Politics & Policy

There Is No Other, More ‘Presidential’ Donald Trump

(Carlo Allegri/Reuters)
He is exactly who we thought he was.

It’s been a busy couple of days for Donald Trump.

He announced this morning that he will try to persuade the National Rifle Association to support legislation “not allowing people on the terrorist watch list, or the no fly list, to buy guns,” after the NRA chose to ignore his past comments in support of an assault-weapons ban and endorse him.

He recently suggested American troops in Iraq were a bunch of thieves: “Iraq, crooked as hell. How about bringing baskets of money — millions and millions of dollars — and handing it out? I want to know who were the soldiers that had that job, because I think they’re living very well right now, whoever they may be.”

Trump’s spokeswoman later claimed that he only meant Iraqi soldiers, which might have been convincing if he hadn’t made similar remarks last fall that clearly referenced U.S. soldiers:

“Remember when they were handing $50 million of cash? They were going through Afghanistan paying off — I want to know, who are the soldiers that are carrying cash, $50 million, cash?” he said then. “How stupid are we? I wouldn’t be surprised — if those soldiers, I wouldn’t be surprised if the cash didn’t get there.”

There were indeed allegations that the Coalition Provisional Authority had little oversight over massive amounts of currency sent to Iraq, and at least 115 enlisted personnel and military officers were indeed convicted on $52 million worth of theft, bribery, and contract-rigging charges related to their time in Afghanistan and Iraq. But Trump’s comments offered no such detail or perspective; he simply rambled without warning, suggesting that the war in Iraq was cover for a massive heist.

There is no responsible, unifying, disciplined Trump waiting to be unveiled at the right time. This is who he is.

His comments after the Orlando shooting seemed to effectively imply that President Obama might be an ISIS sleeper agent. “He doesn’t get it or he gets it better than anybody understands,” Trump said. “It’s one or the other: We’re led by a man that either . . . is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind.”

Speaking about himself in third person, Trump tweeted, “Media fell all over themselves criticizing what DonaldTrump [sic] “may have insinuated about @POTUS.” But he’s right.”

In his own defense, he linked to a Breitbart.com article about a 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report on al-Qaeda in Iraq. The report mentions “the West” as supporting the opposition forces; it details one of the figures in al-Qaeda in Iraq as Muhammad al-Adnani, currently the official spokesman for ISIS. This, Trump seemed to be saying, was proof that the Obama administration and Obama himself support ISIS.

#share#As Trump approached his final victory in the GOP primaries, skeptical Republicans consoled themselves with the notion that Trump would “pivot” to become more “presidential” as the party’s nominee.

That idea seems delusional now.

There is no responsible, unifying, disciplined Trump waiting to be unveiled at the right time. This is who he is. Republicans running for reelection are stuck with him, and they seem increasingly inclined to decline comment, feign unfamiliarity, or simply throw up their hands when asked about it.

“I’m not going to be commenting on the presidential candidates today,” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday.

“I’m not gonna make a career out of responding to every comment and every tweet,” said Mississippi senator Roger Wicker.

“I have offered public encouragement at important times, but I must admit that I am personally discouraged by the results,” said Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker.

RELATED: Trump’s Shock Treatment

Trump has single-handedly created a political environment where his surrogates are forced to attempt a defense of the indefensible while Republican lawmakers with any sense of self-preservation refuse to even bother. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is left to insist that a Tweet about taco bowls represents a sign that Trump is “trying,” and Orrin Hatch lamely instructs everyone to “be nice to him,” since “he’s a poor, first-time candidate.” Former senator Scott Brown merely claims that the 70-year-old Trump is “learning and growing, learning and growing.”

#related#With Trump as the nominee, every Republican lawmaker will be left doing damage control every day for the remainder of the election. The warnings of Trump’s skeptics are coming to fruition: Once surprisingly competitive in the polls, he is sinking again. New polls show him trailing in Kansas and tied in Utah. He is indicating he’s going to need the RNC to pay for the lion’s share of his television advertising, and he dismisses claims that he will need to invest heavily in a get-out-the-vote operation.

It seems unlikely that the Clinton campaign is shaking in its boots.

Trump won the backing of 45 percent of Republican primary voters. A delegate insurrection against his nomination in Cleveland would of course be politically painful. But is anyone certain that the pain of ditching Trump and replacing him with another Republican — any other Republican — would be worse than the pain of officially tying the party’s fortunes to him through November?

— Jim Geraghty is the senior political correspondent for National Review.

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