Andy Harris — Republican congressman from Maryland, champion of human decency and family values — stands by Donald Trump, the vulgarian who bragged that his celebrity allowed him to kiss women without their consent and grab their genitals.
In a Facebook post over the weekend, Harris said he found Trump's comments on the now-infamous 2005 "Access Hollywood" videotape to be "wrong" — a pretty mild criticism — but immediately deployed the Trump campaign's absurd defense that, between 20 and 38 years ago, the alleged behavior of his Democratic opponent's husband was much worse.
Actually, I'm assuming that's what Harris meant. I'm giving him more credit for clear exposition than he deserves, because his Facebook post on this topic is just names and words and punctuation marks. Here it is:
"Because people are asking about the Donald Trump video: It was wrong. But let's not forget: Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky - Bill Clinton. Benghazi - 4 died, Iran Nuclear Deal, Private email server - Hillary Clinton. The Supreme Court."
That's how it goes in the far-out world of Trump defenders: A few names, a couple of buzzwords culled from right-wing radio rants and Fox News, and you have what passes for cogent argument. Who needs facts, informed perspective and complete sentences when you can just hurl some verbal hand grenades to rationalize your support of an angry, sexist know-nothing for president of the United States?
(Harris later issued a statement of complete sentences that touted Trump's superiority on economic matters and national security and referenced Hillary Clinton's "ethical issues.")
This is all grotesque hypocrisy.
Here's the man who, as a state senator in the Maryland General Assembly in 2009, went to war over the showing of a pornographic movie at the University of Maryland. Harris tried to hold up hundreds of millions of dollars in university operating funds over the planned screening of "Pirates II: Stagnetti's Revenge" in the College Park student union.
Harris put out a statement: "I know some students would like to portray this as a free speech issue. It is not. ... Just because someone is on a college campus they do not have a right to spend the hard-earned money of Maryland's taxpayers on something as detrimental to our society as hard-core XXX pornography."
His Senate colleagues rolled their eyes, frowned or yawned; most did not believe the legislature should get involved in a First Amendment battle. The university's Board of Regents took a pass on making Maryland the first state to pass a pornography policy for its public campuses. Harris' lonely crusade went nowhere.
But he put himself on the map as a champion of moral order. And he was elected to Congress just a year later.
Since then, Harris has established one of the most conservative records in the House of Representatives. The Family Resource Council praised him, citing his steadfast opposition to abortion, to the federal funding of Planned Parenthood and to the Affordable Care Act. The FRC's lobby gave Harris one of its "True Blue" awards for his "unwavering commitment to stand for life, family, marriage, and religious liberty."
Harris opposed same-sex marriage. He opposed marijuana decriminalization.
In 2013, he even refused to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, a measure that received relatively strong bipartisan support. Harris supported an early version of the reauthorization but ultimately voted against the one that mattered — the final version that extended protections to gay, bisexual or transgender victims of domestic abuse.
So, given all that, you'd think Harris would want to preserve his pro-family, pro-morality, fervently conservative bona fides by refusing to endorse Trump. You'd think such a conservative congressman would be self-conscious about supporting a twice-divorced man who has spent a lot of time demeaning others and bragged in the "Access Hollywood" video about feeling empowered to sexually assault women.
As Trump might say, "What do you have to lose?"
It's a valid question for Harris, because he appears to have a lock on re-election in November. Through redistricting in 2011, Democrats all but conceded the seat to him. This year, the two men running against Harris in the 1st District are Democrat Joe Werner and libertarian Matt Beers. In April's Republican primary, Harris garnered nearly 50,000 more votes than Werner won among Democrats.
All the more reason for Harris, who originally supported the deeply religious Ben Carson for president, to distance himself from the vulgarian.
"Sorry, folks," he could tell his constituents, "but I cannot support Donald Trump. The Republican Party failed to produce a qualified candidate for president this year, and I find the man's words and behavior toward women, in particular, repulsive. You know me as a principled supporter of family values. I hope and trust you will understand. I appreciate your confidence, and I promise to return to Congress as your servant and steadfast supporter of all things decent and moral."
But Harris doesn't have the nerve to do even that.