President Donald Trump
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Much like Sarah Palin, Trump’s worst crime will end up being getting the GOP to adjust its standards to make it possible to defend him. There are two examples of this in the news today. One comes from Tony Perkins, the notorious president of the evangelical Family Research Council:

Perkins knows about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. He knows of the reports that Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election. He knows about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump’s life or the 70 that came before it.

“We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.

I think we’re all familiar with evangelical forgiveness of egregious sins, but this is always accompanied by some at least seemingly genuine admission of guilt and repentance. Trump simply denies he’s done anything wrong. Perkins explained the new standard by saying that evangelical Christians are “tired of being kicked around by Barack Obama and his leftists. And I think they are finally glad that there’s somebody on the playground that is willing to punch the bully.” He added that “Christianity is not all about being a welcome mat which people can just stomp their feet on.”

I won’t dispute that many evangelicals can do with less sanctimony, but abandoning all their moral standards is an overcorrection. And I’m really talking here only about the evangelicals who are so politicized that they’re really synonymous with Republicans. They no longer care about adultery or even the most basic family values, like not cheating on your wife while she’s nursing. They clearly don’t care about business ethics, basic competency, civility, honesty, or even the possibility that the president is compromised by a foreign power. And it’s because he’s on the right team and punching the right people.

The other example in the news today is the revelation that Trump asked his acting Attorney General who he voted for and then criticized him because his wife ran for office as a Democrat and accepted political help from a Clinton-connected political action committee.

Shortly after President Trump fired his FBI director in May, he summoned to the Oval Office the bureau’s acting director for a get-to-know-you meeting.

The two men exchanged pleasantries, but before long, Trump, according to several current and former U.S. officials, asked Andrew McCabe a pointed question: Whom did he vote for in the 2016 election?

McCabe said he didn’t vote, according to the officials, who, like others interviewed for this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about a sensitive matter.

Trump, the officials said, also vented his anger at McCabe over the several hundred thousand dollars in donations that his wife, a Democrat, received for her failed 2015 Virginia state Senate bid from a political action committee controlled by a close friend of Hillary Clinton.

That kind of behavior would be appropriate with Tammany Hall, but it’s totally inconsistent with how we’ve tried to run our government since the time of Chester Arthur. But the Republicans are in the midst a full-throated and coordinated campaign to purge the FBI of anyone who might be unsympathetic to the Republican Party or unwilling to overlook possible crimes by the chief executive and his campaign crew. Once again, it appears that their efforts are being supported by Russian trolls and bots on social media. So, the idea that civil servants should be hired and fired without regard to their professed political leanings goes out the window in an effort to protect a fatally flawed Republican president.

As we saw with Sarah Palin, once the Republicans lower their standards to defend the indefensible, the standards never get reapplied except selectively and disingenuously for naked political gain. Actual, genuine standards are not just eroded in this way but actually destroyed. And this is why there has been a breakdown in norms that prevents the two parties from working in any kind of collaborative fashion.

You might think it can’t get worse than a party backing a child molester for Senate because at least he’ll go on the playground and punch the liberals, but it can. And it will.

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at