Commentary: Donald Trump is faithless to commitments and individuals. How can believers who condemn false witness support him?

The Trump strategy of misdirection and obfuscation has worked. For the moment.

FILE - In this Feb. 10, 2008 file photo, adult film star Stormy Daniels arrives at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. CBS News President David Rhodes says that a "60 Minutes" interview with Daniels needs more journalistic work. Rhodes' statement at a conference in Israel Tuesday was the first time CBS publicly confirmed it had interviewed Daniels, who has alleged an extramarital affair with Donald Trump before he became president. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

I have been reading the morning paper. I do it every morning — knowing well that I shall find in it the usual depravities and basenesses and hypocrisies.

— Mark Twain

“60 Minutes” may or may not air an interview with Stormy Daniels (initially scheduled for the evening of March 18) depending on whether Donald Trump (aka “David Dennison”) and his attorney (i.e., the attorney for EC, LLC, the corporation set up to pay $130,000 in hush money to Ms. Daniels, aka Stephanie Clifford and “Peggy Peterson”) can or even try to get an injunction.

If that seems way too tentative a proposition and way too many aliases to keep straight, then the Trump strategy of misdirection and obfuscation has worked. For the moment.

In the past week, our president has agreed to meet North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, fired his secretary of state, hired as head of the CIA a woman who oversaw “black sites” and torture, twittered up a storm and heaven knows what else, all for the arguable purpose of deflecting attention from Stormy Daniels or Vladimir Putin or …pick a number.

And it’s working. The Republicans in the U.S. House are shutting down their investigation of Trump colluding, or being influenced by, or whatever else you choose, as an alias for activities the president may or may not have known about that may or may not be prosecutable.

All of which clouds a fundamental question: What is the president’s character? And who cares?

Presumably, Utah is supposed to care. And Evangelicals. And a lot of other folks who pretend to be informed by a morality that does not excuse “locker room talk” as Melania and Donald both described his bragging about the privileges accorded a billionaire celebrity (i.e., walking in on naked women dressing, grabbing other women by …).

But evidently we don’t care that much. Nearly 1 out of every 2 voters in Utah voted for Trump, as did an overwhelming majority of Evangelicals. Commentators frequently excuse this as “voting for issues” rather than for character, while Mormons and Evangelicals talk about the “lesser of evils” or “repentance” or a number of other explanations Trump gives no evidence of supporting.

But there may be other reasons, reasons having more to do with salaciousness.

Donald Trump lies and is faithless to commitments and individuals, abandoning persons as quickly as he does promises, inventing reasons and accusations as though it were his right. How can believers who condemn false witness and adultery while insisting on the sanctity of the family continue to support Donald Trump? And how can women of any faith or morality support so vulgar, abusive and inconstant a president?

The answer may be Stormy Daniels and our appetite for everything from “The Bachelor” on TV to the National Enquirer in print to Howard Stern on radio and the internet. The answer may be our enthusiasm for “news” that is exciting rather than true, for fiction over fact. And above all else for the sensational, and because so many men in our culture are voyeurs who may never cheat on their wives but who long to watch Stormy Daniels step out of a limousine and dream of a world in which they may have enough power and money to do whatever they damn well please.

This appetite for the vulgar permits what Michelle Goodman of The New York Times describes as being not only a sex scandal but “a campaign finance scandal, a transparency scandal and potentially part of an ongoing national security scandal.”

All of which is of no importance to some of us … so long as we are permitted to watch Stormy Daniels step out of a limousine.

Never mind the accusations of sexual abuse by more than 20 women. Never mind whether or not Trump did this or that. The hypocrisy decried by Mark Twain more than 100 years ago is as alive today as is Donald Trump. And what appears to be most treasured by conservative Christians who support Trump is not truth or morality, but power, the power of cultural politics. The power to control the agenda over abortion, gun control, sexuality and social programs for the poor and needy. The result is that never again will conservative Christians — Evangelical, Mormon or otherwise — be able to claim the high moral ground they have staked out in America over the past several hundred years.

None of which matters. So long as on CNN Stormy Daniels continues to get out of the limo, and Donald Trump continues to be rich and do whatever the hell he wants.

Robert A. Rees

Robert Rees teaches religion at Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, Calif., where he is director of Mormon Studies.

Clifton Jolley

C​lifton Jolley is a writer and president of Advent Communications in Ogden.