It was in late June when Rep. David Valadao did something that so many other Republicans have refused to do. He withdrew his support of then-presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“I’ve just been sitting back and watching,” the Hanford congressman said at a Fresno Chamber of Commerce breakfast. “I think it’s just been the campaign in general.” He just couldn’t endorse a candidate who “denigrates people based on their ethnicity, religion or disabilities.”
Credit Valadao for having the smarts and the political courage to put principles before party. Other Republicans, to their credit, have spoken out and are leaving Trump to fend for his own bizarre, erratic self.
Among those on this GOP honor roll: 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former presidents George W. and George H.W. Bush, the governors of Ohio, Massachusetts, Michigan and Maryland; senators Jeff Flake (Arizona), Mark Kirk (Illinois), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Dean Heller (Nevada) and Ben Sasse (Nebraska). In the House, representatives from New York, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Virginia and Missouri have refused to endorse him or backed away.
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In addition, other California Republicans have joined Valado, including former gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman and Sen. Anthony Cannella of Ceres.
But others – such as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakerfield and Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock – have dodged questions or just weaseled, issuing statements that condemn Trump’s words but uphold their support.
What will it take for more rank-and-file Republicans to back away from Trump? We’re waiting for the answer. For the past two weeks, the real estate magnate has been on a particularly despicable tear, saying and doing things once unthinkable for a presidential candidate.
There’s the Gold Star family he has attacked, cruelly belittling the Muslim parents of an American soldier, Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed while protecting his soldiers in Iraq.
There’s Russia, an adversary that has garnered not only Trump’s praise, but his ignorance. His responses to questions about Russia’s presence in Ukraine and the threat to neighboring Crimea were at best muddled, at worst dangerous.
And Tuesday, Trump childishly retaliated against the scorn he’s received for those actions. He singled out House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. John McCain, both of whom have issued stinging rebukes, saying he won’t support them in their upcoming primary elections.
This from the man who wants to be the commander in chief of the U.S. military and leader of the free world. He wants to be the face of the United States – and, again on Tuesday, he derisively kicked a mother and her baby out of one of his rallies. “I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking,” he told the crowd.
These aren’t minor gaffes. They’re character-defining moments that offer a glimpse of a man with poor judgment, questionable moral fiber and zero control of his mouth.
Even Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, has had a tough time defending him. Pence’s son is a Marine.
President Barack Obama was right to call out the Republican Party’s hypocrisy Tuesday. Echoing comments from outgoing Rep. Richard Hanna, a Republican from New York, Obama declared Trump “unfit” and “woefully unprepared to be president.”
Republicans can’t un-nominate Trump, but faced with his cruel antics, they can certainly do more than straddle a fence. This guy’s a bully, and being afraid to stand up to him is no badge of honor.