Rubio and Cruz Must Train Their Fire on Trump

Published February 24, 2016

National Review Online

Does the Republican field have the sense to change tactics when the very nature of the party and country are at stake?

Ted Cruz, who bears some responsibility for the rise of Trump, keeps aiming his Jimmy Swaggart–style pitch to the choir, unctuously proclaiming his status as truest, bluest conservative in the race, and as such the logical tribune of the grass roots. Cruz encouraged them to destroy the “Washington cartel,” and boy, did they listen — except not to his benefit. Irony: The greatest crony/corporate Democrat in America is alive, and Ted Cruz’s campaign is nearly dead.

Kasich and Carson are deaf to everything except their own egotism.

Unlike Cruz, Rubio didn’t spend months praising the semi-fascist joker in hopes that the “anti-establishment” vote would one day drop into his lap, but he didn’t attack him frontally either. He hopes that clearing the field of competitors will permit him to defeat Trump one-on-one because a majority of Republicans have voted not-Trump. But campaigns are dynamic. A winner attracts many opportunists, and Trump is on the verge of seeming unstoppable.

Those hoping that Trump will say or do something to disqualify himself have surely seen by now that we are in a new world. His gaffes (I don’t need to list them, do I?) have not hurt him. The more he vomits venom, the more free press he gets. While Cruz keeps impotently pounding Rubio as insufficiently harsh on immigration, a corrupt Democrat promising trade wars, universal health care, and war crimes is winning.

If ever there was a moment for a Republican establishment — a powerful cabal of donors, officeholders, and power brokers — to intervene, this would be it. Because if Trump is the Republican nominee, it spells the end of the party as a conservative vehicle. It will be transformed into a contemptible platform for the worst excesses of American life — using government for personal gain, bullying minority groups, undermining civil liberties, and enhancing centralized power even more than has been accomplished under Barack Obama. Deluded voters who imagine they are getting the anti-Obama by voting for Trump are in for the biggest disillusionment yet.

But, of course, the “Republican establishment” is not going to ride to the rescue, because it is itself mostly a shell. Money doesn’t buy elections (see Bush, Jeb), and there is no one behind the curtain.

I believe Rubio to be the most viable non-Trump candidate left. But above all, he and the others (who have plenty of money) must abandon the strategy of fratricide. The winner cannot rely on anti-Trump votes alone. He must undermine support for Trump.

Can’t be done? How about hasn’t been tried? Of the $215 million spent so far by super PACs this year, only 4 percent has been spent against Trump. It’s been the longest free ride in recent political history.

Trump is not strong, he’s frighteningly weak. He arguably suffers from narcissistic personality disorder – meaning his wobbly self-esteem needs constant mantra-like invocations of his own fabulousness and endless affirmation from others. He goes ballistic when suffering even the smallest slight. He’s an ignoramus. Ads should remind voters, for example, that he doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is. His whole foreign-policy experience is being on a TV show with Vladimir Putin, whom he praises because his pathetic need for approval utterly distorts his judgment. Putin said something nice about Trump, and Trump praises him in return. What’s a few murders between amigos? He is completely immoral, recommending torture and killing the wives and children of suspected terrorists.

Trump is a Clinton-class liar. Split screens ought to clarify that. He didn’t oppose the Iraq War. He was for it. He’s not self-funding his campaign. He’s collected millions in contributions. He evaded the draft and then offered that sleeping around and risking STDs was his “personal Vietnam.” He’s beyond vulgar. He complained publicly about his first wife’s breast implants. Nearly nude pictures of wife #3 are everywhere. Unlike, say Mitt Romney, whom Democrats effectively caricatured as a cruel business tycoon, Trump really is one. He has a history of paying off elected officials to get special treatment, stiffing business associates, and abusing those who work for him (such as the illegal-immigrant “Polish brigade” who helped build Trump Tower). He ran four businesses into bankruptcy and profited from a scam called Trump University that defrauded credulous people. He’s not a self-made man who “built a great company.” He inherited millions from his dad. That said, he’s almost certainly vastly exaggerating his net worth. Where are those tax returns? He donated more to the Clinton Foundation than to veterans’ charities. And how much of the money he collected for veterans at the Iowa stunt has been distributed?

That’s a start, gentlemen. There’s plenty more. The con man must be unmasked.

— Mona Charen is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Copyright © 2016

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