Trump’s last straw
It’s not enough for Republicans to denounce Trump’s latest outrage; for the sake of their party and their country, they must disavow his candidacy as well
We have long thought it could not be clearer that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was unfit to lead the nation. But the video released Friday showing a 2005 conversation Mr. Trump had with television host Billy Bush in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women, speaking about them in terms so lewd that we cannot begin to print them in this newspaper, should have been the final straw. Should have been, that is, if Mr. Trump had not managed to make things worse with a supposed apology that turned instead into a promise to attack Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton based on her husband’s decades-old infidelities. Prominent Republicans from across the nation have now called on him to drop out of the race so that he can be replaced with a more suitable nominee — perhaps his running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence.
We have no illusion, of course, that Mr. Trump will drop out. He has no sense of shame whatsoever, and he is surrounded by too many people who refuse to recognize his faults or cling to absurdly false equivalencies between his repeated disgusting behavior and Ms. Clinton’s occasional missteps. GOP bylaws leave no plausible way for Republicans to force him off the ticket, so there is little doubt that he will remain on the ballot. But every Republican candidate — up to and including Mr. Pence — now has the choice of whether to disavow him. Those who merely criticize his comments but continue to support him — people like House Speaker Paul Ryan — can no longer make any claim that they are put the nation’s honor above fealty to their political party.
It is true that the United States faces a wide array of issues bigger even than Mr. Trump’s ego. Tonight’s debate, a town hall-style encounter in which members of the public will select questions, including some determined through internet voting, was designed to move away from the intense focus on the candidates’ personal qualities and onto issues that have gotten short shrift, like Social Security and the environment. After eight years of partisan gridlock, we need to have an election that provides the nation with clear direction on issues like those. The editorial we planned to run today urged voters to take the chance to delve into such questions, but Mr. Trump has proven himself to be so flagrantly unsuited for the presidency that such a debate is simply not possible.
The president isn’t just the person who gives direction to America’s domestic and foreign policy. He or she must also be someone who exemplifies American values. Ms. Clinton’s most effective advertisements have been those showing children watching video clips of Mr. Trump insulting and degrading women, immigrants, Muslims, minorities and the disabled. How can we raise a generation of people who will honor and respect one another when we also elect a man who shows complete disregard for anyone other than himself?
Mr. Trump has given his fellow Republicans no end of opportunities to say enough is enough — his outrageous denigration of Mexicans as criminals and rapists; his despicable treatment of Fox News journalist Megyn Kelly after the first GOP primary debate; his racist insult to the integrity of an Indiana-born federal judge of Mexican descent; his unconscionable feud with a Gold Star family; his piggish and sexist treatment of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado. And now this, boasting that he can grope any woman he likes because of his wealth, power and fame. No one, not even his wife, can defend that. Republican officials must now grapple with this reality: If they’re not against him, they’re for him. History will be the judge.