Republican leaders trying to justify their support for the clearly unbalanced Donald Trump seem to be saying this:
“Well, Trump is uncouth and vile, but if we can just swing him to our orthodoxy, at least we might have a chance of mitigating our losses in the fall. Oh, and he's better than Hillary.”
Fine. But they’re missing the main problem with Trump. It’s not his lack of rigid orthodoxy, it’s his temperament.
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In the presidency, temperament is everything.
Poor Speaker Paul Ryan, huddled with aides in the Capitol on Thursday, was dutifully showing Trump and his coterie charts while the billionaire mostly nodded and smiled. The leaders pronounced the 45 minute meeting a great first step in restoring party unity.
Forty-five minutes isn’t a meeting, it’s a Match.com coffee date where you attempt to determine if the potential love of your life is nuts.
I was on a Canadian television program recently with Conrad Black, the newspaper and real estate magnate. Black is a charming, well-educated man who took great pains to tell me on and off the air that Trump was good – maybe very, very good, and that the two had completed a joint project on-time and under budget.
I tried to point out that wasn’t relevant. Trump’s ability to pick out tile for a hotel bathroom and get a good deal on 2,000 television sets isn’t the issue.
His temperament is.
Having the right GOP position on one issue or another isn’t going to save the country during the next Cuban Missile Crisis. It is those types of events where party ideology goes out the window and temperament is tested. The president’s stance on Common Core testing standards isn’t going to be a factor when the Russians send a carrier task force to the Persian Gulf or the Chinese shoot down one of our fighter jets.
The comical scramble to enable Trump by the GOP political establishment is a moment for moral and ethical clarity, not a whiny excuse to try to hold swing districts in battleground House and Senate races.
Would Ryan, who has heard Trump call a woman a fat pig, use that as a slogan for his party’s candidates? We know Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a 7th District congressional candidate, seems to be OK with Trump; he has endorsed him.
I watched Jones squirm through questioning about Trump calling Sen. John McCain kind of a loser for being captured in Vietnam. Jones knows Trump is a liar and a swamp dweller, but he’s so invested in his race that he cannot muster moral indignation, while handing out concealed gun permits to any Sacramentan with DNA.
Jones shrugs off the insult to McCain and hopes that Ami Bera’s dad will carry him to victory. I guess there are no veterans in his district. Or women.
Trump reiterated that it was OK to slam McCain, because he went up 7 percentage points in some poll. The ends justify the meanness, right?
McCain, facing a re-election fight in Arizona, has said he’d endorse Trump even after being irrationally insulted.
Some GOP leaders who are not craven have said no way to Trump: Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. have taken a pass, as has Jeb! Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is sitting it out, as is the Republican mayor of Miami. Some Senate and House candidates will be making plans to be elsewhere when the party’s nominee is in town.
These are Republicans who have the proper temperament.
Maybe one of them will run in 2020, after the implosion.
If they have a party to run in.