The appeal of Donald Trump’s bigoted comments has exposed an unpleasant truth about the Republican Party, which has been flirting with racism since Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy, but his refusal to toe the line on Israel also highlights the groveling by other candidates, notes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.
By Paul R. Pillar
With less than two months until the Iowa caucus opens the 2016 primary season, Donald Trump’s poll-leading candidacy continues to cause increasing anxiety among Republican Party leaders worried about how he can be stopped from actually getting the nomination.
Trump poses two overall problems for the party. One is how freely he insults, denigrates, and offends a variety of groups – to the extent that Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank flat-out calls him a bigot and a racist and criticizes other Republican candidates for being hesitant to call out Trump in the same way. The political problem for the party, of course, is that Trump’s ignoble attitudes in this respect will become associated with the party as a whole.
A second problem is in one sense a reverse of the first. It involves what Trump, in his unrestrained, not-according-to-script style, says that is distinctly different from what the other candidates are saying and what those differences imply about the other candidates. We saw an instance this week at a candidate forum held by the Republican Jewish Coalition, an important event in the “Sheldon primary,” in which most candidates are seeking the blessing and financial support of Mr. Adelson and other wealthy donors with inclinations similar to his.
Both of the leading outsider candidates made some headlines regarding foreign policy. In the case of Ben Carson it was the continued demonstration of his weak grasp of foreign affairs generally, with the main takeaway from his speech being his repeated mispronunciation of Hamas as “hummus.” In the case of Trump it was a couple of things he said, or didn’t say, about the important foreign policy issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
One was Trump’s refusal to say that Jerusalem should be recognized…