What a strange day. With a lot of Bernie supporters still adamant that no, it really really isn’t over, a lot of Republicans are realizing that yes, it really really is.
There is no better, saner Donald Trump coming to save them from this nightmare of a meltdown. There can be no general-election “pivot,” no sudden injection of judgment, rationality or decency on behalf of their nominee. There is only Trump, as we know him, and Trump is a disaster.
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, who has openly toyed with joining Trump on the Republican ticket, was asked three times on national TV this morning whether Trump is fit to be president. That isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a difficult bar to clear. Yet three times, Corker refused to answer. If you aren’t willing to say in public that your party’s presumptive nominee is at least fit for office, how in the hell are you going to convince the rest of the country to make him president?
And on and on it went.
“This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said, referring to Trump’s ongoing attacks on a “Mexican” judge. Graham had long been a Trump critic, but in recent weeks he too had begun to make noises about “supporting our nominee”. Those days appear to be over, for him and perhaps for others as well. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary,” he predicted of his fellow Republicans.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, the highest elected official in the GOP, openly admitted today that Trump’s attacks on U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel are “the textbook definition of a racist comment,” calling it “absolutely unacceptable.” Yet somehow, Ryan then went on to find a way to accept it, arguing that a President Trump would be more likely to enact GOP policies than a President Clinton.
Can’t you see the bumper stickers now? “Vote for the racist: It’s important!”
It’s the response from the Trump camp that really takes it over the top, though. Bloomberg News had reported yesterday about a bizarre conference call among Trump and his top surrogates, in which Trump supposedly told his backers to double-down on criticism of the judge and to turn the tables on his critics. “The people asking the questions—those are the racists,” Trump was quoted as saying. “I would go at ’em.”
That seemed too ludicrous to be true, even for Trump. But sure enough, there was Trump surrogate Jeffrey Lord on CNN today, attacking Ryan as a racist. (And yes, the expression on the face of GOP consultant Ana Navarro is priceless).
“Speaker Ryan has apparently switched positions and is now supporting identity politics, which is racist. I mean, I am astonished, astonished,” said Lord, who is listed among those on Monday’s conference call. “I am accusing anybody, anybody, who believes in identity politics, which he apparently now does, of playing the race card. The Republican establishment is playing this. Senator McConnell is playing this. These people have run and hid and borrowed the Democratic agenda of playing the race card. It is wrong.”
Wow. “You’re a racist!” “No, YOU are!” “No, YOU are!”
This is not something from which an already long-shot campaign can recover. We all know who and what Trump is. Those Americans who hadn’t yet fully tuned into the campaign now know it. Ryan, Corker and the rest of the GOP establishment know it too. Their strategy at the moment seems to be to implore Trump to hide his true self a little better, at least through November, when he can presumably return to his irrational self after becoming president. Somehow, they have convinced themselves that this is a good plan for their party and their country.
But it has no chance of working, and the reason is obvious.
Trump is an utter narcissist. And someone so thoroughly and ardently in love with himself could never agree that he has to change or even pretend to change. “We will overcome,” Trump reportedly said in that conference call. “And I’ve always won and I’m going to continue to win. And that’s the way it is.”
Whatever you say, Mr. Trump. Whatever you say.