(EDS: ADDS sentence to final graf. NOTE four instances in article where (ITAL) has been used to set off words in italics.)
John McCain, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the rest of you: It’s time to stop suggesting that Donald Trump doesn’t represent you, because he does represent you. He’s your party’s nominee, with your endorsements. Until you withdraw those, he has your blessing. Your permission.
And if you keep forgiving him and prioritizing your political survival over the country’s stability, he could wind up representing all of us.
Tell me that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of you. Do it with a straight face.
Sen. McCain, Rep. Ryan, he’s just given you fresh cause to bolt, saying in a Tuesday interview with The Washington Post that he doesn’t support either of you in your respective Republican primary contests.
From the standpoint of tradition, this is shocking. From the standpoint of Trump, not so much. You’ve upbraided him (mildly). You’ve bruised his tender ego. So now he gets to stick out his tongue at you.
It has to make you wonder why you twisted and turned and tried to justify your support of him in the face of his petulant, gratuitous attack on the Muslim parents of a soldier who died fighting for America. Or why so many GOP leaders twisted and turned after his petulant, gratuitous attack on a Mexican-American judge. Or why you all should stick around to twist and turn the next time.
Trump isn’t slouching toward gravitas. He’s having a tantrum, and to threaten him with timeouts that never come only encourages it. Spare the rod, spoil the Donald.
This isn’t a normal presidential election, he isn’t a normal political candidate, and you know it. We all do. And it’s well past time to reckon fully with that.
Not just you but all of us keep according larger historical sense to his candidacy and trying to fit it into pre-existing frames, but I fear that when we do that, we minimize the outright outrage and singular farce of it.
We throw around terms like demagogue and fascist, but I’m not sure he’s coherent, consistent or weighty enough for either.
We label him anti-establishment, and that’s a howler. He grew up affluent. Went to an Ivy League college. Sent his kids to posh boarding schools. Mingled with Bill and Hillary Clinton at his (third) wedding. He is the power elite, albeit an ostentatiously gold-tufted version of it.
In presidential races past, we’ve seen protectionists, nativists, even racists. What we haven’t seen, not in my lifetime, is a major-party nominee who is such an unabashed and unrepentant fabulist, with so little control over his temper and a worldview shaped entirely by what and who flatter him.
Never has a nominee pouted with his grandeur. Never has one bragged with his abandon.
He’s best described not in political terms but in developmental ones. He’s a toddler. I’d say “infant” but infants are pre-verbal, and he has a few words, most of them monosyllabic.
Only a toddler could be so self-justifying and tone-deaf that he’d compare the sacrifice of Humayun Khan – the soldier I mentioned who was killed in Iraq – to his own professional work of erecting tall buildings and simultaneously enriching himself.
Only a toddler would respond to Michael Bloomberg’s digs at him by saying that when they golfed together, “I hit the ball a lot longer.” Yes, Donald, everything about you is longer. We haven’t forgotten that GOP presidential debate.
Over the last few days, the word “decency” has popped up a lot, and it’s on target.
“There’s just no sense of decency from this man,” Rick Tyler, a Republican strategist who worked for Ted Cruz, told Politico.
“He has no decency,” Khizr Khan, the fallen soldier’s father, told ABC News.
Trump isn’t just uninformed, as his recent comments on Ukraine reaffirmed. He’s a repository of almost every character trait that we reprimand children for.
And the examples of his indecency get lost in the sheer volume of them. Any one might end another candidate’s quest. But they’re the white noise of his bid. He’s redeemed by his own repulsiveness.
I appreciate that for many conservatives, a Supreme Court shaped by Hillary Clinton would be an abomination. But can they really elevate that concern above national security and entrust the country to a tyrant-loving, Putin-flirting, NATO-dissing novice?
I understand that renouncing him means abetting her, which hurts, given her considerable flaws and their genuine qualms.
But there are bigger things at stake. That’s why so many loyal Republicans have already fled, to regroup over the next four years.
I get it: If McCain and other congressional Republicans turn off Trump’s supporters, they might get turned out themselves.
But as the Post interview made clear, Trump is already giving those supporters license to do as they wish. Besides which, isn’t there a point at which principle must kick in? Aren’t there bounds to partisanship and personal interest? I ask that not in favor of Clinton or the Democrats but out of concern – no, alarm – for America, which needs a grown-up who honors our values, not a brat who shreds them.