Last week, Donald Trump insinuated that Barack Obama is sympathetic to Islamist terrorists. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Trump said:
Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind…. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable. There’s something going on.
Yes, there’s something going on, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Trump? It’s one thing to criticize President Obama’s failed foreign policy, especially when former supporters are coming out of the shadows to openly criticize him. It’s yet another to engage in conspiracy theories as a way of attacking the president.
We learned last week that 51 diplomats wrote a leaked internal memo to the State Department. Unlike our president, these diplomats — the very people who usually urge negotiation and eschew the use of force — now argue that armed force is necessary. Without it, Bashir al-Assad will not feel any pressure to step down or negotiate with his Syrian military opponents. The New York Times’ reporters described the memo as a call for a “credible threat of military action to keep Mr. Assad in line.”
Similarly, even a strong Obama supporter like New York Times columnist Roger Cohen offers the following warning to the president:
It is dangerous…to ignore or belittle the potency of ISIS ideology, the core role it has played in recent violence from Paris to California, and the link between that ideology and the broader crisis of Islam. The favored phrase of the Obama administration in addressing this scourge- “violent extremism”-is vague to the point of evasive meaningless. Yes, jihadi terrorists are “violent extremists” but calling them that is like calling Nazism a reaction to German humiliation in World War I: true but wholly inadequate.
Later in the column, Cohen adds that while the president showed his disapproval of the lack of new gun laws, “he said nothing about ISIS, or the way the Islamic State’s hold on territory in Syria or Iraq reinforces the charismatic potency of its ideological appeal.” He goes on to accuse Obama of allowing part of Syria to become an ISIS stronghold, of contributing to the refugee crisis, and of “undermining America’s word in the world.” Combined with encouraging Putin’s aggressive stance, Cohen calls the Syria policy “the great foreign policy failure of the Obama administration.” Strong stuff from a liberal columnist who usually gives the administration the benefit of the doubt.
And how does Donald Trump address these same critical issues? By grandstanding, congratulating himself after the Orlando massacre because he had called out radical Islam for the slaughter, and by repeating his call for the temporary suspension of Muslims entering the United States, a suspension based on religious belief alone, and not on a careful vetting process.
In what should by any measure be a Republican year in a race for the White House, in the national polls Donald Trump continues to lose support to Hillary Clinton. She seems to have scored major inroads in traditional Republican territory like Kansas and Utah. The Zogby poll showed 43% supporting Clinton and 36% supporting Trump, with 21% currently undecided. And in conservative and Mormon Utah, which always votes Republican in national contests, Trump and Clinton are effectively tied at 35% each! Also, 13% of voters back the Libertarian Party’s candidate, Gary Johnson. When Mitt Romney said he might decide to vote for Johnson, it increased the chances that a Libertarian vote might be large enough to hand the state to Clinton.
Trump is continuing to lose the support of Republican legislators in the House and Senate. Paul Ryan said over the weekend that he has no trouble with delegates to the national convention voting their conscience, and Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois retracted his support after Trump’s remarks about Judge Curiel being biased in the Trump University case because he was “Mexican.”
What these GOP politicians fear is that Trump heading the ticket will bring down Republicans in the House and Senate. While the GOP might manage to hold on to the House, it is on the path to losing the Senate. No wonder there is talk about having the Rules Committee change the rules to allow delegates to vote for whomever they want on the first ballot, allowing for a wide-open convention. Already the new anti-Trump movement has the support of 400 delegates. The odds of their success are small, but unless Trump suddenly changes his personality, becomes disciplined, creates a ground game and puts together an actual campaign staff, he is on the path to losing the national election. Perhaps his firing of Corey Lewandowski will do the job, but even Paul Manafort managing the campaign on his own is no assurance that the candidate will be able to stop shooting himself in the foot every time he speaks.
No one, I think, has made as strong an argument against Trump as Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, one of the GOP’s upcoming national stars. On his Facebook page, Sasse wrote the following to his constituents:
Mr. Trump’s relentless focus is on dividing Americans, and on tearing down rather than building back up this glorious nation. Much like President Obama, he displays essentially no understanding of the fact that, in the American system, we have a constitutional system of checks and balances, with three separate but co-equal branches of government. And the task of public officials is to be public “servants.” The law is king, and the people are boss. But have you noticed how Mr. Trump uses the word “Reign” – like he thinks he’s running for King? It’s creepy, actually. Nebraskans are not looking for a king. We yearn instead for the recovery of a Constitutional Republic.
Trump, he thinks, will not preserve a “framework for ordered liberty,” which is what a true conservative would try to achieve. The Republican Party is simply a tool for the objectives conservatives hold dear, Sasse says, not an institution one is bound to support if it goes against the principles one believes in. He continues to list the various ways in which Trump has made it more than clear that he does not, for example, believe in protecting the First Amendment to the Constitution.
Ben Sasse deserves praise for his decision to stand on principle, even though he understands many of his own constituents will be angry and might not, in the future, vote for him.
It is clear that in the remaining weeks, many more Republicans may well decide to take the same path.