Home 2017 Races Will This Be Trump’s “Have You No Decency?” Moment?

Will This Be Trump’s “Have You No Decency?” Moment?


Something big may be happening. It’s about today’s news in the Trump/Puerto Rico story. Trump may have crossed a line, for some of his supporters. It’s conceivable, even plausible.

I am not going to claim that I can foresee how this latest from Trump– attacking the mayor of San Juan, who had begged him for help — is going to play out. The moments when something breaks through are highly unpredictable.

But this conduct might get through to some people a judgment that they’ve not come to before: “I can’t support someone who’d do that.”

The way that Trump’s response to a woman begging for help in behalf of people struggling under catastrophic conditions, that he will attack her for complaining — that display of his character shows an ugliness that is vivid enough, profound enough, and important enough according to the values of many Republicans and Trump voters, that it just might serve as a revelatory glimpse into his darkness, a glimpse that they cannot un-see.

I’m not willing to bet on it. I give it maybe 1 in 5. But that’s big enough that I want to keep an eye on whether this thing breaks through or not.

We’ve seen this before– moments in which the shameful is exposed and the person never recovers.

I think of the way that Senator Joe McCarthy, with his anti-communist demagoguery, never recovered from that famous moment on the nationally televised Army-McCarthy hearings, after McCarthy had been particularly cruel, when the humane lawyer Joseph Welch asked McCarthy: “Have You No Sense of Decency?”

That question might well arise in a lot of people’s minds as they seethis President strike at a woman who justifiably has begged him for more vigorous help in a humanitarian emergency.

Such human indifference doesn’t sit well with most people. Almost everyone cares about human decency. (And my impression is that “decency” of this sort is particularly high up in the scale of values of a lot of rural and agricultural people, a lot of southern people, a lot of traditional people, a lot of people of evangelical religious commitments.)

And Trump’s hostile response to this woman who is in need, and is both begging and complaining, looks especially bad in light of the underlying fact this is all about: Trump has let Puerto Rico down terribly, by any reasonable standard.

While they were out of homes and water and gas and food, he was getting everyone’s attention focused on what NFL players do to express their political beliefs. About the massive destruction on Puerto Rico, home to several million American citizens, the President of the United States had nothing really to say.

That unnecessary diversion into the NFL and the protest during the anthem, was clearly launched by Trump across racial lines: White President saying that black athletes should shut up or get fired.

Race may be what’s going on with Puerto Rico, too, No?

How else are we to understand that the Federal response to the destruction of Puerto Rico is measurably far less than what was extended to the hurricane victims of Harvey in Texas or of Irma in Florida.

And as a result, American citizens are suffering and are justifiably angry about how their country — through their elected government — is dealing with them. The mayor of San Juan was entirely right to be calling Trump out as she did.

It is in this context, that the President’s attacking the mayor who is standing up for the neglected victims of this hurricane, becomes especially ugly.

The whole thing is an ugly, ugly picture– it is Trump’s ugliness that is at the center of it.  The ugliness of his neglect was mostly invisible to the American people. I didn’t “see” Trump not getting nearly as many military personnel on the ground in Puerto Rico as he did in Texas and Florida.

But this public attack on the mayor of San Juan– that ugliness is visible. It’s being shown.

Will Trump supporters recoil, seeing how indeed, Trump has no decency?

Again, I claim only it’s worth watching to see.


  • Andy Schmookler

    A thought, that leads to a question: The thought is that maybe it would help if someone were able to stand up and play the part of Joseph Welch. That was a special situation, they were on national TV together at that moment. But maybe someone could effectively direct attention toward the shameful behavior. Which leads to the question: if such a role might be played, who in America is the best person to step up and challenge the president over this, “Have you no decency?”

  • Perseus1986

    Asking if Trump has any decency is like asking an amoeba if it has any legs.

  • Paul Goode

    “Will Trump supporters recoil, seeing how indeed, Trump has no decency?”


    A: Half of them don’t know that Puerto Ricans are American citizens. Why should we be helping them ahead of our own (white) people?
    B: Half of them think that they are Mexicans and that we should be building a wall, not helping them out.
    C: All of them agree with Trump because they all agree with Trump all of the time.
    D: What does decency have to do with anything?

    Trump supporters are a lost cause. I get that lost causes are big here in the south, but we should put our energies into beating them.

  • woodrowfan

    it was damn obvious to anyone paying attention that he had no decency well before the election.

    • Right, which means that these supposedly “decent” people intentionally voted for a racist, misogynist, xenophobe, abusive, sadistic, evil, corrupt scumbag for President. What does that tell us about those supposedly “decent” people? Hmmmm…

  • Andy Schmookler

    We won’t have to wait all that long to see whether the scenario I’ve envisioned here — and to which I’ve given a 1 in 5 chance — comes to pass.

    To operationalize what would be confirmation of this happening, I would say that if Trump’s net approval rating with the American public has not declined by more than 3% by Halloween, then this scenario has NOT played out. (Last I saw it was at 36%, so it would have to dip below 33%, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen for Trump so far.)

    The one-two punch on Trump from Puerto Rico — the combo of the poor handling and his response to the complaint — may or may not break through his apparent carte blanche with his Republican supporters.

    But it’s a good sign that both of those disgraces are continuing to be highlighted by various prominent voices: celebrities, media reports, and this guy from this morning’s news summary: “So mad I could spit”: a former disaster relief official on Trump’s response to Puerto Rico (“He described the Trump administration’s response as ‘malpractice.’”)

    I have heard that Congress will be taking up Puerto Rico relief this coming week. If that’s so, it could provide an occasion for Democratic leaders to speak up more loudly on this than they have thus far.