Survival of the unscrupulous

The president surrounds himself with a bodyguard of rotters — fixers who are willing to do his dirty work based on hints delivered with all the subtlety of a silent film actor. Any leader who would depend on Rudy Giuliani, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and Roger Stone for service and counsel is not a bad judge of character; he is a good judge of useful knaves. As president, Trump has created an environment in which his fixers can work unchecked by institutions and individuals with ethical standards. Public servants such as Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman and William B. Taylor Jr., the acting ambassador to Ukraine, raised concerns about corruption up the normal lines of authority. But at the top of those lines Trump has placed people such as Mulvaney, Barr, Pence and Pompeo, who are morally neutered. In a perverse form of political Darwinism, leaders in the executive branch have been selected for traits of turpitude and tractability. It is the survival of the unscrupulous.

Michael Gerson

November 22, 2019

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