Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Republican establishment figures are feigning surprise over their nominee’s racism, misogyny, narcissism and contempt for the rule of law, but they are being disingenuous. They’ve known for years the sort of man Donald Trump is. And they welcomed him and his money.

Now that the contemptible Trump is the titular head of the GOP, he threatens to destroy it — to so taint the party of Abraham Lincoln that it will never again appeal to a majority of American voters. That’s especially true of voters of color, most of whom Trump has treated to an egregious litany of contempt. But it’s also true of women, upward of 70 percent of whom regard Trump unfavorably, according to recent polls.

Even now, though, most leading Republicans lack the moral courage to reject him as a possible president of the United States. Despite their earlier criticisms of the celebrity TV host, they’ve fallen in line behind him.

The hypocrisy has been cringe-inducing, the gravity-defying reversals revolting. During the Republican primaries, Marco Rubio called Trump a “con artist” and predicted that having Trump as the nominee would “shatter and fracture the Republican Party and the conservative movement.” You may recall that Chris Christie, who joined Trump’s claque ahead of the stampede, once dismissed the real estate mogul’s lack of preparation for office with this dead-on critique: “Showtime is over. … We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief.” Lindsey Graham characterized Trump, accurately, as a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.”

At least Graham has had the decency to suggest that his fellow Republicans reconsider their support for Trump. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., has done just that, rescinding his earlier endorsement and saying that Trump “does not have the temperament” to be president. That may not hold up in the history books as the sort of stinging rebuke that Joseph Welch issued to Joe McCarthy — “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” — but it has gained attention because it goes against the grain.

Most leading Republicans are hanging on, claiming that a President Trump would be better than his rival, Hillary Clinton. That’s true, apparently, even if he’s a racist who would upend the Constitution, ban Muslims, berate and intimidate judges and mock people with disabilities.

Perhaps the most embarrassing case of spinelessness is that of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has long been touted as the party’s best hope for a youthful rejuvenation. Ryan rightly called out Trump for his awful smear of a sitting federal judge, characterizing it as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”

So did Ryan then turn his back on Trump and suggest Republican voters do the same? Oh, no. Trump’s remarks were racist, but Ryan is still supporting him.

While this has been dispiriting to watch, it is hardly surprising. The GOP has had Trump-ism in its bloodstream for decades now, and the party’s leaders have nurtured and fueled it. They have pandered to the nativists and xenophobes among the party’s core voters, fueled the paranoia of the anti-government crowd and cozied up to the racists. When President Barack Obama was elected, spurring an intense backlash from racially antagonistic white voters, Republican leaders rushed to surf the waves.

They were silent as conservative talk-radio hosts and pundits mocked and disparaged first lady Michelle Obama, with some, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, insisting that she’s a man in drag. They said nothing as tea partiers mounted protests with ugly signs depicting the president as a witch doctor. They were complicit when the so-called birther movement swept certain corners of the conservative constituency.

And who was one of the leaders of that cult of fringe lunacy that insists that the president was not born in the United States?

Why, a certain Donald Trump was, whipping up a ludicrous idea that was nothing more than an attempt to delegitimize the first black president, to paint him as non-American, to claim he was a usurper to the Oval Office. So there is nothing surprising about Trump’s current views.

Still, it’s discouraging to watch a once-great political party poison itself with the bile of bigotry, even if its members have been sipping from the vial for some time.

Cynthia Tucker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007. She can be reached at cynthia@cynthiatucker.com.

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks as his daughter Ivanka (L) looks on at a campaign event on the day that several states held presidential primary elections, including California, at the Trump National Golf Club Westchester in Briarcliff Manor, New York, U.S., June 7, 2016.   REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

If Boss Trump is headed for defeat, he's getting his revenge early. His revenge upon his deluded supporters and the people they love, that is. Trump's re-election campaign now consists mainly of what epidemiologists call "super-spreader" events: large-scale rallies of unmasked, non-socially distanced Trumpists yelling in each other's faces while the Big Man emits a non-stop barrage of falsehoods, exaggerations, and barefaced lies.

Let me put it this way: If, say, the Rolling Stones decided to put on free concerts at airports around the country, they'd likely end up being taken into custody and deported as undesirable aliens. Of course, they'd also draw far bigger crowds than Trump, but that's not the point. The point is that Trump's actions are reckless and immoral; the peacetime equivalent of war crimes.

"Covid, covid, covid, covid, covid," he hollers. Trump claims that the United States is "turning the corner" on the pandemic, and that the accursed news media will quit reporting Covid-19 fatalities come November 4. He claims that health officials are motivated by greed because "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" if they report that the virus was the cause of death.

Surveys have shown that more than a thousand physicians and nurses have died fighting the disease nationwide.

As ever, what he accuses others of doing is an excellent guide to the question: What would Trump do? Answer: he'd steal the silver dollars off a Covid victim's eyes and demand an investigation of Joe Biden

According to the Washington Post, the Trump campaign organization signed an agreement with officials in Duluth, Minnesota to limit attendance at a September 30 fly-in rally, in accordance with public health guidelines. Hours before the event, it became clear that no effort was being made to honor the agreement; some 2500 Trump supporters bunched up without masks on the tarmac, ten times the agreed limit.

Health Department officials' protests were simply ignored. Three days later, Trump himself was taken to Walter Reed Hospital by helicopter. Three weeks after that, the following headline appeared in the Duluth News-Tribune: "St. Louis County sees another record-breaking week of COVID-19 cases."

Any questions?

The Trump Circus subsequently performed in Janesville and Waukesha, Wisconsin in the midst of a record-setting pandemic outbreak there. "It took us 7 and a half months to reach our first 100,000 cases, & only 36 days to reach our second," the Wisconsin Department of Health tweeted. "In just two short months, the 7-day average of new confirmed cases has risen 405%."

But the show must go on. Trump regaled his Janesville audience with a veritable torrent of lies. The New York Times did a thorough fact-check of his October 17 speech. Reporters documented 130 false statements during Trump's 87 minutes onstage. Nearly three-quarters of his factual claims were untrue. The most egregious concerned Covid-19, probably because the disease represents his single greatest failure and most damaging political liability.

Another question: Does Trump count upon his supporters' invincible ignorance or simply share it? I fear it's a little of both. In Janesville, Trump made this absurd claim two minutes into his harangue: "When you look at our numbers compared to what's going on in Europe and other places," he said "we're doing well."

Any regular newspaper reader knows that this is simply nonsense. As the Times reports, "America has more cases and deaths per capita than any major country in Europe but Spain and Belgium. The United States has just 4 percent of the world's population but accounts for almost a quarter of the global deaths from Covid-19."

Germany, to choose the most striking comparison, has suffered only 122 deaths per million of its population, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has recorded more than five times as many: 686 per million. Neighboring Canada, meanwhile, is at 264 per million. Several Asian countries, have handled the pandemic even better.

It's a matter of capable leadership and public cooperation.

No wonder Trump appears to have succumbed to a case of dictator envy. "COVID, COVID, COVID is being used by [the 'Fake News' media] in total coordination" he tweeted the other day "in order to change our great early election numbers. Should be an election law violation!"

Yeah, well they all report the same World Series scores too. Furthermore, if Trump had good election numbers, he wouldn't whine so much. Has there ever been a bigger crybaby in the White House?

(In related news, Vladimir Putin has issued a mandatory mask mandate after a surge in Russian Covid infections. Go figure.)

Meanwhile, the rallies go on; a bizarre spectacle people treat as if it's normal. Trump has become Covid-19's Typhoid Mary, an Irish cook who unwittingly infected 53 people back in 1906.

But unlike Mary, he should know better. If anybody should be locked up, as his rapt admirers chant, it's the Super-Spreader in Chief.