If Donald J. Trump becomes president, we’re going to stumble towards 2020 preparing apologies to Warren G. Harding. Is there anybody else in the country whose political career would survive revelations like this? The Washington Post writes:
Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.
Those cases, which together used $258,000 from Trump’s charity, were among four newly documented expenditures in which Trump may have violated laws against “self-dealing” — which prohibit nonprofit leaders from using charity money to benefit themselves or their businesses.
In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole.
In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.
There are more examples. And then:
More broadly, these cases also provide new evidence that Trump ran his charity in a way that may have violated U.S. tax law and gone against the moral conventions of philanthropy.
“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”
“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.
Last week, Jonathan Martin wrote in the NYT:
In fact, this past week offered a vivid illustration of how little regard Mr. Trump has for the long-held expectations of America’s leaders. He is not only breaking the country’s political norms, he and his campaign aides are now all but mocking them.
Routine falsehoods, unfounded claims and inflammatory language have long been staples of Mr. Trump’s anything-goes campaign. But as the polls tighten and November nears, his behavior, and the implications for the country should he become president, are alarming veteran political observers — and leaving them deeply worried about the precedent being set, regardless of who wins the White House.
“It’s frightening,” said Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota. “Our politics, because of him, is descending to the level of a third-world country. There’s just nothing beneath him. And I don’t know why we would think he would change if he became president. That’s what’s really scary.”
Stephen Hess, who served in the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations, could not even contemplate the prospect of Mr. Trump as commander in chief.
“It’s incredibly depressing,” Mr. Hess said of Mr. Trump. “He’s the most profoundly ignorant man I’ve ever seen at this level in terms of understanding the American presidency, and, even more troubling, he makes no effort to learn anything.”
In 1998, in his book The Death Of Outrage: Bill Clinton And The Assault On American Ideals, conservative moralist Bill Bennett wrote:
In the end, the President’s apologists are attempting to redefine the standard of acceptable behavior for a President. Instead of upholding a high view of the office and the men who occupy it, they radically lower our expectation.
Last month, Bennett chastised anti-Trump Republicans, calling them people “who suffer from a terrible case of moral superiority and put their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country.”
Did somebody say something about moral decline?
UPDATE: I believe that if Trump becomes president, he will eventually be impeached, and on solid grounds. He cannot help himself. It’s going to be one damn thing after another.