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Leonard Pitts: Rationalizing for Trump

“We kind of gave him — ‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here.’ ”

— Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, on the white evangelical response to Donald Trump’s alleged tryst with a porn star

“He’s new at government, and so therefore I think that he is learning as he goes.”

— House Speaker Paul
Ryan on allegations that Trump sought to interfere with an FBI investigation

“[Politicians] say things during the course of campaigns that may or may not be fully informed.”

— Chief of Staff John Kelly on Trump’s promise to build a
border wall

“He’s a human male. … So he’s not perfect.”

— Pennsylvania voter Joey Del Signore on Trump’s boast of sexually assaulting women

“It’s not policy. It’s social media. You know the difference, right?”

— Former aide Sebastian Gorka on why people should not take Trump’s tweets seriously

“All people lie.”

— N.C. voter Bill Wallace on Trump’s frequent untruths

“Let’s not judge the president on what he says.”

— Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci,
on reports that Trump called Haiti, El Salvador and Africa “shithole countries”

“I’m not going to blame him. Absolutely not.”

— Pennsylvania voter Pam Schilling on Trump’s failure to deliver on his promises

Our topic for the day (as if you couldn’t tell): “Excuses for Donald Trump.”

Spoiler alert: There aren’t any. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped people from trying.

Indeed, 16 months into this crisis presidency, one of the most troubling things about it is not the revolving door White House, the indictments, the lies, the sex scandals, the racism, the decline in American prestige, nor the daily drumbeat of war, but rather, the refusal of his followers to hold the Dear Leader accountable for any of it.

Consider the excuses above, each more threadbare than the last. It’s a litany of rationalizations and justifications of a sort depressingly familiar to anyone within earshot of a Trump believer.

“He’s not perfect, but …”

“He says crazy things, but …”

“What about when Hillary …?

“What about how Obama …?

“What about …?”

Granted, Trump, a rich man’s son with a long history of walking away from responsibilities and debts, has probably never known what it is to be held accountable. But his failure to take responsibility is a personal problem.

The failure of 89 percent of Republicans — Trump’s most recent Gallup approval rating — to demand responsibility is a national scandal.

Christian leaders are breaking faith, political leaders are sacrificing moral authority, average people are doing violence to decency and logic — all to excuse the inexcusable and explain away the objectively awful. That’s not political loyalty. Would so many people have so readily dismembered conscience on behalf of Reagan, Clinton, Bush or Obama?

No. So, the explanation for this lies beyond reason. This is less a presidency than a cult.

We often talk about people “drinking the Kool-Aid.” The young among us may not know the origin of that term, how it came into the language after cult leader Jim Jones led over 900 people to their deaths by inducing them to drink punch laced with cyanide.

The moral of that story is this: unquestioning obeisance to unaccountable power is a recipe for disaster, a lesson we may be poised to re-learn. No one can say what form some new disaster might take, but that one is coming seems more likely every day. If and when it does come, nine out of 10 Republicans will be its authors.

Something else for which there will be no excuse.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

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