There’s a fun moment, back in the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where Bill Clinton is doing his job as his party’s Explainer-in-Chief. He’s talking about the Romney/Ryan attacks on Obama for “robbing Medicare.” He explains how Obamacare does not, in fact, rob the program, but that the legendary Ryan budget does punch a hole in Medicare. A suppressed-laughter tone creeps into his Bubba voice, and he says, “It takes some brass to attack a guy for doin’ what you did.”
As is often the case with Bill, he underlines a fundamental problem with the Republican Party: It takes some brass to attack a guy for doin’ what you did. Especially when that guy is Donald Trump, and what he’s doing is running the same party playbook you have for the last few decades — just louder, and dumber, and with fewer limits than a trust-fund kid in a fully insured rental car. Attacking Trump on the merits, as fellow Republicans are doing, takes massive, King Kong levels of brass — not just because Trump will keep raising the stakes in response, but because that kind of attack would be the biggest “WHY ARE YOU HITTING YOURSELF???” moment in GOP history.
Sure, Lindsey Graham and Rick Perry have some brass, but that’s just a symptom of a worse condition. Graham called Trump a jackass because he has a case of the vapors. First, Trump smeared John McCain, Graham’s heterosexual life partner in Mideast carpet bombing. Second, in some polls, Graham is registering at 0.0 percent. Factoring in the margin of error, it’s theoretically possible that Graham’s appeal is so low that some people might choose to die instead of voting for him. At this point, the best he can do is lay down suppressing fire for the future nominee and hope that, when they break through to the presidency, they make him Secretary of Forever War.
As for Perry, well, he’s also in danger of not polling well enough to join the grownups at the first GOP debate. Fox has decided that only those in the top-ten of poll results will take the main stage; everyone else has to sit at the kid’s table, and he’s in danger of being sandwiched there between Graham and Carly Fiorina, listening to George Pataki explaining that he’s pro-choice. Talk about the winner’s circle! Beyond that, all anyone knows about the guy is that he was on drugs during the 2012 primary, he wanted to eliminate three departments of the federal government so badly that he could only remember the names of two of them, and he got booed for saying it would be heartless not to offer in-state college tuition rates for children of undocumented immigrants in Texas. So attacking Trump with statements Perry clearly didn’t write himself only garners favorable writeups in blogs and maybe some screen time on Fox to bump those numbers. Besides, Trump attacked him for being soft on the border, then copped a lot of Perry’s old rhetoric about it. Again, attacking a guy for doin’ what you did.