Trump branded ‘morally unfit’ for presidency
Is this a legitimate accusation? On Sunday James Comey launched a blistering attack on the president, and today his explosive memoir is released. His message is clear: Donald Trump must go.
“I don’t think he’s medically unfit to be president. I think he’s morally unfit to be president.” That was the most damning of several extraordinary blasts aimed at President Donald Trump by former FBI Director James Comey.
They came in a searing TV interview broadcast on Sunday evening, described by The New York Times as an instance of “all-out war” on the president. It was always coming, Trump having unceremoniously fired Comey last year.
But when he got the chance for revenge, Comey did not hold back, branding Trump a serial liar who treats women “like pieces of meat”. He even compared Trump to a mob boss, describing how Trump demanded “loyalty oaths” from those around him.
Comey also included several damning accounts of interactions he shared with the president. For example, he recalled Trump telling him to “let it go” with regards to a criminal investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — something which could amount to obstruction of justice.
The media frenzy whipped up by the interview coincides with today’s release of Comey’s memoir A Higher Loyalty, which contains thoroughgoing attacks on the president. After extracts were published last Friday, Trump took to Twitter, labelling Comey a “weak and untruthful slime ball”.
But Comey was undeterred, declaring on Sunday that Trump’s alleged moral failings make the public “duty-bound” to vote him out at the next election.
Whether people agree remains to be seen.
In 1998, news broke of President Bill Clinton’s scandalous affair with Monica Lewinsky, a young intern. Despite the controversy, a New York Times survey found that only 21% of people thought it was important for presidents to be moral role models. By contrast, 65% said it was more important they did their job well.
Indeed, during the 2016 election a USA Today poll found that 61% of people did not regard Trump as honest or trustworthy (including one-fifth of his own supporters). Yet that did not stop millions of people voting for him.
So, does it make sense to accuse a president of being “morally unfit” for the job?
Of course not, some argue. Trump’s position is legitimised by the millions of votes he won, nothing else. Therefore, he must be judged on how he serves America's interests, not his personal actions. Furthermore, Comey’s controversial tenure as FBI chief makes him unfit to assess the moral character of others.
Comey is right, others respond. Trump is a narcissist, a liar, and a bully who only cares about maintaining his own power and wealth — his abusive attitude towards women is merely the start. Detaching politics from personal human morality is a slippery slope which pushes rulers into tyranny.
- Must good leaders sometimes do immoral things?
- Is Donald Trump a good president?
- Write down three qualities that you think all great leaders need to possess. Share your ideas with the class. What are the most common attributes? Why do you think these are important? In a class vote, choose one quality that you think is the most important.
- Choose one famous leader from history, and do some research into their personal and political lives. What moral dilemmas did they face? Did they always act in ethical ways? Would you call them a great leader?
Some People Say...
“The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves.”Ray Kroc
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- During the interview James Comey claimed that Donald Trump’s encouragement for the investigation into Michael Flynn to be dropped was “evidence of obstruction of justice”. No such charges have been brought against the president. However, the crime is an impeachable offence, meaning that Trump could be removed from office if convicted of it.
- What do we not know?
- During the interview, Comey claimed that it was “possible” that Trump was being blackmailed by the Russians. However he said it was “unlikely” and offered no evidence to support the notion. Currently, Robert Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election and alleged links between Russia and the Trump campaign. However, we do not know if Trump was personally involved in any illegal activity.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- ABC aired an hour-long interview with Comey, however the unedited version was five hours long. A full transcript of the conversation has been released.
- The reasons behind his firing are much debated. Trump has claimed it was due to Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email scandal. However, others suggest it was because Comey refused to end the investigation into Russian influence on the 2016 election.
- During and since the election, over a dozen women have accused the president of sexual assault or harassment. Trump denies all allegations.
- Criminal investigation
- Flynn eventually plead guilty to lying to the FBI about conversations he held with the Russian ambassador before Trump had been inaugurated.
- Clinton famously lied under oath, claiming that he did not have any sexual relations with Lewinsky — something he later admitted to.
- Controversial tenure
- For more on this, see the Vox link under Become An Expert.