“I won’t use foul language. I’m just not going to do it. … I’ll never do it again, actually.”
– Donald Trump in February
“The guy’s a pain in the ass.”
– Donald Trump at a rally last week
Here’s a serious question for Republican officeholders: WTF?
Now that Trump has a lock on the presidential nomination, many top Republicans – too many – are moving to embrace this vulgar man for the sake of party unity. It is a real (expletive) show.
The man who would be the Grand Old Party’s standard-bearer has said the following things (among many others) in front of thousands of men, women and children (and millions more via the media):
On U.S. companies relocating overseas: “You can tell them to go f--- themselves.”
On China’s artificial islands in the South China Sea: “They’re ripping the sh-- out of the sea.”
On the Islamic State? “I would bomb the sh-- out of ISIS.”
Earlier, on dealing with China: “Listen, you mother f---ers, we’re going to tax you 25 percent.”
And on climate change: “This very expensive global warming bullsh-- has got to stop.”
Republicans, this vulgarian speaks for you?
Since Trump essentially secured the nomination last Tuesday, a divide has opened among Republican leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan bravely proclaimed that he’s “not ready” to embrace Trump. And Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., courageously advocated for a third-party option.
Others, however, are siding with Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, who wishes to rally around the party’s nominee at all cost. Former presidential candidates Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal climbed aboard, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stiffly said he is “committed to supporting the nominee.”
In making this choice, they are putting party over conservative ideology: The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget says Trump would increase government spending more than Hillary Clinton.
They’re also putting party above decency, embracing a man who shows bigotry toward racial and religious minorities, immigrants and women.
And, in a sense, they are putting party over national security, by accepting a prospective commander in chief lacking impulse control. Certainly, public figures are privately profane: Dick Cheney told a senator to “f--- yourself” and Joe Biden called Obamacare a “big f---ing deal.” But these were not intended for public consumption.
Trump recognizes the impropriety, when others do it. After a former Mexican president used a colorful phrase in February to disagree with him, Trump tweeted that “Vicente Fox horribly used the F word” and added, “If I did that there would be a uproar!” Trump said later: “I would not use that word.”
No? In 2011, Trump complained about oil prices in a speech: “You’re not going to raise that f---ing price.” And nation-building: “We can’t get a f---ing school in Brooklyn.” And Chinese factories: “cheap as hell and they don’t give a sh--.”
Among Trump’s public pronouncements in recent years: “Spewing all sorts of crap … political bulls--- … bulls---ing for years … beat the s--- out of them.” In August, well after declaring his candidacy, he retweeted a message to his 7 million followers from somebody who had “come to f---ing love @realdonaldtrump.” The Federalist website found that Trump had tweeted the words “a--hole” and “f---ing” at least 13 times over the last three years.
In this campaign, we’ve heard about Clinton getting “schlonged,” about Ted Cruz being a “pussy” who may not be a natural-born American (“If he gets the nomination they’re going to sue his ass”). When he heard people might throw tomatoes at a rally, he said: “Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.” When his microphone malfunctioned, he said of the soundman: “Don’t pay the son of a bitch.”
Trump has cleaned up his language considerably since his GOP rivals made it an issue and an ad featured his f-bombs. But vulgarity has become part of the Trump culture. Introducing Trump in Indiana last week, basketball coach Bobby Knight boasted to Navy veterans: “We beat your ass every time we played you.” Introducing Trump in Florida earlier, Sarah Palin called demonstrations at Trump events “punk-ass little thuggery.”
Classy. “A lot of parents are trying to figure out how to explain some of the language they’re hearing on the campaign trail,” NBC’s Peter Alexander told Trump this spring.
“Oh, you’re so politically correct,” replied Trump. “You’ve never heard a little bad, a little off language. … Give me a break.”
In other words: (Expletive) off.
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter, @Milbank.