Clearly, foreign-policy experts weren’t impressed when Donald Trump publicly called on Russia to intervene in the American presidential election. But what about Republican officials themselves?
NBC News’ Chuck Todd noted on the air yesterday, “What surprised me today is the lack of Republican outrage…. This is a violation of the sovereignty of this country.” The “Meet the Press” host added, in reference to GOP officials, “I’m surprised, frankly, that they haven’t dropped the hammer and sickle on him.”
Those who wondered whether Trump may have finally gone too far this time quickly learned, however, that Republican leaders would not let principle and propriety get in the way of partisanship. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), for example, made clear he’s sticking with Trump, even after yesterday’s jaw-dropping rhetoric.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said through a spokesperson, “Russia is a global menace led by a serious thug. Putin should stay out of this election.” The GOP leader was not, however, willing to comment on Trump’s remarks – which is no small detail given that the presidential hopeful, whom Ryan supports, pushed the opposite line yesterday.
And then there was Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), making the case yesterday that Trump will become more competent eventually. BuzzFeed reported:
“I view the Senate as a place that can always act as a check and balance on whoever the next president is,” Rubio said on WGN radio on Wednesday. “I also think there’s something to be said for, once you’re actually in that position, once you’re actually working at this thing, and you’re in there, and you start to have access to information that perhaps you didn’t have before, especially for someone that’s never been in politics, I think it starts to impact your views a little bit.”“And that’s my sense of it, as he settles into this role as the nominee and ultimately the president, access to these issues is going to begin to, in some ways, kind of shape some of the policy positions given reality versus perhaps what you might read about on a blog somewhere.”
As BuzzFeed’s report added, Rubio went on to say it’s an “open question” whether Trump will become more informed on the issues.
If this was intended as some kind of praise, it fell far short. Rubio, who said as recently as last month that Trump cannot be trusted with the country’s nuclear weapons codes, effectively argued that his party’s presidential nominee simply isn’t prepared to hold national office – but Americans should take a chance anyway and hope that Trump figures it out later.
For that matter, what does it say about Rubio that he’s endorsing Trump, even as he acknowledges Trump doesn’t know what he’s saying?
The broader point, of course, is that too many Republican officeholders continue to work from the assumption that partisanship must come first. Business Insider’s Josh Barro said yesterday, after Trump’s bizarre press conference, “This is a manifestly dangerous man and I am so angry at the people who decided they must support him for partisan reasons.”
For those who disagree, and say there still some lines the 2016 nominee cannot cross, the question requires an answer: where exactly are these lines? What would Donald J. Trump have to do in order for Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, John McCain, et al, to announce, “I just can’t stick with him anymore, partisanship be damned”?
Is there a breaking point? Is Trump close to it?