If Donald Trump’s presidential campaign were one of his beauty pageants, instead of a “Miss Congeniality” consolation prize there would have to be a “Mr. or Ms. Deplorable.” According to my scorecard, the winner is Rudy Giuliani.
Trump is the master of ceremonies, so he’s ineligible. The competition among his enablers – to see who can most thoroughly squander credibility and reputation – has been fierce. There are so many worthy candidates for the Deplorable sash that it’s a shame only one aide or surrogate can win.
Begin with Mike Pence, a committed Christian, who disingenuously tells audiences that his running mate – known to be a bully, a bigot, a misogynist and a libertine – is “a good man.” Pretty deplorable.
Then there’s Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, who let Trump steal his party and then became one of Trump’s vassals. Allowing the traditions and honor of the party of Lincoln to be so horribly debased is definitely deplorable.
Chris Christie might get some points for his self-inflicted double humiliation: First he got embarrassed by Trump in the primaries, then he became the first also-ran to give the usurper his endorsement. Christie is smart; he must see Trump for the dangerous ignoramus he is. He has told friends he hoped Trump could be taught and molded. Whatever his motive, history will judge Christie’s role among Trump’s inner circle as both cynical and deplorable.
And of course there is Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager. She has a kind of genius for assembling random words into very long sentences, which she wields against journalists’ questions the way a Jedi knight uses a light saber to deflect incoming fire. Somehow she is serenely unfazed by direct contradiction. After the first debate, for example, she said Trump had displayed the “presidential virtue” of restraint by not mentioning Bill Clinton’s affairs. But when Trump brought Clinton’s accusers to the second debate, well, she said that was presidential, too. Constant doubletalk, however charming, is deplorable.
Serious contenders, all. But my runner-up for Mr. Deplorable is the inimitable Newt Gingrich. His over-the-top grandiloquence puts him in another league.
One recent illustration came Saturday when Trump went to Gettysburg and delivered a much-hyped “major” speech – mostly a repackaging of previously announced policies. The only real change, far as I could tell, was that now he expects the U.S. taxpayer to pay for his promised border wall, with Mexico later dunned for reimbursement. And the headline was that Trump, disgracefully, had used such a hallowed setting to threaten lawsuits against the women who say he groped or forcibly kissed them.
The irrepressible Gingrich tried to spin this debacle into something for the ages. “Trump’s most important speech, maybe the best reform speech since [Ronald] Reagan in 1980,” he called it. That’s not hyperbole, it’s hallucination.
On Tuesday, Gingrich haughtily berated Fox News host Megyn Kelly for supposedly giving too much coverage to Trump’s alleged sexual predations – and not enough to Hillary Clinton’s email problems. Kelly patiently explained that the accusers’ stories are clearly newsworthy. “You want to go back through the tapes of your show recently?” Gingrich demanded. “You are fascinated with sex and you don’t care about public policy.”
Yes, the Gingrich oeuvre of deplorability is rich and deep. But for sheer mean-spirited lunacy, it is Giuliani who deserves to wear the Mr. Deplorable tiara.
He all but sewed up the title at the Republican convention with a speech that was neither spoken nor shouted, but shrieked. The former New York mayor, who showed such inspiring steadiness and resolve following the 9/11 attacks, described a nation cowering in fear of jihadist terrorism and rapidly sinking into utter ruin.
“There’s no next election,” he screamed. “This is it! There’s no more time left to revive our great country!”
When FBI Director James Comey decided “no reasonable prosecutor” would file charges against Clinton over her emails, Giuliani – a former federal prosecutor himself – went ballistic. On Wednesday, he had a verbal brawl with CNN’s Chris Cuomo about that subject. Giuliani insisted on a conspiratorial theory about Clinton’s exoneration that is hard to briefly summarize; suffice it to say his scenario requires either clairvoyance or time travel.
Giuliani called one rambling Trump address “the best speech that any Republican, at the least, has ever given,” which I guess includes Lincoln. He has repeatedly claimed, with zero evidence, that Clinton suffers from some serious undisclosed illness. He has even devoted time and energy to feuding with Beyonce.
You win, Mr. Mayor. Congratulations are not in order.
Eugene Robinson’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.