Donald Trump may have gotten his campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” from Ronald Reagan, but there’s something else he should have taken from him: his following of former California Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson’s “Eleventh Commandment.” Reagan explained in his autobiography, “The personal attacks against me during the primary finally became so heavy that the state Republican chairman, Gaylord Parkinson, postulated what he called the Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican. It’s a rule I followed during that campaign and have ever since.” Reagan may not have followed that rule completely, but Donald Trump has never even tried it—not even after he won the 2016 GOP primary or the presidential election. He ruthlessly mocked his primary opponents, he blamed George W. Bush for 9/11, and he’s rather tastelessly criticized the dying John McCain, who may not be anyone’s favorite Republican, but still… come on.
His most recent offense came just a few days ago at his rally in Montana, when he poked fun at President George H. W. Bush’s slogan, “thousand points of light.”
“I know one thing: ‘Make America Great Again’ we understand. Putting America first we understand,” Trump said. “‘Thousand points of light,’ I never quite got that one. What the hell is that? Has anyone ever figured that one out? It was put out by a Republican, wasn’t it?”
Based on historical precedent, 2018 should be a bad year for Republicans. And Trump criticizing a former Republican president in a year where Republicans can’t afford to be alienated seems like a bad political move. Indeed, several Republicans have spoken out against Trump’s remarks, including Ari Fleischer, who has defended Trump often in the past.
This is so uncalled for. Going after a 94-year-old, former President’s promotion of volunteerism. I don’t mind potus being a fighter. I do mind him being rude. https://t.co/Hr0d20Wuzz
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) July 6, 2018
Others connected to Bush 41 also spoke out against Trump:
Richard Haass, who worked as a special assistant to H.W. Bush and as the senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs on his National Security Council, slammed the current president for the jab.
“Truly offensive to see @realDonaldTrump mock @GeorgeHWBush given 41’s 1) life of public service; 2) commitment to volunteerism; 3) critical role in ending Cold War peacefully and on our terms and then leading world in liberating Kuwait, the 1st test of post-cold war era,” Haass tweeted Friday morning.
Nicholas Burns, the 41st president’s Director for Soviet Affairs, wrote Friday morning that “President George H. W. Bush is ten times the man and the President than Donald Trump.”
Presidential historian Jon Meacham, who penned a biography about the 94-year-old Bush, responded to Trump’s mocking inquiry on Twitter Thursday night.
“Well, Mr. President, since you ask: it was an image of a nation illuminated by our better angels, offered by a man who gave his life to the service of that nation,” he wrote.
I’ve defended Trump plenty of times when he deserves it, but this is yet another case where I can’t defend him, be it on a political level or a personal level. Whether he likes it or not, Trump is the titular head of the Republican Party as much as he is the president of the United States. His words and actions reflect on his party and his country. I don’t always feel comfortable with his style, but he’s managed to do plenty of good things for this country as president. He has, however, been a less-than-stellar symbol of the GOP. Despite his accomplishments while in office, he still hasn’t won over many in the Never Trump movement who weren’t (and still aren’t) comfortable with his style and counterproductive rhetoric.
The Points of Light Foundation (which was founded by former President George H. W. Bush) tweeted the following in the wake of Trump’s criticism:
With these words, nearly 3 decades ago, our founder President @GeorgeHWBush ignited a spirit of volunteerism and inspired millions to be points of light in communities around the world. Find out more at https://t.co/AtnCv7ftGk. pic.twitter.com/gF78YE9BX3
— Points of Light (@PointsofLight) July 6, 2018
President Trump needs to realize that the primary election is over. He has nothing to gain by attacking fellow Republicans anymore. In an off-year election, the party in power typically loses seats. Simply put, he needs every coalition in the GOP on his side and fighting for him if he wants to hold Congress. The previous two Republican presidents were Bushes, and attacking either of them, especially the nonagenarian who recently lost his wife, just isn’t a smart move. Sure, there are plenty of Trumpsters who are more than happy to say goodbye to “the old days” when the Bushes were in power, but they are still the only two surviving GOP presidents. Many in the party still feel loyal to them and don’t take such petty attacks lightly.
The GOP can still hold the House in November and even gain seats in the Senate, but if Trump doesn’t put some effort into uniting the Republican Party before the midterm elections, then Trump might have to accept two years with Democrats having the power to make his job of fixing this country extremely difficult.
The Eleventh Commandment, President Trump… Learn it. Know it. Live it.
Matt Margolis is the author of the new book, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the forthcoming re-release of the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis