The Republicans are trying out new branding and new colors for November. The Stupid Party has become the Pity Party. Hanging tough is too much trouble for gentlemen.
Republicans in the U.S. Senate are said to be "despondent" over their re-election prospects, and pundits looking for new ways to pile on Donald Trump are searching for synonyms for "despondent."
The Grumpy Old Party should cancel the newspapers, pull the plug on the television, turn off the Internet, take two extra-strength Midols and lie down for a nap. Even Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who wrote the book on courage and character under fire, resorts to refuge in the party's permanent campaign mantra: "Vote Republican. We're not as bad as you think."
There's a lesson here for those in the Pity Party who think deference and diffidence will make a partisan tormentor go easy. They should take a tip from the Democrats. They're stuck with a crook for a candidate, but they'll never tell. Sen. McCain fell into the media gaffe trap Thursday, speaking plain truth when he observed that President Obama is "directly responsible" for the massacre in Orlando because by deserting the battlefield to "lead from behind" he enabled the Islamic State to prosper on his watch.
When one of the reporters who talked to the senator in a corridor — Mr. McCain is nearly always willing to talk to reporters, unlike some of his colleagues — asked him if he really meant that the president was "directly" responsible, he said "yes," and explained the obvious: "He pulled everybody out of Iraq, and I predicted at the time that ISIS would go unchecked, and there would be attacks on the United States of America. It's a matter of record, so he is directly responsible."
The Democrats and others who faint at the sound of plain and simple language pounced. How dare he, when President Obama was at that very moment in Orlando assuring the friends and families of the dead, whom he had betrayed with his reluctance to fight, that the enormous Obama heart was just as broken as theirs. It was as if Sen. McCain had accused the president of reloading the pistol while Omar Mateen was firing away at the dancers with the assault rifle.
The lady running against the senator in November, Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, accused him of crossing "a dangerous line" at "the very moment the president was in Orlando to comfort victims' families." Sen. Harry Reid, who has just about run his course as the leader of the Democratic minority in the Senate, sent his press agent out to say that Mr. McCain's indictment of the president's misfeasance "is just the latest proof that Senate Republicans are puppets of Donald Trump."
Some of the Republicans in the Senate were eager to add to Democratic scorn for the Donald. Jeff Flake of Arizona was happy to total up the 16 million votes Mr. Trump won in the primaries and to point out with a certain glee that he'll need 65 million in November and isn't likely to get them. Susan Collins of Maine says she isn't sure she will vote Republican. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says America "will never win this war [against terrorism] without partners in the faith." Whose faith, he did not say. Bob Corker of Tennessee says "Trump continues to be discouraging."
Senators are human, too, and when the going gets tough it's only human to think of yourself first, as anyone on Capitol Hill would tell you (in deed if not in word), and as important as electing a president may be it pales against the importance of a senator getting himself re-elected. But they're oblivious of the obvious, that if Donald Trump goes down in a landslide that Republican senators help make, they'll go down with him.
Timid and frightened men never understand that if they'll hang you for stealing a goat, you might as well take a sheep.
Benjamin Franklin put it a little more elegantly in Philadelphia. "We must, indeed, all hang together," he told the delegates, "or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately." That
goes double and sometimes triple in mere campaign politics. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, unlike many of his Senate colleagues, thinks the Donald is right about radical Islam, though not about barring Muslims from the United States. "Sooner or later you have to say what the reality is. Radical Islam is responsible for destroying the country. As long as we have an administration that doesn't recognize that, we're at war, and everybody knows it but Hillary and Obama."
And, of course, the Pity Party.