Franklin Graham: Pete Buttigieg shouldn't be flaunting his sin

Any indignation on Buttigieg’s behalf here would feel like overkill. The spectacle of one of Trump’s most loyal evangelical apologists lecturing about politicians flaunting their sin is so absurd that it’s essentially self-refuting.

“I’m not knocking for Buttigieg for sinning,” Graham would presumably say. “We’re all sinners. I’m knocking him for flaunting his sin.” But Trump flaunts his sin too. His apartment in Trump Tower is decked out like Versailles, a monument to gluttony. His sexual boasting over the years contributed to the alpha-male image that helped win him the presidency. What else was his conversation with Billy Bush on the “Access Hollywood” tape except “flaunting sin”? We’re talking about a guy who allegedly posed as his own publicist when he dialed up the tabloids in New York to whisper to them about how much he was getting laid. There may be no single person more synonymous with “the good life” in the popular imagination since the 1980s than Donald Trump. He’s practically a national spokesman for greed, right down to continuing to receive revenue from his businesses while he holds the most powerful job in the world.

Even if, for some reason, Graham wanted to limit his point to marriage, Trump’s as compromised as Buttigieg is. David French:

Trump married a woman, then married his mistress, then married a third woman, then had an affair with a porn star while that third wife was pregnant with his child. Yet Graham says, “God put him” in the presidency and we need to “get behind him and support him.”

Meanwhile, here’s how Buttigieg talks about his marriage to a man:

“Being married to Chasten has made me a better human being because it has made me more compassionate, more understanding, more self-aware and more decent. My marriage to Chasten has made me a better man. And yes, Mr. Vice President, it has moved me closer to God.”

Both men are sinful according to scripture but which at least seems to view his marriage as a sacrament? And remember, although all sins can be forgiven, Trump famously said more than once on the trail as a candidate that he didn’t think he had anything to repent for. In 2015 he told an audience that he didn’t think he’d ever asked God for forgiveness. A year later, wiser to how he’s supposed to answer questions about faith, he allowed that “I will be asking for forgiveness, but hopefully I won’t have to be asking for much forgiveness.”

We could go on and on with this, but that’s what I mean by overkill. It’s so patently farcical at this point that a Trump ally would think to tut-tut others for flaunting their sin while looking the other way at a man whose favorite Bible verse is “an eye for an eye” that it really requires no illustration. There’s even something vaguely pro forma about Graham’s tweet, as if he couldn’t muster true outrage about America’s acceptance of a married gay candidate after having turned a blind eye to Trump so many times but felt obliged to at least check the box. In fact, whatever their feelings about the morality of gay marriage, many American Christians support its legalization. Given the sort of impression Buttigieg has made and the way he talks about his own marriage, I’d guess more will support it by the time the campaign’s over.

As chance would have it, WaPo’s Monkey Cage blog has data out today from a recent survey attempting to measure just how far Trump-supporting evangelicals have lowered their moral standards to accommodate him. It’s been known for awhile that their feelings changed sharply in 2016 when asked if they thought a politician who behaved immorally in private could still behave ethically in his public duties. In 2011, 60 percent said no; by 2016, when they had embraced Trump, just 20 percent said the same. The new study sought to drill down on that by asking the same question but using the names of different politicians. How would evangelicals respond when the question about private immorality and public ethics was preceded by a reference to Bill Clinton (“Many Bill Clinton supporters have argued…”) versus when it was preceded by a reference to Trump?

Prompt white evangelicals with a mention of Clinton and more than a quarter still say that public ethics requires private morality. Prompt them with a mention of Trump and just six percent do. And that’s all white evangelicals, not specifically Republican evangelicals. Among the latter group, 36 percent say you can’t be publicly ethical but privately immoral when Clinton is invoked. When Trump is invoked, the number falls to … two percent. Says French of evangelical Trump apologists putting party over faith, “they’ve seared the consciences of the culture and the church, and granted their secular opponents all the ammunition necessary to question our sincerity as believers.” But it’s actually worse than that per the Monkey Cage analysis, which notes that even Clinton did better on the private immorality/public ethics question with evangelicals than he did years ago. That is, this isn’t a matter of evangelicals having lowered their moral standards for Trump but for no one else. Thanks to Trump’s influence they’ve lowered them for everyone, Bill Clinton included, with Trump simply benefiting the most.

In lieu of an exit question, go read Nancy French (David’s wife) in WaPo today recounting the very serious indignation indeed that evangelical leaders evinced towards Mitt Romney in 2011 because, unlike Trump, he didn’t pretend to be a member of their faith. Even Romney’s critics concede that he’s a moral man whose personal code of conduct is worthy of admiration, yet top evangelicals had a bigger problem nominating a Mormon than they did nominating the golden (well, orange) calf.