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The chameleons of Washington, D.C.
Patrick Asare -- Author of 'The Boy from Boadua' Patrick Asare -- Author of 'The Boy from Boadua'
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Wyomissing, PA
Wednesday, June 5, 2024


Any American who values objectivity must be constantly at risk of suffering mental whiplash from the utterances of our leading politicians in Washington. These Democratic and Republican leaders, and their supporters, act like chameleons. When it suits their preferences, they change their positions on all manner of issues with such ease that sometimes one has to wonder if they are aware that there are others who actually remember where these people stood in the past.

Following last week’s conviction of former President Donald Trump on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to conceal a hush money payment to a porn star, House Speaker Mike Johnson and a parade of Republican leaders protested loudly about the unfairness of the trial and subsequent verdict. Their main argument has been that the charges were politically motivated and should never have been brought. Mr. Johnson has called on the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene. He is appealing to the Court to overturn the unanimous verdict.

That is quite a shocking position to take by someone who is second in line to the presidency, and is thus supposed to have a clear understanding of our national principle that no one is above the law in America. Is Speaker Johnson saying that falsifying business records to hide information from the American public in the run-up to a presidential election isn’t a prosecutable offense? Mr. Trump clearly knew that under the circumstances, paying the porn star, Stormy Daniels, for her silence would be a violation of campaign finance laws. That is why he and his associates went to great lengths to conceal the payment. What, in Speaker Johnson’s view, is the point of having all those campaign finance laws on the books then?

The embarrassing information that Mr. Trump was trying to conceal was his sexual encounter in a hotel room with Ms. Daniels. I would have sympathy if Mr. Johnson were arguing that sex between two consenting adults, however immoral it is, should not be criminalized. But the former president wasn’t prosecuted for the tryst. He was criminally indicted for falsifying records in violation of campaign finance laws.

The list of human frailties is quite long. Given how prevalent sexual peccadilloes are everywhere, even in the most religious and conservative of societies, one would think that anyone talking about such transgressions would do so with great humility. But that is not what we find in reality.

Over a considerable period in the late 1990s, Republicans hounded then President Bill Clinton for his own sexual liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. To avoid embarrassment, President Clinton denied having had a relationship with Ms. Lewinsky. That lie, under oath, led to his 1998 impeachment on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice.

One could argue that if the Republicans hadn’t kicked up such a fuss about President Clinton’s sexual encounters, he wouldn’t have been forced to lie about them. In his case, as it was with former President Trump, it wasn’t the sexual act itself that got him in trouble. It was his use of illegal methods to conceal it.

Quite interestingly, it was later revealed that some of those Republicans who were the harshest critics of President Clinton’s conduct on moral grounds had their own dalliances going on that entire period. They would perhaps say they were offended by the fact that their nemesis did his act inside a “temple.” But we are not dealing with real estate matters. Location shouldn’t determine the level of appeal of one conduct versus the other in this case.

Democrats routinely behave exactly the same way the Republican leaders have done in their defense of President Trump. In the 1990s, Democratic leaders vehemently argued that President Clinton’s conduct did not amount to an impeachable offense. That was even after evidence was presented that he had lied under oath. They insisted throughout that time that the whole thing was about sex between two consenting adults. I agreed initially that it was a moral failure and not a crime. But it is undeniable that it later turned into illegality. The hypocrisy is clearly on both sides.

Speaker Johnson wears his Christian faith on his sleeve. It would have been far better for him to invoke the Bible to argue for forgiveness for Mr. Trump’s moral transgression. Instead, he appears to be making excuses for criminal behavior. Even more troubling is the fact that he is asking the Supreme Court, which itself is looking increasingly partisan, to step in and overturn a lower court decision just because he doesn’t like it personally. Pretty much every American has seen some amount of unfairness in the justice system. We are allowed to express our dissatisfaction with the inequities, but it is quite unbecoming of a Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives to go on and say that the entire system is corrupt, as Mr. Johnson has done.

“Unprecedented” has been the favorite word of Speaker Johnson and many other Republican leaders this past week. They have used it numerous times in efforts to bolster their argument that because nothing like this has ever happened in American history, the charges against Mr. Trump should never have been brought. There are many problems with that line of reasoning but the hypocrisy of it is what stands out. Here, they are showing deference for precedent. As far as precedents go, there were few more enduring than Roe v. Wade. But Republican leaders and their supporters spent years asking the Supreme Court to nullify it. They cheered when the Court finally obliged and overturned the landmark decision in June 2022.

I better stop here and take my whiplash medicine. My head is starting to hurt.

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