The Republican Party’s reaction to a 2005 videotape that showed its presidential candidate Donald Trump bragging in the most obscene terms about sexually forcing himself on women ranged from those calling on him to step down, such as Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, and those who stopped short of that call but said they would no longer vote from him, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
House Speaker Paul Ryan and others deplored the comments but did not pull their support from their nominee.
And then there was Susan Hutchison, since 2013, chairwoman of the Washington state Republican Party, who employed an apologist’s hybrid of excuse and misdirection.
“He [Trump] was a Democrat at the time and he was channeling Bill Clinton,” Hutchison told KOMO-TV. “And the hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton to say this man does not belong in the White House, when her husband defined this behavior, is just absurd.”
Read that first sentence again. Slowly.
“He was a Democrat at the time and was channeling Bill Clinton.”
Translation: Since accepting Republican values into his heart, Mr. Trump has renounced the sins of the flesh that were typical of his opponent’s philandering husband.
Hutchinson’s loyalty to Trump has been clear in recent months, though during a meeting earlier in the year with The Herald Editorial Board she was more agnostic as the primaries were playing out and gave no indication of a preference among candidates.
Hutchison has been fully behind Trump since the national convention, where she bumped into Ted Cruz and called him a “traitor to the party,” because he called on Republicans to vote their conscience. Cruz, we’ll note, was a heavy favorite of many Washington state delegates at the convention.
Following the convention, she urged the candidate to come to Everett for a rally and was convinced that ability to bring “nontraditional voters” to the party would benefit Republicans in state races.
That’s all perfectly acceptable for a state party chairwoman.
Her unfailing excuse of Trump’s behavior is not.
Hutchinson did manage to call Trump’s remarks “repulsive to me and all decent people.”
She should have stopped there.
Instead, her attempt to deflect criticism from Trump demonstrates a stunning lack of understanding of the severity of the sexual assault that Trump not only admitted to but boasted about.
Chris Vance, the Republican candidate running against Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, hit the mark, saying in a statement that “this wasn’t just “locker-room talk,” as Trump tried to excuse the comments.
Not just his words, but Trump’s behavior, Vance continued, were inexcusable:
“It’s not what Trump said, it’s what he did. Trump bragged about routinely making unwelcome sexual advances against women — that’s called sexual assault, something he has been accused of before. It’s a crime, and it’s inexcusable.
“And for those who point out the behavior of the Clintons, I would remind them that once upon a time Republicans believed that character matters and such misconduct disqualifies one from holding the nation’s highest office.”
The fate and direction of Donald Trump’s candidacy is now up to Trump, his advisers and the Republican Party.
But the state Republican Party now also should consider the future leadership of its chairwoman.
Loyalty is a desired trait in the leader of a state party. Loyalty that seeks to excuse the inexcusable ignores the values of that party.