Having been in the car for 12 hours yesterday and then a bit out of the loop today I am a little bit behind the curve on the latest news. However, that said, one thing is clear: Donald Trump is a train wreck for the GOP. The number one question, therefore, becomes one when the party as a whole not to mention opposing candidates will face reality and stop treating Trump as a viable candidate. Between his newly launched war against Megan Kelly and Fox News in general, Trump continues to prove that he is a loose canon and that his candidacy is nothing more than a circus act with a loud mouthed, egotistical buffoon at its center. A piece in the Washington Post looks at the GOP dilemma. Here are highlights:
Donald Trump’s attacks on Fox News’s Megyn Kelly have brought his Republican presidential rivals to another moment of truth. How long can they try to treat him as a sideshow before they and the party they seek to lead suffer the political effects of his excesses?
For Trump’s rivals, the political calculus this summer has seemed relatively straightforward. At this still-early stage in the nomination contest, they prefer to pursue their own campaign strategies, not react to his. As Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) told NBC’s Chuck Todd in a “Meet the Press” interview that will air Sunday: “If I comment on everything he said, my whole campaign will be consumed by it.”
Because his rivals assume that Trump will either implode or eventually walk away in a fit of anger, they have generally tried to ignore him rather than seek a confrontation. Sometimes they’ve been forced to voice their displeasure, as has been the case in the past 48 hours.
They responded after Trump, in a CNN interview Friday evening, escalated his criticism of Kelly, calling her a “lightweight” and accusing her of coming after him in last week’s debate in Cleveland with “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever.”
Saturday’s flurry of statements criticizing Trump had a sense of déjà vu. Just three weeks ago, the same almost-ritualized performance played out after Trump had dissed Sen. John McCain of Arizona as not being a hero, despite McCain’s having endured torture and permanent disability as a POW during the Vietnam War.
Tentativeness has marked the candidates’ strategy in dealing with the Trump phenomenon. You could see their hesitation during the debate Thursday. No one really came to Cleveland with the goal of taking on Trump. Not one of the other nine candidates on stage came to Kelly’s defense when Trump went after her for asking him about derogatory comments he has made about women in the past.
There is another reason beyond the other candidates’ wanting to run their own races or wishing not to be the object of Trump’s considerable ire.
They all think that Trump’s support reflects more than fascination with celebrity, that he has tapped into something visceral in the electorate: anger and insecurity, revulsion with Washington, disgust with political-speak and political elites. Because they hope Trump will sink of his own weight, they wish to avoid offending Trump for fear of offending his voters. The candidates want those voters to turn to them if they abandon the reality TV star.
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), . . . warned that Republicans risk blowing a chance to win the White House if they fail to take on Trump. “There comes a point when it becomes about you and Mr. Trump,” he said.
Right now, Trump’s megaphone is louder than the collective voice of the others in the GOP race. The nomination contest for now is Trump vs. the rest of them. As long as he stands tallest in the polls and loudest on the cable stations, his message will outweigh theirs. It’s clear now what kind of campaign Trump will run and what kind of candidate he is. That’s the reality that now confronts the rest of the Republican Party.