the menu today: an update from a reader who is the head of research for a top-ten U.S. hospital, some really intriguing rumors about retirements at the U.S. Supreme Court, and another batch of stories that don’t fit the preferred “coronavirus is devastating the red states!” narrative. Individual ... Read More
U.S.

Individual Actions Matter

On the menu today: an update from a reader who is the head of research for a top-ten U.S. hospital, some really intriguing rumors about retirements at the U.S. Supreme Court, and another batch of stories that don’t fit the preferred “coronavirus is devastating the red states!” narrative. Individual ... Read More