Does he know what ‘crooked’ means?

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Concord, N.C., Monday, March 7, 2016.
Associated Press / Gerry Broome

Now that Donald Trump’s outwitting whatever constitutes the Republican “establishment” is complete, the party is forced to look in the mirror and behold the ghastly image staring back. They would shrug it off simply as democracy in action, that they’ve settled on this narcissist, unabashed racist and altogether contemptible figure as their ablest White House prospect. Which should automatically have made effective an edict (if one existed) that further usage of the expression “party of Lincoln” be forthwith forbidden. You know there’s something radically amiss with any invoking of Lincoln by the current GOP bunch when the party winds up with Trump and Ted Cruz as the options from which would come the pick of the 2016 litter.

The nomination quest of John Kasich is as instructive a barometer as there is of why the Republican Party looks right now fixing to be in abject disarray. That the more centrist Kasich — who has been shown in polls to be a more competitive GOP opponent for Democrats than either Trump or Cruz — has won but a single primary, is indicative of the strong rightward pull that steers the GOP. But its ideological moorings aside, a party which allows Trump’s xenophobic blasts against Mexicans and Muslims, to name just two, to go unchallenged, as we’ve said here before, is a party whose moral underpinnings are very much open to question.

Republican National Chairman Reince Preibus has intimated, quite troublingly, that there’s pretty much an open door respecting who can enter the GOP nomination stakes. It means that David Duke of KKK fame, who was a Trump endorser, could just as well have been a candidate himself. As could, presumably, any big cheese in the American Nazi Party. If a so-called national party has no mechanism currently for denying entry to undesirables on that order, maybe the Trump experience of 2016 gets them back to the drawing board to set down a marker against conduct that’s unarguably beyond the pale…if they have any real desire to avert more Trump-like scenarios.

But for now the GOP game plan for re-taking the presidency revolves around Trump. And it’s left to be seen how much stock one ought place in reports that have circulated about Trump being advised by minions to begin acting “presidential.” Where, we wonder, did those alleged words of wisdom land, given the relentless flow of oafish behavior emanating from this guy? Upon whose advice, if not his own, did he begin referring to Hillary Clinton as “crooked,” for instance? Maybe it’s because he continues to be surrounded in his little empire by a cadre of fawning “yes men” that no one apparently bothered to tell him how awkward it would be going down that road while, to cite one example, there have been multiple legal actions surrounding some gullible folk being fleeced by a curiosity called Trump University, with Trump and confederates being called out along the way by state authorities for misrepresentation with respect to use of the “university” term. If there is anyone on the planet who is justified in referring to Clinton as “crooked,” it’s pretty clear Trump doesn’t come anywhere close.

Also included in the Trump attack strategy against his presumptive opponent, apparently, is a regurgitation of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky episode. It takes an inflated ego like Trump’s to ignore that at the height of the Lewinsky cause celebre Clinton had a job approval rating of approximately 70 percent; that under Clinton’s presidency was when the federal budget last reported a surplus; that the post-presidential Clinton for years polled as the most popular political figure in the country. It could only be a level of hubris in this joker that defies measurement, that he could think to re-shape public opinion on one of the more successful presidential tenures of recent history.

It would surprise us not one bit if Trump saw his running for and becoming president as no different from another business deal — acquiring a tract of land here or a reality show there. It is, of course, a very flawed assumption on his part. There are, to be sure, any number of simpletons in the general population for whom the Trump antics amount to presidential readiness. But this country has shown itself ready, when the occasion demands it, to summon its better self. Unease now infecting the very Republican ranks that Trump supposedly represents underscores a determination in the wider electorate to attach to the presidency a sophistication that obviously eludes candidate Trump.

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