Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post last week, raising public objections to Donald Trump's integrity and character. The senator made clear his objections weren't substantive -- Romney agrees with the president on most issues --but rather, were personal: Romney disapproves of how Trump conducts himself in office.
A couple of days later, the Post published a response piece from Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), complaining about Romney's attempts at "character assassination." The conservative Georgian said Romney should prioritize "conservative Republican governance" over other considerations.
What Perdue did not do, however, was actually defend Trump's character. The argument wasn't that the president is an honorable man, but rather, to advance partisan goals, questions about Trump's integrity simply shouldn't be asked, at least not by Republicans..
All of this came to mind this morning, watching ABC News' Jonathan Karl interview Vice President Mike Pence ahead of Trump's speech tonight on his demands for a border wall.
KARL: How can [the president's] work be trusted on this, when he has said so many things that are just not true about this crisis? He said Barack Obama has a 10-foot wall built around his house here in Washington; you know that's not true. He said some of his predecessors told him that they wanted to build a wall, but all four living presidents have now put out statements saying that they never had any such conversation with the president. You saw that Sarah Sanders said that nearly 4,000 terrorists come into the country every year and you know that that's not true, either.How can the American people trust the president when he says this is crisis when he says things over and over again that aren't true?PENCE: Well, look, the American people aren't as concerned about the political debate as they are concerned about what's really happening at the border.
When Perdue was confronted with questions about Trump's character, he made no real effort to defend the president's integrity. When Pence was confronted with questions about Trump's dishonesty, he similarly made no effort to argue that the president is honest and believable.
In a way, that's probably a good thing. If Pence had sat down for this interview and argued that Trump's rhetoric has been completely accurate, and that the president is an unflinchingly honest man of the highest integrity, Jonathan Karl probably wouldn't have been able to contain his laughter.
But therein lies the point: the vice president wasn't prepared to defend Trump's lies because he couldn't. There is no defense. Karl's question answered itself: Americans can't trust the president's word because he's lied too many times to remain credible.