GOP leaders continue to twist themselves into pretzels in justifying their continued support for Presidential nominee Donald Trump in the aftermath of his racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel.
Some Republicans have done the moral thing for both their party and America by condemning Trump’s remarks and remaining in opposition to him, or rescinding their support, notably Sens. Mark Kirk, Lindsey Graham, Ben Sasse and Jeff Flake.
But, others continue to try to have it both ways. Speaker Paul Ryan slammed Trump’s attacks on Judge Curiel as “the textbook definition of a racist comment,” yet Ryan inexplicably remains in support of him.
Worse yet, as the Hill reported earlier, Hill Republicans seem angrier at Ryan for pointing out Trump’s racism than at Trump’s racism itself, fearing that “it sets up journalists to ask, ‘Do you agree with Paul Ryan that it was racist?’” complained one Republican aide.
Meanwhile, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been trying to excuse Trump’s racism by saying that Trump “doesn’t know a lot about the issues,” and that Trump could be just fine as President as long as he can “stick to the script” — translation: not be so publicly vocal about his bigotry.
Note that McConnell “vehemently objects” to Trump’s attacks on various ethnic groups, but will continue to support him provided he reads from a prepared script that no longer includes such attacks — in other words, provided Trump stops saying these things aloud.
Remember, Republicans have known what Trump really believes for many months. He launched his campaign deriding Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, and rocketed to the top of the polls amid promises to ban Muslims from entry into the U.S. and flat out lies about the hordes of American Muslims supposedly celebrating 9/11.
But now, two things have changed. Trump has secured the nomination, which has led many Republicans to endorse him as their standard bearer. At the same time, his bigotry and depravity are now receiving the searing level of media scrutiny that comes with a general election — even as the national electorate is now starting to tune in — both of which make those tendencies far more problematic for the GOP than they had previously been.
McConnell hopes that Trump will mitigate this problem by refraining from saying this sort of thing in the future. But Trump’s bigotry and depravity cannot be put back in the bottle.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich seems just as eager to pretend this whole thing ever happened, saying “I think it’s fine” when asked if Trump needed to do more repair the damage following the attacks.
But it’s not fine at all. It doesn’t matter if they say Trump’s remarks were racist, or agree with him when he claimed that he was “misconstrued” — if Republicans continue to remain in support of Trump, they continue to own his racist baggage right along with him.
In continuing to refuse to rescind their support of Donald Trump, Republican leaders stand on the same side as the likes of former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke, who defended Trump’s remarks in a typically offensive anti-Semitic response.
Republicans continue to feign horror at Trump’s attacks, but there they are supporting him alongside David Duke. And as long as Republicans continue to refuse to rescind that support, they own Trump — there’s no “turning the page” otherwise.