Donald Trump is a self-evident disaster as Presidential candidate. Matthew Yglesias ponders what Republicans think they are doing backing him on vox.com.
This all raises the question (and not for the first time) of what it is all the Republican Party leaders — from Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to Scott Walker and Chris Christie and beyond — think they’re doing.
The best I’ve heard from party professionals is an optimism that Trump will rely on party networks to staff his administration, and is at least self-aware enough to recognize that he’s not really a policy guy. That’s fine for a House backbencher (who can take direction from leadership) or even for a Senator (who can rely on staff) but things like the Turkey coup are why it doesn’t work for a president. You can get some experts together and tell them to craft a basic Republican Party tax plan or a Democratic Party immigration plan or so on for a dozen other issues. The fact that Trump hasn’t bothered to do this should, I think, scare Republican leaders more than they admit. But it’s at least possible.
Yet this only takes you so far. Partisan and interest-group politics in the United States isn’t organized around how to respond to coups in Turkey or Chinese provocations in the South China Sea or a bus being used as a weapon to mow down French civilians or even a British referendum throwing financial markets into chaos.
At these moments of crisis, even a well-chosen team of well-informed experts is going to disagree. The president has to be able to talk things through, often quite quickly, start making decisions, and then start recalibrating those decisions as events play out.
If the people supporting Trump on Capitol Hill and in the media seriously think he’s up to the task, they are doing a good job of keeping that fact a secret while suppressing any evidence for it. What they mostly seem to be thinking is that Trump will probably lose, so they might as well play for the team while signaling quietly to reporters that of course they know he’s a disaster. That’s probably the smart, savvy bet. But it’s a risky one. Clinton’s lead in the polls isn’t that big. And it’s easy to imagine an international crisis atmosphere hurting the de facto incumbent.
In which case we’d all better hope Trump knows how to handle the fallout. But I, personally, have a hard time picturing it. Maybe you’ll have better luck.
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