Two U.S. senators who ran for president this cycle are attacking presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump on comments he made about Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge assigned to the lawsuit against Trump University. Trump said Curiel should recuse himself from the case due to his Mexican heritage, even though the judge was born in Indiana.
“This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told the New York Times. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it. There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.” Graham is calling for his fellow Republicans to “unendorse” The Donald due to these comments.
Such denunciations should come with a grain of salt, however. After all, Graham is the member of the Republican “establishment” who compared the choice between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump to “being shot or poisoned.” He then endorsed Cruz, and even argued that, even though John Kasich was the most electable candidate, he should yield to Cruz.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio would not renege on his promise to support the eventual Republican nominee, but he also had harsh words for Trump’s attack on Curiel. “That man is an American, born in the United States,” Rubio said. Even if Curiel has been born elsewhere, he is still “a judge who has earned that position and in the end should be treated with the same level of respect as any other officer of the court.”
“I don’t think it reflects well on the Republican Party,” The Florida senator added. “I don’t think it reflects well on us as a nation. There shouldn’t be any sort of ethnicity or religious or racial test for what kind of judges should hear what kind of cases … it’s wrong and I hope he stops.”
Rubio would not defend The Donald, but insisted that he still views the presidential election as a “binary choice” between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
Next Page: Three more senators and two speakers of the House also attacked Trump’s comments.
As Politico‘s Nick Glass noted, vulnerable Republican Senate incumbents have also distanced themselves from Trump’s comments. New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte called the statement “offensive and wrong.” A spokesman for Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson said the senator “disagrees” with The Donald, “just as he has in the past.”
Ohio Senator Rob Portman also attacked Trump. “The judge is an American, as I’m an American and as Donald Trump is an American,” he said.
Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, who grudgingly endorsed The Donald last Thursday, attacked Trump’s statement. “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Ryan said. “It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
Even outspoken Trump surrogate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich criticized the presumptive nominee. “I think the person most likely to beat Donald Trump is Donald Trump,” Gingrich told CBN on Monday. “He’s got to recognize that this is a new game, that it’s a much more complicated game, and that he needs to focus on winning the presidency.”
RealClearPolitics’ Rebecca Berg explained Trump’s strategy as “Going Rogue.” Rather than adapting his campaign to the exigencies of facing a highly organized Democratic nominee in November, and tailoring his public appearances to seem “presidential,” The Donald is doubling down on his low-budget, low-organization, anger-driven campaign of passion.
This strategy is making Republicans, who hoped to coalesce behind a nominee and replace President Obama with their own well-organized, well-funded, presentable candidate, increasingly nervous. With David French, the seeming last hope for a #NeverTrump candidate, removing his name from consideration, it appears Republicans are stuck with Donald — barring a huge surprise at the Republican National Convention in July.
Next Page: Only Chris Christie is standing by The Donald, and he’s suffering for it.
Despite the many Republicans attacking Trump’s comments, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie stood by his man. “In the end, there are always going to be conflicts regarding civil lawsuits,” Christie said. “There are always going to be opinions. Those are Donald’s opinions. And he has every right to express them, the same way anybody else has the right to express their views regarding how they’re treated in the civil or criminal courts in this country.”
Christie attacked “the media” for focusing on this story, saying, “the media loves to pay attention to this stuff and to work it up.” He insisted, however, that “people who are going to vote in November are not going to make their decisions based on this kerfuffle.”
He insisted that Trump “is not a racist,” and that “allegations that he is are absolutely contrary to every experience that I’ve had with him over the last 14 years.”
Meanwhile, Christie’s poll numbers in New Jersey have fallen to an all-time low. Weeks back, a Quinnipiac University poll found Christie with an abysmal 64 percent negative approval rating to a 29 percent positive. The new poll, released Monday, proved even worse — 63 percent of New Jersey voters disapproved of Christie’s job as governor, while only 27 percent approved.
About 80 percent of Garden State voters said that their governor was more concerned about his political future than about governing New Jersey, and 68 percent said Christie endorsed Trump in order to pursue a federal appointment. Let’s just say in the realm of credibility, his rating is near rock bottom.