As they try to come to terms with the outrageous, bigoted, xenophobic, misogynistic, unconstitutional ravings of their presumptive presidential candidate, Republican Party leaders would do well to read the children's animal fable "The Scorpion and the Frog." (For those not familiar with the parable, the tale goes thusly: a scorpion implores a frog to carry it across a river. At first the frog rejects the idea, fearing it would be fatally stung. After the scorpion explains it wouldn't do such a thing as it would then drown, the frog agrees. Halfway across, the frog is indeed stung. Before it dies it asks the scorpion why would it doom both of them. Because, replies the scorpion, it is in its nature to sting, regardless of the consequences.)
Donald Trump's strained, symbiotic relationship with his current party's establishment--which hopes to control him--is the embodiment of the fable. Despite their often stated distaste for him, the party elite is willing to carry Trump on its back as they navigate the election waters. But, just as the scorpion stung the frog and drowned both of them because it was in its nature, there is little doubt Trump will continue to make flagrantly divisive statements that may well sink GOP efforts to appeal to a base broader than angry white men and women.
Trump has promised a major rip-roaring speech early next week to expose both Hillary and Bill Clinton's warts. For sure the speech will be colorful and entertaining. He is, after all, a master showman. But as two of the most heavily vetted public figures of the last quarter century, the Clintons have survived years of congressional and special prosecutor scrutiny. It would indeed be news if Trump revealed any new scandals beyond the rumor and innuendo that are his stock in trade.
On the other hand, can a man currently defending himself in court for allegedly fraudulently bilking desperate, needy consumers into paying thousands of dollars to Trump University accuse the Clintons of engaging in get rich quick schemes? Bernie Sanders, a socialist, might legitimately question Hillary's fees for Wall Street speeches, but Trump is a capitalist. You would think he would applaud her ability to squeeze as much lucre from the fat cats.
Can a man who cheated on two wives chastise another for infidelity? Let's keep in mind two points: Hillary never committed adultery, and many of the holier-than-thou crowd who tried to remove Bill from office wound up admitting they strayed from their marriage vows.
Can a man who four times had to seek bankruptcy protection for his companies be expected to lecture on business acumen and vitality? Bill, after all, wiped out the deficit he inherited from his Republican predecessors and left a surplus. The stock market enjoyed boom times during his term of office, the budget was balanced, the economy was robust.
Can a man who lauded Putin and Kim Jong-Un, who suggested nuclear proliferation is acceptable, who would undermine longstanding bi-partisan international alliances, opine on foreign affairs? Beyond what is written for him, does he know the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims? Does he understand the complex world of Eastern Europe and its relationship with Russia, or the rising threat of nationalist parties throughout Europe? Does he have a plan for the Southern American hemisphere beyond building a wall?
Can a man who makes racist statements, who claims not to know who David Duke is and who does not disavow the Ku Klux Klan, who evaluates women by their physical appearance, who makes fun of the handicapped, credibly claim to be a unifier?
Regrettably, to the rank and file Republican voters who chose him in the primaries, Trump's inadequate resume will make no difference. Nor will it make any difference to the Hillary haters.
The sadness in all this is that it won't make any difference to almost all of the leaders and elected officials of the Republican Party. Few if any will listen to South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham's lonely voice of reason.
"This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy," Graham said of Trump's attack on Federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel. "If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it. There'll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary."
If Hillary had made comments as explosive as Trump's Republicans would be falling over each other as they rushed to microphones to declare her unfit for office. But, as Thomas L. Friedman pointed out in his Wednesday New York Times column, they have abandoned any principles they might have had:
"It (the Republican Party) is just an empty shell, selling pieces of itself to the highest bidders, -- policy by policy -- a little to the Tea Party over here, a little to Big Oil over there, a little to the gun lobby, to antitax zealots, to climate-change deniers. And before you know it, the party stands for an incoherent mess of ideas unrelated to any theory of where the world is going or how America actually becomes great again in the 21st century."