Trump's entire presidency was 'unprecedented.' His arraignment is just plain embarrassing.

 Many words are being used to describe former President Donald Trump’s arraignment in Manhattan: historic; unprecedented; political; comeuppance.

But the key word for everything surrounding this spectacle is “embarrassing.” Trump never came close to fulfilling his promise to make America great, but as the justice system finally catches up to him, he and those in his orbit have succeeded spectacularly at making America embarrassing.

Donald Trump is like Richard Nixon, but considerably worse

Tuesday will mark the first time in American history that a former president has faced criminal charges. He’s innocent until proven guilty, same as any citizen, but still, for the country, it’s embarrassing.

Former President Donald Trump's jet takes off  on April 3, 2023, from West Palm Beach, Fla., to New York City, where he faces arraignment the following day.

Like President Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky and his impeachment by the House of Representatives. 

Or think former President Richard Nixon and Watergate. Nixon was never charged with anything, but we certainly don't take pride in his swath of presidential history. Trump’s situation is already far worse, and at least Nixon, unlike the Malcontent of Mar-a-Lago, was willing to do the right thing and go away.

As Trump's legal problems besmirch USA, Republican Party just rides along

Then there’s the about-to-be-arraigned guy’s political party paddling, all oars in the water, right behind him, supporting Trump and hollering “THIS IS AN OUTRAGE!” with every spare breath. They’re doing that despite the fact that he has never stopped claiming the 2020 presidential election he lost was “rigged.” They’re doing that before even seeing the charges he’s facing and the evidence behind those charges. They’re doing it as he faces multiple additional criminal investigations and lawsuits, any of which could make their vocal, blinders-on support later seem … well … pretty damn embarrassing.

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And the fact that this guy – who's basically the word "loathsome" in human form – is the front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination? Well, I think you know which word I'm going to use.

Trump voters find the indictment a mark of honor

There are American voters who have made it abundantly clear – in polling and in shows of support at Trump rallies and elsewhere – that an indictment will make the former president MORE appealing to them. The aforementioned stench of criminality, for these Americans, somehow adds to the alluring scent of Trump, an olfactory enigma.

That so many have effectively stamped “Proud Cult Member” on their foreheads, is, for America, deeply embarrassing.

Stormy Daniels is at the center of this sordid case

And let’s not forget what’s at the center of the Manhattan case: alleged hush money paid to adult film star Stormy Daniels. A payment of $130,000, to be exact. The allegation is that Trump had sex with her while his wife, Melania, was home with their newborn son, then he paid Daniels to keep quiet about the affair before the presidential election.

Adult film actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, met with Manhattan prosecutors in March 2023 as part of the long-running investigation into a $130,000 payment Donald Trump made just before the 2016 election to silence her about an affair.

Cutting away the potential crimes, this is a former president mixed up with a person known for films like “The Witches of Breastwick.” 

It’s embarrassing. And the fact that this particularly sordid thread of Trump’s unraveling cloak of invincibility does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to drive away supporters who simultaneously claim they’re deeply moral and grounded in the ideals of faith and family? Truly embarrassing.

How strong is case against Trump?:What we know about the Manhattan DA's case – and why Alvin Bragg better get it right

Some will cheer arraignment, others will buy Trump mug shot T-shirts

What happens Tuesday in a Manhattan courtroom, when a man best known for lying becomes the first former president arraigned on criminal charges, will be many things to many people.

For supporters, it will be some form of martyrdom, a moment that, bafflingly, makes Trump more saintly in their eyes.

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the 2023 Conservative Political Action Conference.

For those who’ve long despised Trump and the cruel, bullying style of politics he popularized, it will be reason to cheer, at least briefly.

For the president’s opportunistic team, it might be a chance to get a mug shot they can slap on cheap T-shirts and hock to the masses who still, defying all logic, throw money at a man they claim to respect in part because he’s so wealthy.

But what this should be for all of us – and what this is for America as a whole – is one thing and one thing only: embarrassing. Absolutely freakin’ embarrassing.

Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook

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