Let us please stop pretending Trump suddenly began being outrageous and offensive June 16, 2015, when he declared his candidacy for president. He has been leading the birther movement against President Obama and frothing at the mouth against immigrants for years. All you have to do is peruse his Twitter feed. He has taken any available platform to wage ad hominem attacks on just about everybody.
It's a rite of passage to be insulted by Donald Trump. I've heard his rambling rants many times over many years, at political cattle calls like CPAC
and the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit. Most of these have been live-streamed and widely covered in the media. Other people may get fired, lose endorsements, be excoriated by society because they have said something offensive or posted a hateful tweet. Until now, not Trump.
Many have laughed off his behavior or ignored it because, you know, he has money, and he's entertaining, and a celebrity, and it's part of his shtick. Corporations have carried his products -- Macy's, I'm talking to you. Networks like Univision and NBC have broadcast his shows and pageants. Elected officials have given him keys
to their cities. Politicians have taken his donations. All of it has contributed to pump up his brand, ego and pocket book.
Now all of a sudden, people and corporate America is shocked and repulsed by what he represents. Really?
Donald Trump hasn't changed. What has changed is that there has been massive media coverage and a strong call to action by a unified Hispanic community. Hispanic leaders are now calling on other Republican candidates to condemn Donald Trump's comments.
Some people don't feel Republicans have been strong enough in denouncing Trump. With some exceptions, there's some truth to that.
It is also true that of all the major candidates running for president in either party, the candidate who appears to have the closest and friendliest
relationship with him is none other than Hillary Clinton. She received multiple political contributions from Trump. Donald Trump gave a five-figure donation to the Clinton Foundation.
None of the Republicans running for president attended Trump's wedding. But Hillary Clinton was sitting in the front pew
during the ceremony and Bill Clinton joined her at the reception to celebrate Trump's third nuptials. This weekend in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton was asked to comment on Trump. She declined and ate some pie,
At last count, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie have all distanced themselves
from Trump's comments. They've said he's wrong, that he's not representative of Republican values and that his comments are divisive. Marco Rubio is the child of immigrants. Jeb Bush fell in love with a Mexican woman when he was 17 and has been married to her for over 41 years. He said
he found Trump's comments personally offensive.
That they have to respond to Trump's racist, anti-immigrant comments is ludicrous. But alas, respond they must.
Republican candidates have not called for Trump to apologize. The problem is that engaging Trump, only gives him more relevancy. He feeds off publicity. Credible candidates in their right mind don't want to spend time talking about Donald Trump. They're running for president! They should be talking about important national policy issues.
However, this snowball has now been forming for three weeks and it is not going away and neither is Donald Trump. At least probably not until after the deadline to file his full financial disclosure. Unfortunately, that doesn't come until after the first couple presidential debates.
Complicating matters further for the Republican Party, Donald Trump has an inexplicably decent standing in several state and national polls. In some he is second only to Jeb Bush. (As a Jeb Bush supporter, I am grateful for this. I would consider leaving the house wearing a paper bag over my head if I was supporting a candidate who was trailing Trump.)
To put polls in context though, being in second place in what is expected to ultimately be a 16-person Republican field, means having about 12% support. He's not exactly leading by a country mile. Ironically, polls also show that out of all the candidates running, he is the most disliked
by Republican voters. Some 52% of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion of him and 59% say they would never vote for him. You can count me in that number.
My fingers twitch as I write this, but in all likelihood, Trump will participate in at least some of the Republican debates. Initially, my advice to other candidates would have been to not take his bait and ignore the guy. But because his outrageous comments have become so public, and because he is running as a Republican, it is important for other candidates who stand on that debate stage to show leadership by unequivocally batting down Trump's offensive comments.
Donald Trump is doing further harm to the Republican brand, not only with Hispanics but also with all Americans searching for civility and solutions. Having to deal with Trump in a debate will undoubtedly be an annoying distraction for most candidates. But it can also be an opportunity to show statesmanship by standing strongly against Trump's divisive, offensive and polarizing rhetoric.
I hope most candidates on that stage will take that opportunity. Just in case, I will keep that paper bag handy.