But why? He hasn’t said or done anything unexpected since those endorsements were issued. This business with the judge is who he is and everyone knew it. Beyond that, apart from a few highly loyal exceptions like Chris Christie, nearly every major Republican who’s backed him has given the same reason for doing so and that reason won’t change: Hillary Clinton is worse. Paul Ryan used that defense this morning, in fact, in the same breath that he was calling Trump’s criticism of the judge racist. Trump could get up at a rally and say, “If you see Curiel in the street, knock him out,” and the fact would remain that Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court appointments are certain to be further left than his are. If you buy the Ryan/Rubio argument that at the end of the day character and fitness for office don’t matter so long as the nominee’s more likely to rubber-stamp something that a Republican Congress sends him, there’s no reason to un-endorse Trump. He really could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and, so long as he’s able to legally sign House bills while in prison, he’d still pass the Ryan test.
Say this for Grahamnesty’s logic, though: If anyone’s hopping off the Trump train, it makes sense to do so earlier rather than later. The deeper we get into the race, the more it’ll be viewed as treason in the heat of battle for a Republican to go #NeverTrump. Either do it now and wash your hands of the general election or swallow hard and steel yourself to breathe deep the many Trump rhetorical farts to come before November.
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, another former primary rival of Mr. Trump’s, urged Republicans who have backed Mr. Trump to rescind their endorsements, citing the remarks about Judge Curiel and Mr. Trump’s expression of doubt on Sunday that a Muslim judge could remain neutral in the same lawsuit, given Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim noncitizens entering the country.
“This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” Mr. Graham said. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” he added. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”
Let’s say you take Graham’s advice and rescind your endorsement. What happens if Trump suddenly has a month where he’s behaving more or less as a normal candidate? He’s not stupid. With enough people leaning on him to shape up, he might muster the discipline to stay on message and attack Hillary effectively for a few weeks. It won’t last forever but he can manage it for awhile. What do you do then? Re-endorse him on the theory that he’s learned his lesson even though, deep down, you know he hasn’t? If you do re-endorse, what do you do when Judge Curiel issues a new pre-trial ruling against Trump and he starts ranting again? Un-endorse again? All of which is a roundabout way of saying that #AlwaysTrump and #NeverTrump are really the only two tenable positions. If you try #SortOfTrump a la Ryan/Rubio, in which you’re forced to apologize half-heartedly for every bit of bad behavior in the conviction that the Democrat will be worse, you’re only going to be miserable. We’re barely a month removed from Trump locking up the nomination and Ryan and Rubio are already being shellacked by criticism like this:
They’ve now told the American people that the man they all endorsed to be president is irresponsibly launching nakedly prejudiced attacks on a federal judge—but also shown they don’t regard that behavior as reason enough to withdraw their endorsements.
Especially for Ryan, Rubio, and others who’ve invested in changing the perception that the Republican Party is hostile to minorities, this is both a strategic setback and an albatross that political opponents can and will hang around their necks. “Even when confronted with behavior that you yourself believed to be nakedly prejudiced toward Americans of Hispanic heritage,” future critics can truthfully say, “you kept on endorsing the man responsible. Why should anyone trust that you possess the integrity to stand against bigotry or believe you when you say that you’ll represent people of all backgrounds?”
I don’t think Ryan can un-endorse because his role as Speaker basically requires him to support the nominee, but if anyone’s going to end up jumping ship, Rubio’s probably the guy. We already know what he really thinks of Trump; his palpable discomfort yesterday when asked about Trump and Curiel had the air of a hostage video. It’s too much at this point to believe that Rubio might put principle above his future electoral prospects, but if it seems at any point like dumping Trump won’t end up being a liability to him in the 2020 primary, I think he’ll seize the opportunity with both hands. Unless, that is, he runs for Senate this year after all. Then he’ll be in the same boat as Ryan, duty bound to defend the nominee. At all costs:
Two clips for you here, one of #AlwaysTrumper Chris Christie (currently rocking a 26/64 approval rating in New Jersey) showing the rest of the gang how you eat a sh*t sandwich — with gusto, not with mewling about how you don’t really like the taste but it’s better than the alternative — and the other of Trump frenemy Joe Scarborough following Graham’s lead by calling on Republicans to un-endorse. Exit quotation from a HuffPo reporter, capturing an encounter between Ted Cruz and the media yesterday at the Capitol: “Ted Cruz just stared blankly at us, as elevator doors slowly closed us out, when someone asked if he’ll ever endorse Trump.”