In the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, an almost ridiculous 64% of Americans – nearly two-thirds of the country – said Donald Trump is not qualified to be president of the United States. That number is unheard of in modern history, and it creates a hurdle the Republican amateur will struggle to clear.
But before Trump can somehow try to convince the American mainstream he’s capable and fully prepared to lead the free world, he’ll first have to persuade the Republicans who are already supporting him.
On ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, host George Stephanopoulos asked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), in reference to Trump and the poll results, “Do you believe he’s qualified?” The GOP leader responded, “Well, look, I – I think there’s no question that he’s made a number of mistakes over the last few weeks. I think they’re beginning to right the ship. It’s a long time until November.”
It led to a rather striking exchange.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I didn’t hear you say whether you thought he was qualified.MCCONNELL: Look, I’ll leave that to the American people to decide…. The American people will be able to make that decision in the fall.
In theory, this should be the easiest question in the world for a politician – is your party’s presumptive presidential nominee qualified for the Oval Office – and yet, Mitch McConnell just couldn’t bring himself to lie about this on national television. If the senator said, “No, he isn’t,” then McConnell would have no choice but to withdraw his endorsement. If the Majority Leader said, “Sure, I think he is,” it would have been painfully obvious that McConnell didn’t believe his own rhetoric. So instead, we were treated to an awkward evasion about the most basic of election tests.
Watching McConnell squirm was a reminder that, for all of their various troubles, this is a problem Democrats simply don’t have. Hillary Clinton is running on a lifetime of public service, including experience as a former two-term senator and a former Secretary of State. No one feels the need to ask Dems whether they believe she’s prepared for the job because the answer is so obvious.
Even Bernie Sanders, at one of the more contentious moments in the race for the Democratic nomination, said “of course” Clinton is qualified to be president.
On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), in his first national television interview after breaking his word about his re-election plans, struggled with similar questions from host John Dickerson.
DICKERSON: The presidency on national security issues sometimes comes down to one person by themselves in a room alone, no matter how much advice they have gotten. On those tough decisions, whether it’s about the nuclear codes or about the other kinds of decisions a single president can make, do you think that Donald Trump has better character and judgment in those alone situations than Hillary Clinton?RUBIO: So, that’s the challenge Donald has over the next two, three months.DICKERSON: Well, what does Senator Rubio think?RUBIO: Well, but there’s a campaign. So, that’s what I’m going to watch now.
The senator knows the answer. He knows we know the answer. But partisanship won’t allow for candor.
It’s kind of sad to watch, actually.