When confronted with their candidate’s moral shortcomings, supporters of Donald Trump often respond by comparing him to Ronald Reagan. Most patriotic Americans recognize Reagan as one of our greatest presidents, definitely the greatest of the twentieth century. If Trump is as good a man as Reagan in point of character, then he ought to be good enough, or so the argument goes. Let’s see how they stack up.
Trump’s critics point out the fact that he has twice been divorced. In 1977 he married Czech model Ivana Zelníčková. By 1990 he was, and had been for some time, carrying on an affair with actress Marla Maples. In 1991 he divorced Ivana and in December 1993 married Maples. They separated in May 1997 and the divorce was finalized in 1999. By that time, Trump was in an affair with Slovenian model Melania Knauss, whom he married in 2004. Trump has boasted in print of many other adulteries, some with married women.
Reagan married actress Jane Wyman in 1940. In 1948 she filed for divorce because of disagreements stemming from Reagan’s growing political activities as president of the Screen Actors’ Guild. The divorce was finalized, very much against Reagan’s wishes, in 1949. In 1952 he married actress Nancy Davis. There’s no conclusive evidence that Reagan was ever involved in fornication during his days as a young actor. It’s possible, but if it ever happened, he certainly didn’t boast about it publicly.
Trump’s critics also point to the fact that although Trump has switched parties some five times, he has been most consistent in his support of Democrats, expressing approval for such leftist causes as gun control, single-payer (socialized) universal medical care and unrestricted abortion, including partial-birth abortion. He donated several times to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. He also donated to Harry Reid and Charles Schumer. Then beginning in 2011, he started directing some of his donations to Republicans, though his public statements continued to support a number of leftist policies.
Trump’s supporters counter that Reagan too was a Democrat. He endorsed Democratic candidates as late as 1950. Beginning in 1952, however, Reagan consistently supported Republicans, beginning with Dwight Eisenhower. In 1966 Reagan won election as governor of California as a conservative Republican, and for the next four years, true to his word, he faithfully governed as a conservative Republican.
By the time Reagan was elected president in 1980, he had been faithfully married to his wife Nancy for twenty-eight years. Likewise, he had been a consistent, conservative Republican for twenty-eight years. He had proven himself as governor of California, demonstrating that he could resist the temptations of power. The record of his life wasn’t perfect, but on the whole there was very good reason for conservative and Christian voters to place their confidence in him as president.
By contrast, Donald Trump has a lurid record of fornication and adultery, leaving behind him an unbroken trail of cast-off wives and mistresses as well as other people’s marriages he damaged and perhaps destroyed. He has stated repeatedly that he has never asked God’s forgiveness for any of this because he didn’t need it–he didn’t do anything wrong. Politically, Trump has been a lifelong far-left Democrat, renouncing some of his leftist positions only as he began gearing up for his current run for the presidency. Some leftist positions he seems still to hold, though his supporters occasionally deny one or the other of them because at some point Trump has said the contrary. In fact, it’s possible to assert that Trump believes or doesn’t believe almost anything, since he has probably voiced such belief, as well as its opposite, within this campaign and sometimes within five minutes during a single debate.
There really is no comparison between Reagan and Trump. They are worlds apart in terms of character and integrity. In Reagan we see a moral man who, at worst, was dumped by his wife and divorced, then married another in the far off days of his youth but was now much older and wiser. He was also a Democrat in his youth, but it didn’t take him long to get much older and wiser than that too.
Trump, by contrast, is a man of debauched character, utterly devoid of integrity. His is not the story of a few youthful indiscretions but of a lifetime of hedonism, lust, and unbridled selfishness. Trump’s own life story offers no reason to believe he will do a single thing he says–no reason to trust him at all. In grasping at the example of Reagan to try to excuse their support of Trump, followers of the latter are, in effect, trying to argue that all imperfect records are the same. A grade of 96% is precisely equal to a grade of 46%. That would be true if this were a discussion of men’s efforts to earn their way into heaven. But it is utterly false in a discussion of which public men have earned the voters’ confidence and merit election to the presidency.
In that respect, as in all others, Donald Trump is no Ronald Reagan.