June 13, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Basic faith in law enforcement is Trump’s biggest challenge

It’s going to take a lot of lying to overcome that.

Courtesy of Creative Commons.
Courtesy of Creative Commons.

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I was telling you about how Donald Trump and the Republicans don’t mean what they say, and when it’s discovered that they don’t, they simply move on to the next thing, which they also don’t mean. This pattern is so predictable, it’s amazing they have any credibility among people who are not incentivized to believe things they don’t mean.

I was telling you about that pattern in reference to the conviction of Hunter Biden, a historic event that should illustrate the president’s dedication to the principle that no one is above the law, not even his only living son. But this morning, I was reminded of that pattern again. 

According to Politico, Trump called Mike Johnson days after his conviction, demanding the House speaker do something about it. “Trump was still angry when he made the call, according to those who have heard accounts of it from Johnson, dropping frequent F-bombs as he spoke with the soft-spoken and pious GOP leader,” Politico said.

“We have to overturn this,” Trump reportedly said.

According to a new AP poll, about half of Americans approve of his conviction. That’s in keeping with other polls taken after May 31.

During the same period, Trump and his allies spun his conviction as if it were the greatest thing to happen to him since James Comey reopened the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state. They said it made him stronger. 

They didn’t mean it.

His conviction hurt. That should not surprise anyone with common sense. It’s not a good idea to run for president after you have been convicted on 34 counts of business fraud, especially when your best selling point is your reputation as a powerful businessman. It hurt him and you don’t need to be a DC insider to know it. All you need to do is listen to his go on and on about wanting to get even with Joe Biden.

According to a new AP poll, about half of Americans approve of his conviction. That’s in keeping with other polls taken shortly after May 31. The takeaway should be that most people still have basic faith in the institutions of law enforcement. The takeaway should be that this is his greatest challenge – and overcoming it will require a lot of lying.

I’m talking about more than the lie that’s at the heart of the entire GOP response to Trump’s conviction, which is that it’s Biden’s fault, not Trump’s. I’m talking about titanic lies, like the one about the American economy being so devastated that GOP congresspeople can longer say with a straight face that America is the greatest country on earth.

The economy has rarely been better in any of our lifetimes, but if you’re going to lie like that, you better have solutions ready to take care of the problems that you say are problems. Of course, Trump and the Republicans don’t have solutions ready, because they didn’t mean what they said, and if you try to force them to stand by what they said, they’ll simply move on to the next thing, which they also don’t mean.

When people say one thing but do another, we usually call them hypocrites, but Trump and the Republicans don’t know what hypocrisy is, because they don’t mean anything they say. They are calling for vengeance upon Biden, not because Biden did something wrong. They know he did nothing wrong. They’re calling for vengeance upon Biden, because it justifies the unjustifiable. Lying about his role in Trump’s conviction makes doing what they want to do seem jim-dandy.

That’s not hypocrisy. That’s saying who you are and what your vision of society is. They accuse Biden of applying a two-tiered system of justice to create the conditions needed for applying, when the time comes, their own two-tiered system of justice. They believe the law should be applied unequally. It should protect “us.” It should punish “them.”

The same goes for the US Constitution. The founding document enshrines the separation of powers. Each state is its own sovereignty, with its own laws and law enforcement. Yet Trump wants Johnson’s help in violating the Constitution by overturning a state verdict. 

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Johnson, an attorney who also prefers to call himself a “constitutional conservative,” has pledged to do everything he can to help. You could say Johnson, as a “constitutional conservative,” is being a hypocrite. It would be more accurate to say, however, that he never really meant what he said. His “principles” are clearly just means to political ends. 

Hypocrites can be held accountable for what they say if they value what they say. But Trump and the Republicans can never be held accountable, because the only value they place on what they say is whether it achieves their goals. Virtually everything they have said, post-conviction, is in the service of rationalizing something else, something that would be unreachable if they were mere hypocrites.

Trump and the Republicans want us to believe Hunter Biden’s conviction hurts his dad as much as Trump’s conviction hurts him. It won’t, because, among other reasons, including that Hunter Biden is a private citizen, the president means what he says. He stands by the rule of law as well as the Constitution. Principles are not just means to an end, and his son’s conviction is an opportunity to demonstrate that.

Of course, there may be a price to being so principled.

What’s certain is it’s a price Trump would never pay.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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