Donald Trump’s distinctive rhetorical style — think of a drunk with a bullhorn reading aloud James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake under water — poses an almost insuperable challenge to people whose painful duty is to try to extract clarity from his effusions. For example, last week, during a long stream of semi-consciousness in Fort Worth, this man who as president would nominate members of the federal judiciary vowed to “open up” libel laws to make it easier to sue — to intimidate and punish — people who write “negative” things. Well.
Trump, the thin-skinned tough guy, resembles a campus crybaby who has wandered out of his “safe space.” It is not news that he has neither respect for nor knowledge of the Constitution, and he probably is unaware that he would have to “open up” many Supreme Court First Amendment rulings in order to achieve his aim. His obvious aim is to chill free speech, for the comfort of the political class, of which he is now a gaudy ornament.
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The night before his promise to make America great again through censorship, Trump, during the Houston debate, said that his sister, a federal judge, signed “a certain bill” and that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito also “signed that bill.” So, the leading Republican candidate, the breadth of whose ignorance is the eighth wonder of the world, actually thinks that judges “sign bills.” Trump is a presidential aspirant who would flunk an eighth-grade civics exam.
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Rubio’s epiphany — announcing the obvious with a sense of triumphant discovery — about Trump being a “con man” and a “clown act” is better eight months late than never. If, however, it is too late to rescue Rubio from a Trump nomination, this will be condign punishment for him and the rest of the Republican party’s coalition of the timid.
“Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide, / In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side.” So begins James Russell Lowell’s 1845 poem protesting America’s war with Mexico. The Republicans’ moment is here.
We are about to learn much about Republican officeholders who are now deciding whether to come to terms with Trump, and with the shattering of their party as a vessel of conservatism. Trump’s collaborators, like the remarkably plastic Chris Christie (“I don’t think [Trump’s] temperament is suited for [the presidency]”), will find that nothing will redeem the reputations they will ruin by placing their opportunism in the service of his demagogic cynicism and anti-constitutional authoritarianism.
— George Will is a Pulitzer Prize–winning syndicated columnist. © 2016 The Washington Post