Kurtz wonders: Why is Trump still attacking other Republicans?
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz is not the only one asking this question, either. Even Newt Gingrich, who has been nearly indefatigable in boosting Donald Trump over the past couple of months, told Sean Hannity that Trump occasionally “goes off the deep end,” and that he needs “a higher level of discipline.” His loose-cannon style obviously works with Trump’s base of committed voters, but shouldn’t he focus now on eroding Hillary Clinton’s support more than, say, Susana Martinez’?
It’s one thing for Trump to mock Elizabeth Warren, who’s been eviscerating him, as a “Pocahontas” with “high cheekbones.” But why strafe all these Republican targets?
The negative explanation would be that Donald Trump just can’t help himself, that he doesn’t have the discipline to refrain from responding to every slight. And if the offenders happen to be Republicans, at a time when he’s trying to win Paul Ryan’s support, so be it. They’re probably losers, anyway.
The positive explanation would be that Trump’s street-fighting style is what got him the nomination, that it’s pointless for aides to try to tone down his act. He seems to be consolidating rank-and-file GOP support, and maybe his backers see the internecine fights as another sign of his independence. The billionaire is now the last Republican standing. But he’s going to get more bad press if he keeps slapping Republicans around—which, of course, just gives him a chance to unload on his favorite target of all.
Kurtz probably hits closest to the mark on the “negative explanation.” Trump’s attacks seem less strategic than targets of opportunity, leveling blasts at anyone and everyone who criticizes him. He’s as quick to praise the same targets once they publicly repent of their ways, or at least find ways to say something nice about him. Suddenly they become brilliant and wise. Whether or not Trump does this as a calculation or because “he can’t help himself” is almost of no matter; the point is that he’ll continue to do it. He wants party unity, but on his terms, and not as a compromise, except where he senses he truly needs support and can’t get it through bluster and attack.
That’s why he’s doing this lengthy pas de deux with Paul Ryan and Republicans on Capitol Hill, allowing them the opportunity to gradually come to the point at which everyone knows they’ll eventually arrive. Trump figures he doesn’t need Martinez, but he’ll need Ryan and Mitch McConnell if he wants to get anything done as president … assuming he wins the election.
Maybe he thinks he needs Marco Rubio, too. As Allahpundit noted in the previous post, suddenly Trump’s become a big fan of Rubio and wants him to run for re-election in the upcoming Republican primary for his Senate seat. Rubio has insisted for weeks that he’s not interested in returning to the Senate, but his decision to offer his support to Trump certainly makes the timing look interesting. Rubio has until June 24th to change his mind about running for a second term, and Chuck Todd smells a strategy under way. We’ll see.
At some point, though, Trump has to start offering at least a couple of olive branches in public to his Republican critics. No one owes him their support, with the exception of Republican Party leadership, who set up the primaries which Trump won fair and square. Trump can either argue that he doesn’t need them or argue that their continued opposition will torpedo the GOP’s chances to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House, but he can’t play both cards at the same time. Isn’t it easier to just focus on Hillary Clinton?
I think you gotta give him this one for the victory lap, though. It’s a fair cop.
Today we, together, won the Republican Nomination for President! #Trump2016 #MakeAmericaGreatAgain A video posted by Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on