Leftist commentators say failing to respond to Donald Trump constantly shows Republican presidential candidates will be soft on international baddies like Vladimir Putin. That’s nonsense.
Can the way a candidate handles Trump tell you something about how he will handle Putin? Liberal journalists have been asking this recently to discredit mainstream conservative candidates who are otherwise presumed to be strong on foreign policy.
Last week, the main super-PAC supporting Hillary Clinton released a television ad picking up on the theme. The clip likens the Republican candidates to pussycats and poses the question: “If they can’t even stand up to Donald Trump, why would anyone think they are strong enough to lead America?” But the answer to this rhetorical question might disappoint those hoping Trump’s bull in a China shop routine will take down the rest of the field.
Egging On the Fracas
Whether he is talking about Muslims, illegal immigrants, women, or just about any other subject, Donald Trump says outrageous things regularly. This pleases the media, not only because it boosts their ratings and allows them to signal their own virtue by condemning his every word, but because they realize that if Trump becomes the GOP nominee, Clinton will cruise to the White House. As pleasant as this situation is for them, they also understand that they need to hedge their bets and focus some attention on why we should despise the other Republican candidates just as much as they do Trump.
Some pundits have discovered that Trump himself is the best weapon to use against the Republican field. It is an easy formula: goad a candidate into attacking Trump, then sit back and enjoy Trump’s counter-attack. If the candidate does not take the bait, attack the candidate for not having the courage to fight Trump. They are like that kid in the schoolyard trying to stir up a fight: “You going to let him get away with saying that? Bok, bok, bok! Chicken!”
Peter Beinart of The Atlantic best typifies this special brand of punditry. He calls the Republican candidates—all of them—“political cowards” for not expressing adequately heartfelt disapproval of Trump. “Bush, Kasich, and the other GOP candidates won’t clearly repudiate Trump because they’re afraid of angering his voters,” writes Beinart. “They’re also afraid of angering him.”
Taken as sincere claims, Beinart’s assertions are demonstrably false. Many candidates have vigorously denounced Trump. Sen. Rand Paul has called Trump a clown, and relentlessly attacked him to kick off the first debate. Ohio Gov. John Kasich took a similar approach, denouncing Trump as an unserious candidate in the third debate. Beinart’s own article references a Kasich ad comparing Trump to Hitler.
Scott Walker and Rick Perry have already fallen on their swords and suspended their campaigns largely as a consequence of attacking Trump. Before his exit, Walker had this to say of Trump: “He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued.” He didn’t exactly mince words.
Respond to Trump 24/7 Or You’re Not Serious, Like Me
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