The cover-up is worse than the offense

Politics, especially the vicious, power-driven variety practiced in Washington, sometimes tends to blur ethical lines. There is nothing like feeling political foes are out to get you to put you on the defensive.

That may have occurred at the White House. Rather than stay on the defensive about it, President Donald Trump should start playing offense.

Controversy over former White House aides accused of physical abuse of women has swirled around Trump for several days. Two of them, Rob Porter and David Sorensen, have been forced out of their positions because of such allegations, which both continue to deny.

Trump has been under fire for two reasons:

l First, his critics have said he has not taken a strong enough stance against physical abuse of women.

l Second, some have suggested the White House took no action against Porter after learning of abuse allegations against him.

On Tuesday, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., was among a group of lawmakers criticizing the president on the former complaint.

“It’s the mixed signals,” she said of Trump’s sometimes-shifting positions. “They’ve just got to be stronger, more consistent in the message” to women that abuse is unacceptable.

The next day, Trump reacted. “I am totally opposed to domestic violence and everybody here knows that,” he said. “Everyone knows that, and it almost wouldn’t even have to be said,” he added.

But it does have to be said. Emphasizing there is no excuse for domestic abuse — none — cannot be repeated enough.

Politically, it was something the president had to say, as some female lawmakers noted.

Words, though they certainly were needed from the president, are not enough, however. Now, he needs to deal with questions about whether some in his administration — perhaps even Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly — knew of the accusations against Porter but allowed him to stay in his position.

If so, those responsible ought to be disciplined severely, perhaps fired.

Trump should remember the old political / public relations advice that the cover-up often is worse than the initial offense.

Politically, the president needs to continue condemning those guilty of domestic violence. Politically, he needs to pursue claims Porter was given a free ride.

But sometimes, politics should not be the bottom line. Trump should take more decisive action on the matter simply because it is the right thing to do.

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