You know, some days I almost feel sorry for the Republicans. Almost. Not only has the increasingly inevitable march of Donald J. Trump to the leadership of the party become a massive embarrassment to them, but it’s also robbed them of some of their most beloved talking points.
Some things that Republicans can no longer do, thanks to Trump (at least without people laughing in their faces):
— The can’t say they won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because she’s a “liar.”
Just last week, three reporters from Politico fact-checked 4.6 hours of Trump speeches. They found “more than five dozen statements deemed mischaracterizations, exaggerations, or simply false.” It equates, they said, to “roughly one misstatement every five minutes on average.”
I noted a couple of weeks ago that the fact-checking site Politifact looked at 70 Trump statements and found more than three-quarters of them false, rating them from “mostly false” to “pants on fire” false.
Clinton’s gotten called out on some whoppers. I’ve mocked her myself, for example, over her claim to have come under sniper fire in Bosnia. But Trump lies so consistently and so shamelessly that yet another site, Factcheck.org, stated: “In the 12 years of our FactCheck.org’s existence, we’ve never seen his match. He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims, but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.”
And that was just at the end of 2015, before Trump really got wound up. Donald Trump is to lying what the Grand Canyon is to holes in the ground.
— They can’t claim that they’re voting for the GOP’s nominee because it’s the “conservative party.”
Hardly a day goes by now that we don’t see another story about how “conservatives are trying to come up with a plan to stop Trump.” One after another, conservatives have lined up to point out that Trump’s support of Obama’s stimulus programs and bailouts and his implied promise to concentrate more and more power in himself as president are not compatible with the idea of “small government” conservatism.
Trump’s also said he’s not going to touch so-called “entitlements” like Social Security and Medicare. The right-wing National Review, founded by no less a conservative icon than William F. Buckley himself, devoted an entire issue to refuting the idea of Trump as a conservative, even titling it “Against Trump.”
— They can’t complain about “liberal name-calling.”
This is one of the favorite comebacks against people who, like me, have been mocking the clown show the GOP and the right wing have been turning into over the past three decades. “All you can do is call people names!” they sniff.
Well, they’re about to nominate a man who’s made name-calling the linchpin of his campaign strategy. He’s chanted “Little Marco” at Rubio, called various opponents “losers,” “choke artists” and “liars,” and let’s not forget the charming things he says about women who don’t share his views or dare to challenge him.
— They can’t accuse anyone of “flip-flopping” on issues. Trump once supported a single-payer health system, which he now says he opposes. He once proposed a one-time 14.25 percent tax on wealthy Americans to pay off the national debt, which as late as August 2015 he was still calling “a very conservative thing,” even though he now opposes it. In other words, he was for higher taxes on the wealthy and single-payer health care before he was against them.
— They can’t mock anyone for saying that George W. Bush lied us into the Iraq War. The soon-to-be face at the top of the ticket said exactly that to Dubbya’s brother JEB! at one of the endless debates.
— They can’t call President Obama (or anyone else, for that matter) a “narcissist.” When asked by Joe Scarborough who he was consulting with on foreign policy so he’d be “ready on day one,” Trump’s answer was narcissism personified: “I’m speaking with myself, number one. Because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”
Barack Obama is pretty confident, but I’m willing to bet that he talks to more than just himself on foreign policy.
It goes on and on, as the Republican front-runner embraces the things Republicans claim to despise. It’s gotten to the point where there’s a simple one-word response to anyone who tries to trot out these aged but beloved chestnuts of wingnut rhetoric. Just say “Trump.” That’s all you need to say.
You might even call it playing the Trump Card.