Beyond matters of culture, Trump’s shamelessness—his unwillingness to express contrition—seems to have become a kind of shield. While Joe Biden is under fire because of a claim of sexual assault dating back almost three decades—with The New York Times demanding an investigation, and some commentators urging the Democratic Party to ditch its presumptive nominee—sexual-assault allegations against Trump, such as the one by E. Jean Carroll last year, barely register. Why the contrasting treatment? Biden’s critics recognize that the former vice president can be made to take responsibility for his actions, whereas Trump seems impervious to opprobrium, whether over sexual misconduct or his lethal incompetence. So we march on toward 100,000 coronavirus deaths, resigned for now to Trump’s diseased presidency.
But if these factors explain why almost no one in a position of authority or influence is saying that Trump should go, they hardly justify the silence. On the contrary, the silence is yet another indication of how warped our politics has become.
Steven Kaplan, a professor emeritus at Cornell University who taught French history and now lives in Paris (full disclosure: he is a friend), told me that if Emmanuel Macron had screwed up as badly as Trump has, he “would have been the object of serious and repeated calls for resignation.”