Rick and Pam and Marco must be wondering what they hell they’ve gotten themselves into. I know the feeling. Like back when I was a teenager and found myself in a car driven by a wild-eyed kid careening down the highway, oblivious to my panicked shouts, “Slow down! Be careful!”
Scott and Bondi and Rubio packed up their political ambitions and hitched a ride with Donald Trump weeks ago, no doubt assuming that with his Republican presidential nomination secured, the candidate would steer his campaign onto a more traditional, careful, consensus-building course.
Not hardly. Trump has only grown more reckless, veering off on such weird tangents that congressional Republican leaders seem stunned. Especially after Trump’s unpresidential, downright unseemly reaction to the Orlando massacre.
Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to defend Trump, that Senate Whip John Cornyn told reporters he was done talking about Trump until after the election. Sen. Bob Corker, frequently mentioned as Trump’s possible running mate, lamented that Trump “continues to be discouraging.”
Trump resurrected his promise to ban all Muslims entry into the U.S., which prompted Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republican, to once again denounce the notion. “There’s a really important distinction that every American needs to keep in mind: This is a war with radical Islam. It’s not a war with Islam,” Ryan said.
Trump not only has been railing about immigrants but American citizens whose parents were immigrants, like Indiana-born U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel who is presiding over the lawsuit against Trump University. This has to be disconcerting for a governor and attorney general in a state like Florida, where immigrant families are a powerful constituency. And for Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants himself.
After the horrors unfolded in Orlando, Trump again blurred the distinction between immigrants and their American-born citizen children. He suggested Monday that the killings were the product of a faulty immigration system “with no system to vet” new arrivals. Politifact rated that false. Besides, Omar Mateen, was an American citizen. (Yet, the next day, Gov. Rick Scott was in Orlando, parroting Trump’s complaints, “We’re not vetting these people.”)
Sen. Rubio’s plenty nimble enough of a politician to dance around Trump’s erratic embarrassments. Attorney General Bondi has her own contradictions to worry about. But this has got to be maddening for the very reserved Gov. Scott, whose temperament is the utter opposite of the volatile Trump.
Scott never goes off message. Never rants. Never veers off into vulgar asides or personal insults or misogynistic rants or petty revenge. He can seem devoid of human warmth, but Rick Scott never descends into crazy talk. Yet he has hitched a ride with his polar opposite.
He would have done better following the example of Florida’s other powerful Republican political leader. Last month, former Gov. Jeb Bush refused to endorse his party’s presidential candidate, saying Trump “has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character.”
You could almost imagine Rick, Pam and Marco anxiously looking back toward Jeb as the Trump bandwagon sped away, hurrying toward political catastrophe.