Trying to out-Trump Trump? That way madness lies — Bill Schneider

AUG 6 — Why have Republican politicians gone crazy?

Thirty years ago, Ronald Reagan declared, “It’s morning in America.” Now it’s crazy time in America.

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was the first to notice. After Donald Trump held a massive rally to scapegoat illegal immigrants, McCain said, “ fired up the crazies.” There must be a lot of crazies running around. The latest polls all show Trump as the frontrunner for the 2016 Republican nomination.

Trump then insulted McCain, saying, “He’s not a war hero.” Trump has preferred to call McCain, with his impeccable outer-borough diction, “a losah,” adding, “I don’t like losahs.”

After that, it was open season for craziness. Having revealed that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) had once called him to ask a favor, Trump gave out Graham’s personal cellphone number and told his supporters to call it - and presumably harass the senator. Trump ridiculed former Texas Governor Rick Perry’s personal appearance, saying he started wearing glasses “so people will think he’s smart.”

The craziness in the Republican race is not confined to Trump. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that if the nuclear deal with Iran goes through, “it will make the Obama administration the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism.” In an outrageous violation of Senate decorum, Cruz called his own party’s majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a “liar.”

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, meanwhile, charged that President Barack Obama “would take the Israelis and basically march them to the door of the oven.” Huckabee violated Rule No. 1 of political discourse: Nothing is analogous to the Holocaust.

Why have Republican politicians suddenly gone crazy? One key reason is that the first debate is coming up, and there are 17 Republican contenders. Fox News, which is hosting the debate, says it will invite only the 10 top-ranked candidates in the polls to be on the big stage. It is holding a separate, earlier debate among the lower-ranked candidates - the junior-varsity debate.

The also-rans are desperate for publicity to give them a boost in the polls. As one CNN reporter explained it, “There’s this Trump effect going on with some of these candidates where they want to say things and double-down on them to get some attention.”

Trump is gaining support by saying what former Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank once called “not-sa-pos-tas.” Trump says things you’re “not-sa-pos-ta” say if you want to be a viable candidate. Like insisting Obama’s birth certificate is a fake. And Latino immigrants are rapists.

Billionaire investor Mark Cuban, a Trump supporter, explains the Trump effect this way: “I don’t care what his actual positions are. I don’t care if he says the wrong thing. He says what’s on his mind. He gives honest answers rather than prepared answers. This is more important than anything any candidate has done in years.”

Trump is unscripted. He exudes authenticity. His spokesman put it this way: “He’s not a politico. He doesn’t purport to be a politico.”

Trump didn’t create the conservative movement. The conservative movement created him. Conservatives are hungry for a leader who’s not a politician and who exudes authenticity. They demand confrontation.

Conservatives are in open revolt against the Republican Party leadership. Republican leaders are trying to prove they can govern now that they have a majority in Congress. Governing means coalition building. Coalition building means compromise. Conservatives won’t stand for it. “The Republican Party in Washington,” Fox News host Sean Hannity charged, “is a carbon copy of the Democratic Party.”

Here’s Obama’s explanation for the epidemic of craziness in the Republican Party: “Maybe this is just an effort to push Mr. Trump out of the headlines.” Actually, other candidates are trying to imitate Trump and grab a piece of the action. But you can’t imitate authenticity.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the only Republican contender willing to take Trump on. Bush offers an eloquent defense of compromise and coalition building: “We need men and women of good will forging consensus, starting to solve problems, kind of building back the muscles of consensus, compromise and solution-finding . . . . Apparently that is dangerous in a Republican primary.”

Yes, it is. Which is why Trump is leading Bush by better than two-to-one in the polls. Where will it all end? It will end when Republicans begin to take notice of the polls showing that Trump won’t beat Hillary Clinton. He won’t even beat Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. According to RealClearPolitics, no Republican is beating Clinton right now - but Trump, by far, does the worst. Clinton leads Trump by an average of 15 points in the polls. She leads Bush by three.

Crazy time will end as soon as Republicans discover that Trump is “a losah”. — Reuters

* Bill Schneider is professor of public and international affairs at George Mason University.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.