Guest Opinion: The GOP’s mistake on Trump
You’ve got to feel sorry for Republican Party leaders. They have painted themselves into an uncomfortable corner by falling into line behind Donald Trump before the GOP convention — leaving themselves no possible alternative to this loudmouth huckster who managed to con his way into the nomination.
On Tuesday, even as Trump was racking up votes in the California primary, top Republicans were in contortions trying to distance themselves from his latest howler, which Speaker Paul Ryan called “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” That’s Trump’s statement that federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel cannot be fair in the Trump University case because he’s “Mexican” and Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. “It’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Trump said.
It’s a ridiculous claim. First of all, Curiel is not Mexican. He’s an American, born in Indiana to immigrants. Does Trump consider himself a Scotsman because his mother was born in Scotland? And though Trump eventually walked it back to “Mexican heritage,” he’s suggesting Curiel is intellectually incapable of looking beyond his own ethnicity to rule on issues of law.
Yet even Trump’s lawyers have not asked Curiel, who was first appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to recuse himself. That may be because a judge’s ethnicity is usually not considered germane to how he or she will rule; judges are expected to put their personal backgrounds aside to make fair, rational decisions.
Ryan was right to denounce the remark, as he did Tuesday, and to call on Trump to apologize. But Ryan and others are making a mistake by continuing to insist that Trump is presidential material. Showing no contrition, Trump issued a non-apology, complaining that his comments had been misconstrued. But in fact they weren’t.
Americans who continue to support Trump will not be able to say later in the campaign that they didn’t know what they were getting with him. It’s long been clear that he is impulsive, mouthy and a bit of bully, that he talks first and thinks about it only later, if at all. And it was clear from the start of his campaign that he holds ungenerous opinions of Mexican immigrants.
But now we know that even when seemingly every Republican sage in the country tells him he’s not just a little wrong, but wildly so, he digs in his heels. That’s hardly the sign of presidential timber. And presumably the GOP notables who have rushed to endorse Trump know now that they have made a deal with the devil, and that it’s the party itself that’s feeling the heat.