Fox’s Howard Kurtz has zeroed in on two of the Establishment GOP’s favorites to illustrate the meltdown the Establishment is having over Donald Trump. One would be ex-Bush 43 speechwriter Michael Gerson, the other ex-Eric Cantor and RNC spokesman Doug Heye.
Gerson’s meltdown was front and center in the Washington Post, with the title:
Trump’s nomination would rip the heart out of the Republican Party
Not to be outdone, ex-RNC and Cantor spokesman Heye penned this missive that Kurtz noticed over at the Independent Journal. Heye announced:
As a Republican Operative, Here’s Why I Won’t Support Trump If He Is The Nominee
Well. The world ends.
While Gerson goes on with the usual mush that resulted in George W. Bush leaving the White House with a 22% approval rating, Heye takes this kind of furious muddle another step further. Among other gems issuing from this Establishment stalwart was this:
Because of Trump’s perversion of conservatism, along with the devastating impact he would have if nominated, I cannot support Donald Trump were he to win the Republican nomination.
Let me understand this. Here are two guys who have been participants in a presidency and a GOP congressional leadership that have proved to so wildly unpopular that the first winds up electing Barack Obama and the second becomes the first House Majority Leader to ever get dumped by his own voters in a party primary. And they think Trump would have a “devastating impact… if nominated” because he, Trump, who had zero role in the Bush presidency or the Cantor leadership, is guilty of a “perversion of conservatism.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
One would think both men — and to be fair, they are far from alone saying the kind of things they are saying — would have learned something from these defeats. But, alas, no.
Read Heye and you hear this:
A supporter and donor to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, a candidate who has called for single payer universal healthcare, and flippantly confuses their position on abortion is no conservative and has no business being the stalwart of the Republican Party. Nominating him could cause an existential danger for the party.
Similarly, a candidate whose rhetoric has rightfully drawn comparison to extremist candidates in foreign countries, including Marine Le Pen in France, and earned criticism from our staunchest allies, while gaining praise from worldwide menace Vladimir Putin, and who cannot name military advisors other than those he watches on television, is dangerous to the United States and the world at a time when the world is at risk.
Donald Trump as the Republican nominee would be catastrophic for Republican hopes to win the White House and maintain control of the Senate and would damage the party and the conservative cause for years to come. His having the legitimacy that comes with the nomination of a major political party would cause greater instability throughout the world at a time when the world looks to America for leadership that is serious and sober.
One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry at Heye’s apparent unawareness that a version of this could have been said — and in fact was said — when Ronald Reagan came onto the scene. Reagan had been a staunch supporter of Harry Truman in 1948 — and yes indeed, Truman was a big supporter of single-payer health care. Reagan signed a pro-choice abortion bill into law as California governor — which he later regretted, but that he did it is beyond dispute. And whether he realizes it or not, Heye echoes exactly all the Establishment GOP criticisms of Reagan, Gerald Ford, Nelson Rockefeller, Charles Percy among others insisting that Reagan was a far-right extremist who could never win a presidential election and would in fact be the beginning of the end of the GOP if nominated. History, to say the least, shows otherwise.
But history — whether their own, or Reagan’s, or Trump’s — never matters to these Establishment guys. The other night I appeared on CNN with Mr. Heye, who, among things, absurdly cast Trump as a racist for raising the Ted Cruz . “natural born citizen” issue. For the record, I believe Cruz is qualified to be president. The point at issue, however, is different — the point being are there those out there who would mount a legal challenge to Cruz were he nominated? Answer: indubitably yes, Florida’s nitwit Congressman Alan Grayson . already promising a “beautiful lawsuit.” How far Grayson or anyone else would get I have no idea — although I think they would (and should!) lose in the end. But try to bring down Cruz if nominated in this fashion? Believe it. The try will be made.
Tellingly, when I pointed out that the so-called “birther” issue has been around for well over a century — the GOP’s Chester Alan Arthur was accused by Democrats of having been born not in Vermont but across the border in Canada (shades of Ted Cruz!). Heye’s response was that he, Heye, wasn’t around in 1880 when the challenge to then-GOP VP candidate Arthur was raised. Well, gee. As if history simply doesn’t matter if you weren’t alive at the time. Hello? Neither Heye nor I were around for the Civil War either but it is always, um, helpful to understand American history and that some things, in this case “birtherism,” are not only not new, they are hardly racist. Candidates Arthur, Barry Goldwater, George Romney, John McCain, and Barack Obama were all hit with some version of this, with another almost-ran — Connecticut’s Paris-born-to-American-parents Senator Lowell Weicker briefly considering a run in 1976. That’s five guys — four of them white. Racism? Not only an absurd accusation but bizarre — yet typical of the first reflex of Establishment Republicans to parrot Democratic Party talking points.
There is a real irony here. To wit?
What we have in this cycle are Establishment Republicans — and again, to be fair, Gerson and Heye are far from alone — who are furious about the nomination of someone who is outside their circles. Their predecessor Establishment ancestors simply could not abide Reagan. In the day he was accused of being an extremist, a war-monger, the guy who would destroy the Republican Party if he ever got nominated. And those were the nicer things. Suffice to say, the historical record is the opposite.
The real problem here is that the GOP Establishment, as Ted Cruz continually points out, keeps following the path of “Democrat-lite,” an obsession that goes back to the days of Thomas E. Dewey and before. And as much as they don’t like to face the fact — the Establishment keeps losing… and losing… and losing and losing.
Destroy the GOP? No one has done a better job of this than the GOP Establishment. This week President Obama will give his last State of the Union speech, doubtless using part of his speech to discuss his legacy. There will be one unmentioned fact. The Obama presidency itself is the GOP Establishment’s legacy to America, a legacy produced exactly by the kind of thinking Gerson and Heye are pushing still today.
Some things never change.