Trump’s can­di­dacy is chemo­ther­apy for GOP

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Ge­orge Will Colum­nist

What did Don­ald Trump have left to lose Sun­day night? His dig­nity? Please. His cam­paign’s theme? His Cleve­land con­ven­tion was a mini-Nurem­berg rally for Repub­li­cans whose three­word recipe for mak­ing Amer­ica great again was the shriek “Lock her up!” This pre­saged his Banana Repub­li­can vow to im­prison his op­po­nent.

The St. Louis fes­ti­val of snarls was pre­ceded by the re­lease of a tape that merely pro­vided re­dun­dant ev­i­dence of what Trump is like when he is be­ing his bois­ter­ous self. Nev­er­the­less, the tape sent var­i­ous Repub­li­cans, who un­til then had dis­cov­ered noth­ing to dis­qual­ify Trump from the pres­i­dency, into parox­ysms of the­atri­cal, tac­ti­cal and syn­thetic dis­may.

Again, the tape re­vealed noth­ing about this ar­rested-de­vel­op­ment ado­les­cent that to­day’s righ­teously re­coil­ing Repub­li­cans ei­ther did not al­ready know or had no ex­cuse for not know­ing. Be­fore the tape re­minded the patho­log­i­cally for­get­ful of Trump’s feral ap­petites and de­ranged sense of en­ti­tle­ment, the staid Econ­o­mist magazine, hold­ing the sub­ject of Trump at arm’s-length like a soiled sock, re­minded read­ers of this: “When Mr. Trump di­vorced the first of his three wives, Ivana, he let the New York tabloids know that one rea­son for the sep­a­ra­tion was that her breast im­plants felt all wrong.”

His sex­ual loutish­ness is a suf­fi­cient rea­son for de­feat­ing him, but it is far down a long list of suf­fi­cient rea­sons. But if it — rather than, say, his en­thu­si­asm for tor­ture even “if it doesn’t work,” or his ig­no­rance of the nu­clear triad — is re­quired to prompt some Repub­li­cans to have sec­ond thoughts about him, so be it.

For ex­am­ple, Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolinian seek­ing a third term, rep­re­sents a kind of Repub­li­can ju­di­cious­ness re­gard­ing Trump. Hav­ing heard the tape and seen Trump’s “apology” (Trump said, essen­tially: My naughty locker room ban­ter is bet­ter than Bill Clin­ton’s be­hav­ior), Burr solemnly said: “I am go­ing to watch his level of con­tri­tion over the next few days to de­ter­mine my level of sup­port.” North Carolini­ans will watch with bated breath as Burr, mea­sur­ing with a moral mi­crom­e­ter, care­fully cal­i­brates how to ad­just his sup­port to Trump’s un­fold­ing re­pen­tance. Burr, who is chair­man of the Se­nate Se­lect Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, has not re­ceived this nugget of in­tel­li­gence: Con­tri­tion is not in Trump’s reper­toire. Why should it be? His ap­petites, like his factoids, are self-le­git­imiz­ing.

Trump is a mar­velously ef­fi­cient acid bath, strip­ping away his sup­port­ers’ sur­faces, ex­pos­ing their skele­tal essences. Con­sider Mike Pence, a fa­vorite of what Repub­li­cans de­voutly praise as Amer­ica’s “faith com­mu­nity.” Some of its rep­re­sen­ta­tives, their cru­ci­fixes glit­ter­ing in the tele­vi­sion lights, are still earnestly ex­plain­ing the ur­gency of giv­ing to Trump, who agreed that his daugh­ter is “a piece of ass,” the task of im­prov­ing Amer­ica’s coars­ened cul­ture.

Be­cause Pence looks rel­a­tively pres­i­den­tial when stand­ing next to Trump — talk about defin­ing ad­e­quacy down — some Repub­li­cans want Trump to slink away, al­low­ing Pence to float to the top of the ticket and rep­re­sent Repub­li­can­ism res­ur­rected. This idea ig­nores a per­ti­nent point: Pence is stand­ing next to Trump.

He sali­vated for the priv­i­lege of be­ing Trump’s poo­dle, and he ex­presses his ca­nine de­vo­tion in rhetor­i­cal trea­cle about “this good man.” What would a bad man look like to pas­tor Pence?

To­day, how­ever, Trump should stay atop the ticket, for four rea­sons. First, he will give the na­tion the plea­sure of see­ing him join the one co­hort, of the many co­horts he dis­dains, that he most de­spises — “losers.” Sec­ond, by con­tin­u­ing to cam­paign in the spirit of St. Louis, he can re­mind the na­tion of the use­ful ax­iom that there is no such thing as rock bot­tom. Third, by per­se­ver­ing through Novem­ber 8 he can sim­plify the GOP’s qua­dren­nial ex­er­cise of writ­ing its post-cam­paign au­topsy, which this year can be pub­lished Novem­ber 9 in one sen­tence: “Per­haps it is im­pru­dent to nom­i­nate a ven­omous char­la­tan.” Fourth, Trump is the GOP’s chemo­ther­apy, a nause­at­ing but, if car­ried through to com­ple­tion, per­haps a cu­ra­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

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