About 14 months ago, American politics began to resemble a B-level Washington novel. A former secretary of state is revealed to have endangered U.S. secrets and possibly sold aspects of U.S. foreign policy to the highest bidder. Will she face indictment? No, but the FBI chief acknowledges that the only way she could possibly attain a security clearance would be through her election as commander-in-chief.
The writer might have come up with a more compelling character. Clinton is robotic, shamelessly money-grubbing, calculating, secretive, and promiscuously deceitful. To the degree that she has any discernible principles at all, they’re the wrong ones. When she raises her voice, which is often, the sound is like tires screeching. She represents the status quo in a change year.
As deep as the hole is that Democrats have dug, the Republicans have bested them with a full-on suicide that not even a novelist would have imagined. A mob of self-styled “conservative” activists, jumped-up talk-radio and TV hosts, Republican-party apparatchiks (oh does that word have new relevance), a plurality of primary voters, and spineless elected officials across the fruited plain have signed on with a repellent demagogue who will destroy the party at its moment of maximum opportunity.
Now that it is too late, the rats are asking to be rescued from the sinking ship they helped to launch. Newt Gingrich, who hailed Trump’s convention speech on July 22 as a “revolutionary moment” and reinforced Trump’s reckless suggestion that NATO might not come to the aid of Estonia in the event of a Russian attack — among countless other lickspittle bits of analysis — has discovered after Trump’s terrible post-convention week that candidate Trump is “unacceptable.” He and other lackeys like Rudy Giuliani and Reince Priebus are reportedly planning an intervention to get the candidate to stop being Donald Trump. Ha. Why now? Trump’s ignorance, malevolence, and instability have been on spectacular display for more than a year. Yet men and women of honor and sanity buckled into his cliff-destined train.
There is no doubt that Trump has been at his Trumpiest lately. He committed outrages against decency, the truth, and even his own best political interests at about twice his normal rate. In addition to dishonoring and insulting a Gold Star couple and keeping up the feud for days (when he might have been discussing the dismal economic numbers), he vocally fantasized about punching out the speakers at the Democratic National Convention, lied about his relationship with Putin (though his previous lie was on videotape), threatened to fund challengers to fellow Republicans Ted Cruz and John Kasich to punish their disloyalty, claimed that he had received a letter from the NFL complaining about the debate schedule (the NFL denies this), assured an interviewer that “Putin’s not going into Ukraine, okay?” only to issue a corrective tweet later when he remembered (learned?) that Putin was already in Crimea. He claimed that he turned down a meeting with the Koch brothers. False.
If you pour a cup of wine into the sewage, it’s still sewage. But if you pour a cup of sewage into the wine, it is no longer wine but sewage.
Now Trump has batted eyelashes at Speaker Paul Ryan’s primary opponent, and mused that he would not support senators Kelly Ayotte or John McCain. There’s your party leader, Republicans. Well done.
Martha Bayles reminds us in the Claremont Review of Books of two barrels — one contains sewage, the other wine. If you pour a cup of wine into the sewage, it’s still sewage. But if you pour a cup of sewage into the wine, it is no longer wine but sewage.
Trump is a pathogen. A man who heedlessly promotes conspiracy theories (vaccines cause autism, Obama was born in Kenya, Bush lied us into war in Iraq, Rafael Cruz was caught up in the JFK assassination), is either not fully sane or at least indifferent to the demoralizing effect that such lies have on our social cohesion. A man whose confidence is so shaky that he must attest to his own intelligence, malign even the most insignificant critic, scapegoat minorities, and threaten the free press is to be pitied, maybe, but not trusted with power. He is very, very comfortable stoking mobs and threatening violence. His warning that there would be riots in Cleveland if he failed to get the nomination — to cite just one of the thousands of ways he has transgressed basic norms this year — ought to have been enough to activate the antibodies of a healthy electorate.
Every single Republican with influence, from the local sheriff to the speaker of the House, at every stage of this process, should have stood up on his hind legs and denounced this fraud (where are his tax returns, again?), condemned his ugly methods, and scorned his flood of lies. Every Republican should have lined up for Judge Curiel. Chris Christie’s endorsement was the first tablespoon of sewage. Jeff Sessions’s was the second. The list of defilers is too long to itemize now. RIP GOP.