Tuesday, May 10, 2016

GOP’s boat ride into darkness

"The horror. The horror. . ." – closing lines from "Apocalypse Now."

I didn't think of contrasting the Republican Party's current situation with Francis Ford Coppola's movie masterpiece until the New York Times editorialized about Donald Trump's ascendancy and the Republican Party's "trek into darkness."

"Apocalypse Now," based on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," is about a mission to take out a commander in Vietnam's deep jungles who has gone off his nut. GOP tacticians now face the sweaty reality that, unlike in the movie, they botched the mission.

Talk about brutal reviews:

"To say Trump is bad for the Republican Party is like saying a flood is bad for your basement" – USA Today.

We don't expect "fair and balanced" from Huffington Post. However, it's a footnote for history books that the mother of all news blogs in 2016 has begun appending all HuffPost-generated stories about Trump with the following editor's note:

"Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims – 1.6 billion members of an entire religion – from entering the U.S."

To which Trump will say: "Yes, and . . . ?"

Into this, let me introduce a parlor-game question for those seeking to wrap their heads around this political moment.

The question: Is Trump as its nominee worse for the Republican Party than Trump as president would be for the country?


Understand, even now a Trump presidency is no more likely than when it was when he was firing people on NBC weeknights. But let's just hypothesize, here.

If we do hypothesize, it's clear that Trump is worse for the Republican Party than for the nation as president. And the latter would be a horror.

The reason for this is that, as the nominee, Trump inflicts damage on his party every day with every word and gesture, like his #CincoDeMayo! "I love Hispanics" tweet showing him and a taco bowl. Holy frijoles.

By contrast, a lot of what Trump says he'd do as president – all right, most of it -- he can't do.

Take, for example, his vow to "open up libel laws" to allow newsmakers to sue reporters.

If Trump knew a thing about press law, he'd know that the Supreme Court set a very high bar for lawsuits by newsmakers in Sullivan vs. New York Times in 1964.

The court said that, absent of "actual malice," news organizations couldn't be sued over statements about public figures. The court said that to do otherwise would be to stifle an inquisitive, if fallible, press.

He can't overturn firmly established press law unless he "fires" the Supreme Court.

Neither can he do all sorts of things he's said he would, like build the Trump Wall – at least not without money from Congress. (Oh, I forgot. Mexico is going to pay for it.)

True, Trump's cinder-block dream might be possible with a tea party-controlled Congress. However, as we speak, his presumptive nomination is sapping the Republicans of their chances of holding onto the Senate.

Indeed, Politico says that with Trump atop the ticket, something considered unimaginable – flipping the GOP-controlled House this year – is far from a flight of fantasy.

No question: Trump is far more dangerous to his party than to the country he wants to lead. The latter is true, in part, because polls indicate how few Americans want him to lead them, and, in part, because even if he were elected we have separation of powers and finely honed checks and balances.

Someone should have informed the man before he decided to run.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: jyoungcolumn@gmail.com.

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