When Newt Gingrich tells the Washington Post that Donald Trump is helping Hillary Clinton “by proving he is more unacceptable than she is,” you know Trump is in trouble. Gingrich also said, referring to Trump’s surprising lack of knowledge, that “he can’t learn what he doesn’t know because he doesn’t know he doesn’t know it.”
Either Trump really does not want to be president, or he is too thin-skinned to take the slightest criticism without hitting back. In the same Post story, Steve Duprey, an RNC member from New Hampshire, told the paper that “our nominee is losing opportunities to make the case why he should be elected instead of Mrs. Clinton and instead spending all of his time dealing with controversies of his own creation.”
Trump’s advisers must be telling him that he should avoid picking fights that will reflect poorly on him and that make him sound like a petulant 2nd grader. It is rumored that over this weekend, some top Republicans will be holding an intervention to convince him to behave and stay on message. It is hard to believe that Trump would subject himself to it, or take their advice. He may even go after the interveners.
This past week, he continued his attack on Gold Star parents Khizr and Ghazala Khan and then refused to offer his support for the candidacies of Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. John McCain and Senator Kelly Ayotte (who is running to save her Senate seat in the November election). Trump doesn’t seem to really care if the Republican Party is unified or not. If he did, why would he want Ayotte, for example, to lose her Senate seat to her Democratic challenger, Governor Maggie Hassan? At the rate he’s going, Trump will help bring down Republicans in both the House and Senate come November.
Then there was the flare-up over the copy of a Purple Heart given to him by a veteran. As he received it he quipped, “I always wanted to get a Purple Heart. This was much easier.” Perhaps he thought he deserved it for the services he provided that he said were the equivalent of fighting in Vietnam, such as building hotels and golf courses. Now, a real Purple Heart vet who lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan has created a GoFundMe website to raise money for Syrian refugees. Having a great sense of humor, he wrote:
I fully endorse his desire to earn one and would happily oblige his interest in doing so, by being one of the first to chip in to fly him to the conflict zone of his choosing. After all, you’re never too old to follow your dreams.
Trump’s poll numbers continue to plummet as Hillary Clinton’s rise. Conservative columnists feel impelled to criticize him. Even though he eschews them and the Republican leadership, including the RNC, they will play an important role if he is to win the election. Does Trump really expect someone like Paul Ryan to keep endorsing him, however tepidly, when he is not willing to endorse Ryan? This is the point made by Ross Douthat in his most recent column, in which he urges Ryan to come out against Trump, lest his reputation and conservative bona fides are destroyed by Trump’s antics. As Douthat writes, Ryan is continually being reminded by Trump that he is supporting a man who is “dangerous, unstable, unprincipled and unfit.”
As for Ryan, he has responded by saying that Trump’s attacks on the Khan family were “beyond the pale,” and that “you don’t do that to Gold Star families” who have “earned the right to say whatever they want.”
Then on “Morning Joe” this past Wednesday, Joe Scarborough told his viewers that when a major foreign policy expert had talked with Trump for an hour, Trump asked him three times why, if we have nuclear weapons, we “can’t we use them.”
Trump might already be laying the groundwork for a loss in November, suggesting that the election might be rigged. It is hard to imagine him conducting himself as Al Gore did when he lost the 2000 election to Bush. Gore, as columnist Ruth Marcus writes, “spoke of meeting with Bush ‘so that we can start to heal the divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we’ve just passed.’ He invoked Sen. Stephen Douglas on being defeated by Abraham Lincoln — ‘Partisan feeling must yield to patriotism’ — and added, ‘This is America, and we put country before party. We will stand together behind our new president.’”
Trump took the opposite tack when Mitt Romney lost in 2012. Early in the evening when Obama had enough Electoral College votes to put him over the top, it was not yet clear if he had won the popular vote. At that time, Trump tweeted “the election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy…. (Obama) lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country.” It seems that Trump knows little about the Constitution. Just imagine what might occur should he lose the election but win the popular vote; he might delegitimize the results for a large segment of the country.
Finally, we must consider Trump’s dangerous foreign policy. In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week,” he told his host that Putin’s “not going into Ukraine” on his watch. It was embarrassing when Stephanopoulos said in a low voice, “but he’s already there.” As for Putin’s takeover of Crimea, Trump approved of it, arguing that “from what I’ve heard” the people there “would rather be with Russia than where they were.” Perhaps he heard that from Paul Manafort, whose client was the deposed prime minister of Ukraine who backed Putin’s aggression and now lives in Russia.
The problem for many voters may not be Trump’s lack of knowledge of world affairs. As Bret Stephens writes, “it’s his character.” Acknowledging that Hillary Clinton is a liar, Stephens convincingly argues that repeatedly saying she is “worse” than Trump is no reason to vote for the GOP candidate. Clinton, he writes, “is not the apotheosis of evil.” (Trump, having already referred to her as “the devil,” would not see it Stephens’ way.) Even though she will stand for a liberal agenda and appoint liberal justices to the Supreme Court, Stephen concludes that “at least she’s not a sociopath.”
This description may be over the top, but we should ask if this is a man we can trust with his hand on the nuclear button — especially since he doesn’t understand why we can’t use them if we have them.