Having decided to support a racist ignoramus for president in the person of Donald Trump, Republican “leaders” are now left to twist and turn as they are confronted with his racist, ignorant comments. It is a problem entirely of their own making, and it has only just begun.
On Sunday, the for-now majority leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), was asked about Trump’s assertion that the America-born Judge Gonzalo Curiel, whom Trump says is “Mexican,” is inherently conflicted in the Trump University case. It was not pretty:
CHUCK TODD: You know what he has said about this federal judge that’s overseeing the Trump University lawsuit. He has essentially said he cannot be impartial because he’s Hispanic. Is that not a racist statement?
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I couldn’t disagree more with a statement like that.
CHUCK TODD: Is it a racist statement?
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I couldn’t disagree more with what he had to say.
CHUCK TODD: Okay. But do you think it’s a racist statement to say?
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I don’t agree with what he had to say. This is a man who is born in Indiana. All of us came here from somewhere else. Almost all Americans are either near term immigrants, like my wife, who came here at age eight, not speaking a word of English, or the rest of us’ ancestors were risk takers, and who got up from wherever they were and came here and made this country great. That’s an important part of what makes America work.
CHUCK TODD: I want to read you something that Erick Erickson, a conservative commentator, wrote for The Resurgent. He wrote it yesterday. ‘The attacks are racist. To claim someone is unable to objectively and professionally perform his job because of his race is racism. And damn the GOP for its unwillingness to speak up on this. . . . The party of Lincoln intends to circle the wagons around a racist. Damn them for that.’ What do you say to Mr. Erickson?
SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: I think the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House. And the right-of-center world needs to respect the fact that the primary voters have spoken. Donald Trump has won the nomination the old fashioned way, he got more votes than anybody else. Is he the perfect candidate for a lot of us? He isn’t. But we have a two-party system here. And Hillary Clinton is certainly not something that I think would be good for the country to continue, basically, the Obama administration for another four years.
So the Senate majority leader cannot admit, let alone condemn, Trump’s racism.
Then there is the for-now chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was asked about Trump’s preposterous assertions on foreign policy:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: What is the affirmative case, though, for Donald Trump? Why are you confident he’s going to be a good commander-in-chief?
CORKER: So, look, I think he’s at a point where he’s at his fingertips now. He has an opportunity to transition. He’s talking to people that I respect greatly — Secretary Baker, Dr. Kissinger are people that two of the most — the greatest foreign policy experts in our nation, so he’s talking to the right people. And it’s my hope that now that this primary decision — process is over, it’s like moving from the major leagues to the World Series, it’s my hope that he’s going to transition into that phase.
He has an opportunity to really change the trajectory of our country and it’s my sense that he will take advantage of that. I hope that he will, but we’ll have to see.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said this week he’s not going to change.
CORKER: Well, I think that he’s going to have to change. . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator, let me go ahead. Let’s talk about his ideas. You are the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and you’ve said his call for a temporary ban on Muslim immigration is not a serious proposal. The former head of the CIA Michael Hayden just said this morning it’s a recruiting tool for ISIS.
If Donald Trump is president and moved to impose that ban, would you support it or try to stop it?
CORKER: No, I would not support it. And I’ve already issued statements to that effect and what I understand is he has stepped away from those statements.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he has said he still supports those statements. He’s also said in every speech that he talks about building a wall on our border and getting Mexico to pay for it. Is that realistic and what would it do to our relations with Mexico?
CORKER: You know, obviously we do need to have good relations with Mexico and Canada. We do. That’s one of the things that makes our country in such a stable environment having two friends on our borders, unlike many countries around the world. . . So there’s no question that we have agreement in our country that we need greater security. It’s strongly bipartisan and I hope that we will implement that because it is a security threat to our nation.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is it realistic to expect Mexico to pay for the wall?
CORKER: Again, I think people agree with that — what’s that?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Is it realistic expect Mexico to pay for that wall?
CORKER: Well, again, I don’t want to get into a debate about the nuances of that. I mean it’s a statement that he has made. I thought this interview was going to be more about the foreign policy arena. I think he has a tremendous opportunity there. . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, you’re also — also on foreign policy, you’re a strong supporter of trade deals including the new Trans-Pacific Partnership. Donald Trump is opposed to those. He’s saying, also, that he’s prepared to impose 45 percent tariffs on imports from China is they don’t change the way they do business.
You’d have to vote on that in the Senate, is that something you could support?
CORKER: The fact is that, look, we were involved — we are involved in globalization, every person who picks up their iPhone in the morning deals in globalization.
The fact is that trade agreements set the rules of the road and sometimes we negotiate trade agreements that are good. Some of them are not as good as they should be.
The TPP agreement is something that strategically for our nation is important to get right. There are flaws in it that need to be stiffened. And so I hope that we’ll move through that. . . .
STEPHANOPOULOS: So which specific ideas of Donald Trump on foreign policy are you enthusiastic about, are you ready to fight for?
CORKER: So I think — here’s what I have seen in many of the statements that he’s made. It’s something that Secretary Baker would — it’s a degree of realism coming back into our foreign policy.
In fact, there are no specific ideas of Trump’s with which Corker agrees. It is stunning that after enumerating the ways in which Trump’s notions are absurd, he calls Trump a “realist.” How about “delusionist”? If he wants to get maturity in a presidential candidate, Corker is barking up the wrong tree. Defending a fool ultimately makes Corker look foolish.
This is the price to be paid — intellectual honesty, credibility and maybe even majority status — when Republican leadership tries to defend the indefensible. If they lose all three, they have no one to blame but themselves.