There wouldn't seem to be much of a connection between extramarital affairs and business scams, but Donald Trump has reminded us that there indeed is: The bankrupt conservatism peddled by a morally bereft Republican Party.
You are reading what is known as a Shooting Fish in a Barrel column. This is because the connection between the amorality of Republican pols, as they decry the very notion of it with a practiced hypocrisy, and grifting as Trump and other Republican bigs engage in it with a practiced yawn, is so bite-on-the-nose obvious that I'll note that Democrats do the same womanizing thing (recall Wilbur Mills, Gary Hart and John Edwards) merely as a courtesy. About scamming I'm not so sure. (Whitewater? Nah.)
Democrats don't fall off their high horse nearly as often as Republicans because they don't presume to have a direct line to the Almighty and haven't made so-called Family Values a pillar of the conservative temple, let alone their party.
To get to the main event, we'll motor past the innumerable Republican sex scandals of recent years. These include Larry Craig, John Boehner, Bob Livingston, Robert Packwood, Philip Hinkle, Christopher Lee, Chris Myers, Mike Duvall, Ken Calvert, . . . pant, pant, pant . . . Mark Sanford, John Ensign, David Vitter, Jack Ryan, Steve LaTourette, Mark Foley, Matt Wingard, Charlie Crist, Henry Hyde and Dennis Hastert, to name 20 or so . . . pant, pant, pant . . . as well as practiced presidential wannabe adulterers Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and, of course, The Donald.
The main event we're finally getting to is the less obvious if hiding-in-plain-view scam artistry of Republican pols and their party, and it explains why none of Trump's opponents called him out on his own illustrious career of separating people from their money, whether it be casinos, country clubs or office buildings that ended up defaulting on their loans while he waltzes off with millions.
In fact, the entire Republican economic philosophy is a big scam: Coddle Wall Street, reward the wealthy and let Main Street eat cake.
The latest example in a long history of screwing ordinary folks is a behind-the-scenes effort to repeal a federal fiduciary rule requiring retirement advisors to serve the interests of their clients by prohibiting them from receiving kickbacks for steering them into bad investments. The repeal is tucked into House Speaker Paul Ryan's anti-poverty plan, which is rich. Looking at this in a slightly different way, it's like doing away with the ability of people to sue a bogus institution like Trump University when it's obvious the university's sole purpose is to fleece its students.
You will hear Trump say that Barack Obama is deliberately weakening America about a thousand million times between now and Election Day. Many of his opponents said the same thing before they were vanquished by Mr. Snake Oil in the primaries. But beyond their serial moral lapses, it is the Republicans who are weakening America by resolutely trying to chip away at the few safeguards ordinary folks have.
Inevitably, and as I have predicted, Hillary Clinton has begun to pull away from Donald Trump in head-to-head national polls, and now leads by double digits in the leading aggregation of some 13 polls. It turns out that the Law of Gravity has not been suspended, and after yet another burst of racist invective this week in the wake of the Orlando gay nightclub massacre, Trump's numbers are tanking and his wounds entirely self inflicted.§
While Trump's increasingly draconian declarations about banning Muslims and intimations that Barack Obama is a Muslim Manchurian candidate complicit in the Orlando attack have a certain appeal to a certain kind of voter, it obviously is not possible at this late date for him to morph into someone palatable to voters beyond his pitchfork posse, diehard Republicans and a few Bernie Sanders shirt burners.
This is but one pathetic example of Trump, on the one hand, trying to tone it down while his other hand does a sieg heil salute: "We have to go and we have to check, respectfully, the mosques."
Meanwhile, the campaign of the self-proclaimed billionaire is so broke that he is doing fundraisers in states already leaning toward him instead of meeting Clinton head-on in the Midwestern swing states where she is running devastating TV ads he has been unable to answer.
As former Democratic National Committee chairman Paul Kirk famously remarked, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
Trump, of course, isn't worried, at least not publicly. "I'm four down in one poll, three and a half in another that just came out," he said on Thursday night, "And I haven't started yet."
So what's he waiting for?
Trump will be a full monty fool by Labor Day at the rate he's going, and he's well ahead of schedule as a candidate for a platinum drool cup.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
Photograph by Mark Makela/Reuters