We are entering dark and uncertain times and Americans would be right to worry. As Paul Krugman said in response to the electoral vote:
“So it’s official, and it’s vile: the loser of the popular vote installed by Russian intervention, a rogue FBI, and epic media malfunction.”
And that doesn’t even begin to cover Trump’s ethics violations and monumental corruption. But never fear: Newt Gingrich is here with an answer.
The former speaker’s own morals are endlessly flexible, as he demonstrated on The Diane Rehm Show, by saying that in response to Trump’s ethical problems, instead of demanding Trump be ethical we should change the ethics laws.
Gingrich calls this appalling solution “a whole new approach.”
And he even tells Trump what he could do if people dare insist laws apply to him as well: Use “the power of the pardon.”
Get ready to have your mind blown by some of the most flaccid reasoning ever employed. First, get rid of that idea that moral relativism is a tool used only by Democrats:
“We have never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work, and we’re going to have to think up, you know, a whole new approach.”
So what is right and wrong must change to suit the circumstances. Morality, argues Gingrich here, is situational. It certainly was for him personally when he was dropping trou for love of country.
And should someone in the Trump administration cross the line, Gingrich has a potential answer for that as well:
“In the case of the president, he has a broad ability to organize the White House the way he wants to. He also has, frankly, the power of the pardon. It’s a totally open power. He could simply say, ‘Look, I want them to be my advisers. I pardon them if anyone finds them to have behaved against the rules. Period. Technically, under the Constitution, he has that level of authority.”
As conservative David Frum tweeted,
Amoral, yes, but intellectually a shrewd delineation of how Trump corruption will corrode the rule of law in the US https://t.co/E6YwBISszY
— David Frum (@davidfrum) December 19, 2016
And this was clearly Rehm’s point when she objected,
“That level of authority strikes me as rather broad and perhaps ought to be in the hands of the Congress rather than within his own hands, Mr. Speaker.”
“Well the — I mean, the founding fathers deliberately granted the president unequivocal ability to pardon, and they did so in reaction to the British use of going back after people legally and persecuting them by changing the law after they had done something. So there was a very deep sense that you had to fear government and that government could be the enemy, and the founding fathers were walking this tightrope.
“They wanted a government strong enough that it could defend America against foreigners, but they wanted a government controlled enough that it wouldn’t threaten Americans, and that’s part of what this balance of power is. And if you read the Federalist Papers, they were quite what they were doing and why they were doing it.”
There is a glaring problem with Gingrich’s solution: The president wasn’t given the power of the pardon so he could act like a dictator and openly flout the nation’s laws.
You find yourself wishing these Republicans who fall over themselves excusing Trump’s excesses could actually hear what they are saying: the pardon as an answer to the fear of government wasn’t meant to be used as a tool to promote corruption.
Even a king is supposed to give “good lordship” and punish those agents of his who steal from the people. Gingrich proposes we let the president and his cabinet steal from us all without fear of punishment. This is such a Republican response to corruption that it verges on satire.
So Gingrich’s “new approach” is to change ethics laws to make what was illegal for other presidents suddenly legal for Trump. It is a moral flexibility that is breathtaking in its scope, a solution we could expect only from somebody with a moral compass as broken as Gingrich’s – or Donald Trump’s.