All the king's men and all the king's horses and all the think tanks in the world will not be able to inject a serious debate about ideas into the upcoming presidential race if the current GOP front runner becomes the nominee.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is Todd Akin on steroids. The disastrous Mr. Akin, you recall, was the Missouri congressman who lost his bid to unseat the then-vulnerable Senator Claire McCaskill and in the process took several other Republican candidates with him, denying the party a majority in the Senate. This came to pass largely because of Akin's stupid remark about "legitimate rape."
Let's be perfectly honest: deep down, we all pretty much knew that poor old foot-in-mouth Todd Akin didn't seriously espouse the notion that some rapes are "legitimate" (whatever that might even mean). But he did say something breathtakingly callous. Before the "legitimate rape" interview, Akin was favored to win, but he lost handily to Ms. McCaskill and helped provide some grounding for the Democrats’ favorite campaign trope, that Republicans and conservatives are party to a “War on Women.” Women swept in President Obama, and you can bet Ms. Clinton is counting on women, and stirring the idea that Republicans more than just “don’t get it,” but are actively hostile to female advancement.
As far as I know, Donald Trump has never said that there is any such thing as a legitimate rape, but he has said disgusting things about women. Some Trump loyalists applaud him for bucking political correctness, which is certainly a worthy attribute, but this goes far beyond that, and reveals a coarseness and objectification of women that is off putting to just about everyone.
You've no doubt seen the attack ad by Our Principles PAC, founded by a former Mitt Romney insider, which features comments Trump has made about women over the years. I admit one or two of them have an element of humor but most are irredeemable. I don't care for Rosie O'Donnell but a president who stooped to calling her a "fat pig" is not something for which I would care either.
"You know, it really doesn't matter what they write as long as you've got a young and beautiful piece of ass," the Republican frontrunner told Esquire magazine in 1991. Shortly after the death of Princess Diana in 1997, Trump gallantly averred on shock jock Howard Stern's radio show (one of many such appearances) that he could have slept with the troubled princess.
Similarly creepy was the potential Republican standard bearer's appreciation of the sexual attractiveness of one of his own children. "If Ivanka weren't my daughter," Trump said, "I would perhaps be dating her." What kind of man thinks this, let alone says it?
As you know, Trump has said unflattering things about former presidential candidate and now highly effective Cruz surrogate Carly Fiorina's face, and also implied with graphic language that Fox News' Megyn Kelly asked him a tough question because of her menstrual cycle. During an Apprentice installment, Trump said to a woman, "That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees."
There is nothing in Trump private life to suggest that he is a misunderstood gallant with an unfortunate tendency to misspeak. Trump has been twice divorced and both divorces were tabloid extravaganzas. His divorce from Ivana Trump appeared timed to beat the clock--if they remained married much longer, she reportedly would have gotten more money under the terms of a prenup that had been negotiated several times, both before and after the marriage. The generous mogul had at one point demanded a "give-back" clause to make sure that the first Mrs. Trump didn't get to keep jewelry and other gifts. Far from being the great negotiator, by the way, Trump, represented by controversial lawyer Roy Cohn (whom the mainstream media will surely gleefully discover as soon as Trump has safely put away the nomination), did not get this. What a guy! But I am glad Ivana got to keep the bangles.
Many of us wrote an epitaph for the Left’s phony "war on women" rhetoric after Republicans fielded a strong group of candidates in the 2014 midterms and the Democrats' favorite slur got no traction. If Trump is the nominee, the "war on women" will be back with a vengeance. And this time there will be a degree of fairness in the charge. We don't know enough about Trump's policies to know if they would be as economically hurtful as traditional Democratic policies. But we know that in his private life he has waged a personal war on many women.
Republicans concerned about the electoral prospects of Trump if he is indeed the nominee should keep this in mind. Many Americans will just begin tuning into the election this summer, and this is what they will learn about the GOP candidate. Trump may be Teflon for his own supporters, but the GOP is certainly not, and may pay a high price for their association with such a man.