Brooks on Trump Amorality

David Brook’s NYT column on Don Jr. is worth a read:  Moral Vacuum in the House of Trump

He basic conclusion is as follows:

That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.

The Trumps have an ethic of loyalty to one another. “They can’t stand that we are extremely close and will ALWAYS support each other,” Eric Trump tweeted this week. But beyond that there is no attachment to any external moral truth or ethical code. There is just naked capitalism.

I note this because it echoes a nascent thought I have had about this whole situation–i.e., that even for the standards of politics, sordid as they can be, the President and his inner circle seems to have no interest in even a self-constructed morality (let alone some external standard of right and wrong).  The only moral imperative is “winning” (and yes, I am very sick and tired of all the winning) even when it is unclear what is being won.

Back to Brooks:

Once the scandal broke you would think Don Jr. would have some awareness that there were ethical stakes involved. You’d think there would be some sense of embarrassment at having been caught lying so blatantly.

But in his interview with Sean Hannity he appeared incapable of even entertaining any moral consideration. “That’s what we do in business,” the younger Trump said. “If there’s information out there, you want it.” As William Saletan pointed out in Slate, Don Jr. doesn’t seem to possess the internal qualities necessary to consider the possibility that he could have done anything wrong.

Beyond any of that, the thing that really strikes me is that the Republican Party has long self-described itself as the party of character and religious morality. Indeed, many social conservatives specifically and frequently note the need for an external standard for moral behavior.  Indeed, the preferred external standard is the Christian religion.  A key tenet of that religion is honesty.  It is disheartening that the President it not being held to that standard by his evangelical supporters.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. MarkedMan says:

    It’s a cliche, but a true one: beware of people who loudly proclaim that they are the morally righteous. It is almost certain that they are corrupt. That Jesus guy was on to something when he warned against the people trudging around in sack cloth and ashes, wailing loudly.

  2. AndrewBW says:

    Disheartening, but not surprising.

  3. Moosebreath says:

    “That to me is the central takeaway of this week’s revelations. It’s not that the Russia scandal may bring down the administration. It’s that over the past few generations the Trump family has built an enveloping culture that is beyond good and evil.”

    Sorry, David, but it was apparent to many of us before the election that this was true. This past week was just a further illustration.

  4. Mikey says:


    That Jesus guy was on to something when he warned against the people trudging around in sack cloth and ashes, wailing loudly.

    This Tweet from John Fugelsang is always relevant when considering the Trumps’ relationship to Jesus:

    “Donald Trump is Jesus to American followers of Jesus who’ve totally rejected the teachings of Jesus.”

  5. M. Bouffant says:

    Trump’s evangelical supporters are probably the biggest collection of hypocrites on the face of the earth. As long as he gives them what they want, they couldn’t care less which Commandments he violates.

    Read some of the bizarre things the evangelical loons say about Trump & Gawd & Satan. Try Right Wing Watch.

    God choose Trump, Taylor said, “to help turn America around, and it’s not just America; what people have to understand is this is a battle for the entire earth right now, and God, right now, has denied the enemy’s timeline. That is the bottom line and that is why you are seeing the enemy kicking and screaming right now. He has denied the timeline of what they thought they were going to accomplish and now it’s going to be the army of God now that is going to take the fight to the enemy so that the Gospel can go forth throughout the earth.”

    “We cut the head off that snake [on] November 8th,” he said, “so, right now, you’re going to see victory after victory after victory for the army of God.”

    Taylor said that when he first heard from God that Trump would become president, he expected it to happen in 2012 but then “the Lord said, ‘My people weren’t ready yet. That’s why I allowed Obama to stay in for another four years so they could build a righteous anger and say, “Enough is enough” and would rise to the occasion.’ Which is exactly what we saw happen.”

    What do you expect from the mentally disturbed?

  6. MarkedMan says:

    There are two types of religions in the world: those that believe your actions are what is judged in the afterlife, and those that believe it only matters what group you are in. Evangelicals pretty much fall into the latter, and so their attraction to people like Trump should come as no surprise.

  7. CSK says:


    The Trumpkins are the same crew who adored Sarah Palin, and spoke of her in the same apocalyptic terms.

  8. An Interested Party says:

    It’s really hard to even think of compromise or any kind of moderation with those on the other side of the political aisle when such people are amoral snakes like the Trump clan or hypocritical “Christians” like the ones who support the buffoon in the White House…if Jesus were around right now he would be storming into a lot of megachurches in this country and cleansing them of all of his supposed followers…

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    Jesus Christ Superstar…Everything’s Alright

    Woman your fine ointment

    Brand new and expensive
    Should have been saved for the poor
    Why has it been wasted?
    We could have raised maybe

    Three hundred silver pieces or more
    People who are hungry
    People who are starving
    Matter more

    Than your feet and hair

  10. Gustopher says:

    @Mister Bluster: Surely you’re not saying that we have the resources to save the poor from their lot? There will be poor always, pathetically struggling…

  11. Liberal Capitalist says:


    Surely you’re not saying that we have the resources to save the poor from their lot? There will be poor always, pathetically struggling…

    While I do know the song, I gotta say one thing there, bubba: Trump is no Jesus.

    And the leeches that still call them selves republicans are not Christians, either.

    Yes, we do now have the resources. It’s called a Universal Basic Income.

    With the end of industrialization, and the elimination for the need of an uneducated working class, you have two choices:

    1) Invest massively in education and social services, and hope that a brilliant population will make earth-shattering discoveries,

    2) Realize that not everyone can be an Einstein, but that life is valuable.

    Will this take care of every problem? No, the white folk that are opioid addicted and too dumb to tell their as$ from a hole in the ground will always be there… But the current model of working for Walmart AND then being directed by Walmart on how to get government assistance isn’t working.

    Universal Basic Income

    Single Payer Heath Care.

    We end up saving a shitton in tax dollars.

    That, or we continue to be the country that has become the largest jailer in the world, providing three hots and a cot at astronomical costs.

  12. Mister Bluster says:

    I am always humored by folks who know for sure what
    Iēsūs Nazarēnus, Rex Iūdaeōrum would be doing if he lived today.
    There is no credible evidence for the historical existence of “the Son of God”. It is all hearsay.

    When the Church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and New Testaments are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them, or whether they added, altered, abridged or dressed them up.
    -Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

    The lyrics I posted above from the Superstar film were sung by the Judas character.

  13. Gustopher says:

    @Liberal Capitalist: I prefer the Woody Guthrie version of Jesus to the Jesus Christ Superstar version…

    Jesus Christ was a man that traveled through the land
    Hard working man and brave
    He said to the rich, “Give your goods to the poor”
    So they laid Jesus Christ in His grave

    Woody is a bit simplistic in his treatment of Judas however. Also, all my knowledge of Christianity comes from music…

  14. Slugger says:

    Let me translate the comments by Mr. Brooks. Let me confess that I have considered Brooks to be a spit-lickle sycophant for a long time, and I’m not going to click on one of his articles. Mr. Brooks has lived in New York for a long time. Mr. Trump has been active in New York for a long time and has not been publicity shy. Trump is the same man he has always been; neither his friends nor his foes would deny that. If Brooks now disapproves of the Trump modus operandi , then Trump is losing the a**kisser demographic.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    I never expected to recommend or link a Jennifer Rubin column, or even bother to read another one. But Norm Orenstein tweeted a link to her Friday column. She gets what Brooks doesn’t. Well, probably he does, but as the world’s champion Republican concern troll will never admit. Her title is, The GOP’s moral rot is the problem, not Donald Trump Jr. .

    We have always had in our political culture narcissists, ideologues and flimflammers, but it took the 21st-century GOP to put one in the White House. It took elected leaders such as House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and the Republican National Committee (not to mention its donors and activists) to wave off Trump’s racists attacks on a federal judge, blatant lies about everything from 9/11 to his own involvement in birtherism, replete evidence of disloyalty to America (i.e. Trump’s “Russia first” policies), misogyny, Islamophobia, ongoing potential violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause (along with a mass of conflicts of interests), firing of an FBI director, and now, evidence that the campaign was willing to enlist a foreign power to defeat Clinton in the presidential election.

    It’s not by accident that Trump chose to inhabit the party that has defined itself in opposition to reality and to any “external moral truth or ethical code.

  16. Julia says:

    “Broken Capitalism: This Is How We Fix It” (the book) was written to resolve the issues that are causing Earth’s economy and ecosystems to collapse today. Over 50% of the global population today (according to latest polls) believe capitalism is severely broken and they are rejecting it completely, which is a tragedy in itself. Many books and articles have been written about these problems, but very few present politically viable solutions. The book presents realistic solutions.

    It doesn’t matter who is elected president if the government continues to be hijacked by corporate interests. Trump, Palin, Bush, Obama, Clinton . . . they all come and go, but the damage they are all causing to our economy is the same. They just focus on destroying it in different ways.