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July 18, 2015

The Time Has Come For GOP To Bitch-Slap Trump

As noted elsewhere, I've been away from my keyboard for a couple of weeks due to a family illness. That has not, however, kept me from reading and watching the news. I wish it had -- I might have been spared days and nights of nausea induced by the presidential candidacy of one Donald Trump.

This is different than the unease I feel over the size of the GOP field more generally. In some ways I find that to be a good thing -- there are a host of new, fresh faces in the race who ought to be setting the political direction of this country for the next couple of decades. I love some -- Scvott Walker, Bobby Jindal, and Carly Fiorina, for example. Others I reject -- Mike Huckabee, Lindsey Graham, and Rick Santorum (a fellow alum of Carmel High School) spring to mind. Still others I find quixotic and think would better serve the nation by leaving the race -- Ben Carson, Chris Christie, and John Kasich fall in this category. But there is only one who I find so repulsive that I could never cast a ballot for him -- Donald Trump.

Every step of the way, Donald Trump has sabotaged the GOP brand. Consider his announcement speech. No, I don't mean his constant vulgar trumpeting of his great wealth -- I mean the words that have harmed Republican chances in the Hispanic community.

The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. [Applause] Thank you. It’s true, and these are the best and the finest. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Yeah, I know what I think he meant to say, namely that there is a subset of illegal aliens that are hardened criminals -- smuggling drugs, trafficking in human flesh, and committing all manner of other crimes against American citizens and non-citizens legally in this country. The lack of a secure border, immigration reform, and dealing with these criminal aliens are all issues that should have broken for the GOP in 2016. Now the candidates must stumble over themselves distancing themselves from Trump's words and appearing weak on those issues, or embracing his words and irrevocably contaminating themselves when the general election race begins a year from now. As one white Democrat I am close to said to me a few weeks back, "I think Trump is right on the border issue, but he's framed it so that it helps my party and not yours." One of my Hispanic colleagues, a political independent as far as I've ever been able to discern, put it to me this way -- "I was thinking that I would be voting Republican in 2016, but with the reception Trump is getting I will probably vote for the Democrat." I know he isn't alone.

I had hoped that Trump would be a flash in the pan. Unfortunately, he has instead sucked the air out of the room for the last month, rising in the polls on the strength of media coverage and television appearances in which he takes on the media the way that so many of us on the conservative side have dreamed of having a candidate do for decades. And thus he rises in the polls in this crowded field, into the top-tier in terms of support -- despite the fact that his negatives are higher than any candidate in the race. Some 15-20 percent of Republicans may back him for the nominee in the crowded field, but close to 60% say they would never support him. His negatives among those outside of the GOP are even worse. But his performance in the polls sets him up to be a participant in the upcoming GOP debates.

Having alienated Hispanics and a lot of independents, Trump has now gone after the nation's veterans with an unconscionable attack on Senator John McCain's military service.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump slammed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a decorated Vietnam War veteran, on Saturday by saying McCain was not a war hero because he was captured by the North Vietnamese.

“He’s not a war hero,” Trump said. Sarcastically, Trump quipped, “He’s a war hero because he was captured.” Then, he added, “I like people that weren’t captured.”

The audience gasped -- properly so -- in shock and disapproval. And Trump has been more or less universally condemned, except among the fringiest of his fringeoids.

Now any other candidate would see his campaign destroyed by this sot of gaffe. I don't know that Trump will have the same result, though -- he is largely self-funding his campaign with his billions. Besides, he is still on track to participate in those debates.

Which leads me to urge a radical approach to the Trump problem. The RNC needs to lean hard on the networks hosting the debates not to invite Trump to participate, even though his poll numbers would otherwise earn him a spot on the stage. That isn't a case of any "Establishment" engaging in "picking our candidates for us". It is a matter of responsible party leaders protecting the party from a demagogue who has no legitimate place in the race and no legitimate place on the statge.

But what if the RNC fails to pursue that course, or if the networks reject the request to exclude Trump. Well, then, the candidates who have condemned Trump need to step up to the plate and do something courageous and united -- the entire field needs to agree that they will not appear on any debate stage with Trump. If a network wishes to invite Donald Trump to a debate, what they will get is Trump alone -- with the remaining candidates participating in some alternate forum hosted by some other entity. In short, they need to deny Trump the legitimacy he so clearly does not deserve -- and which he has never deserved.

In short, Donald Trump needs a good old fashioned bitch-slapping from the GOP.





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