CLEVELAND – The arena here at the Republican National Convention echoes with applause for Donald Trump, but the cacophony and extravagant stage effects can’t conceal the chaos in the GOP and in the Trump campaign.
Republican senators suddenly are busy fishing, mowing the lawn or hiking the Grand Canyon; conservative celebrities mostly sent regrets. This vacuum reflects the horror that many leading conservatives feel for their new nominee.
Pundits like me are gnashing their teeth as Trump receives the presidential nomination of the party of Lincoln, but, frankly speaking, we don’t have much credibility in Cleveland since many of us aren’t all that likely to support a Republican nominee in any case.
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So instead of again inflicting on you my views of the danger of Trump, let me share what some influential conservatives said about him during the course of the campaign. (Some have since tempered their public sentiments.)
“He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for.” – Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
“I don’t think this guy has any more core principles than a Kardashian marriage.” – Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.
“We saw and looked at true hate in the eyes last year in Charleston. I will not stop until we fight a man that chooses not to disavow the KKK. That is not a part of our party.” – Nikki Haley, Republican governor of South Carolina
”A moral degenerate.” – Peter Wehner, evangelical Christian commentator who served in last three Republican administrations
”Donald Trump is a madman who must be stopped,” – Bobby Jindal, former Republican governor of Louisiana
”I won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he isn’t. He isn’t a Republican. He isn’t a conservative. He isn’t a truth teller. … I also won’t vote for Donald Trump because of who he is. A bigot. A misogynist. A fraud. A bully.” – Norm Coleman, former Republican senator from Minnesota
”To support Trump is to support a bigot. It’s really that simple.” – Stuart Stevens, chief strategist to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign
”Donald Trump is unfit to be president. He is a dishonest demagogue who plays to our worst fears. Trump would take America on a dangerous journey.” – Meg Whitman, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise CEO and former national finance co-chairwoman for Chris Christie’s presidential campaign
”I thought he was an embarrassment to my party; I think he’s an embarrassment to my country. … I can’t vote for him.” – Tom Ridge, former Republican governor of Pennsylvania and secretary of homeland security under George W. Bush
”I would not vote for Trump, clearly. If there is any, any, any other choice, a living, breathing person with a pulse, I would be there.” – Mel Martinez, former Republican senator from Florida and former chairman of the Republican National Committee
”The GOP, in putting Trump at the top of the ticket, is endorsing a brand of populism rooted in ignorance, prejudice, fear and isolationism. This troubles me deeply as a Republican, but it troubles me even more as an American. … Never Trump.” – Henry M. Paulson Jr., Treasury secretary under George W. Bush
”Hillary is preferable to Trump, just like malaria is preferable to Ebola. … If it’s Trump-Hillary with no serious third-party option in the fall, as hard as it is for me to believe I am actually writing these words, there is just no question: I’d take a Tums and cast my ballot for Hillary.” – Jamie Weinstein, senior writer, the Daily Caller, a conservative website
”Donald Trump is a phony, a fraud. His promises are as worthless as a degree from Trump University.” – Mitt Romney, 2012 Republican nominee for president
”When you’ve got a guy favorably quoting Mussolini, I don’t care what party you’re in, I’m not voting for that guy.” – Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund
”Donald Trump is a scam. Evangelical voters should back away.” – The Christian Post, a popular U.S. evangelical website
”Listen, Donald Trump is a serial philanderer, and he boasts about it. … The president of the United States talks about how great it is to commit adultery. How proud he is. Describes his battles with venereal disease as his own personal Vietnam.” – Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas
”A man utterly unfit for the position by temperament, values and policy preferences … whose personal record of chicanery and wild rhetoric of bigotry, misogyny and misplaced belligerence are without parallel in the modern history of either major party.” – Eliot A. Cohen, a senior State Department official under George W. Bush
”Leaders don’t need to do research to reject Klan support. #NeverTrump” – Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican National Committee
”God bless this man” – Daily Stormer, white supremacist website
Contact Kristof at Facebook.com/Kristof or Twitter.com/NickKristof.