John Krull: Rokita, Trump and games of make believe

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So, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita digitally removed Gov. Eric Holcomb from a photo of the two meeting with former President Donald Trump.

In the picture Rokita’s campaign sent out, a smiling attorney general clasps hands with the grinning former president in a warm handshake. In the unaltered photo, Holcomb stands in the background between the two.

This one incident reveals the essence of Trumpism as it has filtered down to the state level.

First, there’s the absurdity of the attorney general—an elected official whose primary duty is to preserve and enforce the law—taking glee in demonstrating his close relationship and great affection for a convicted felon.

This shouldn’t be surprising, of course. Rokita has shown little but contempt for the courts and for the ethical and legal constraints within which attorneys—especially the state’s top lawyer—are supposed to operate.

He’s spent six figures worth of Hoosier taxpayer dollars—money that otherwise might be used to pay a police officer’s or a teacher’s salary—to evade the consequences of his mean-spirited persecution of an Indiana doctor who performed a legal abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio girl.

Rokita’s defamation of the doctor already earned him one public reprimand from the Indiana Supreme Court.

It may secure him still more severe disciplinary action from the state’s high bench. After the court gave him that first light slap on the wrist—for misconduct Rokita acknowledged under oath—the attorney general had his office issue a statement saying he didn’t mean it.

Rokita’s about-face not only opened the question of whether he lied under oath, but it was the political and legal equivalent of blowing a raspberry at the justices who just had giftwrapped a sweetheart deal for him.

Please, Mr. Attorney General, we never want to hear another lecture from you about your reverence for law and order. We know you don’t mean it.

Second, there’s the pettiness involved.

Removing Holcomb from the photo served only to give voice to Rokita’s personal pique. The attorney general and the governor don’t see eye to eye.

Their differences aren’t ideological. Both are Republicans. Both are conservative. If anything, Holcomb—with his belief in the importance of institutions and in using state power with restraint—is the more consistently conservative of the two men.

No, the problem Rokita has with Holcomb is same problem the more MAGA members of the Indiana General Assembly have with the governor.

Holcomb recognizes something these Hoosier Trump acolytes would prefer to deny.

Reality.

When Indiana and the rest of the world faced the COVID-19 pandemic, Holcomb treated the situation for what it was, a once-in-a-century public health threat. Rokita and the MAGA crowd saw it as an opportunity to indulge in costly temper tantrums.

In doing so, they added needless stress to already overwhelmed medical personnel and terrified patients. They also likely cost some Hoosiers their lives and contributed to the staggering load of grief people who lost loved ones felt during that troubled time.

Rokita and the MAGA minions don’t see it that way, of course. They continue to dismiss the pandemic as little more than an inconvenience.

For the record, the United States—which, thanks to Trump’s base, had the most active resistance to taking public health measures to combat the pandemic—recorded nearly 1.2 million deaths from COVID. The entire world recorded slightly more than 7 million deaths.

The United States has a little more than 4% of the world’s population but racked up almost 17% of the world’s COVID fatalities.

Thank you, MAGA crowd.

This denial of reality is at the heart of Trumpism.

If Todd Rokita doesn’t want his rival Eric Holcomb to be in a photo, he just erases him from the picture. If the attorney general and Trump loyalists in the state legislature don’t want to deal with a deadly threat to Hoosiers’ lives, they pretend it doesn’t exist.

And, if the legal system prevents Trump and Rokita from evading the consequences of their own foolish actions, they just do their best to ignore the courts and the law itself.

Pictures—even doctored ones—tell stories.

This one sure did.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students. The views expressed are those of the author only and should not be attributed to Franklin College.