John has suggested that the White House’s call on Republican presidential candidates to say they won’t support Donald Trump is an attempt to prompt Trump to run as a third-party candidate, thereby all but guaranteeing a Democratic victory in 2016. John may be right. He certainly is right if the White House thinks it can goad serious Republican candidates into breaking their pledge to support Trump if he’s the nominee.
However, I doubt that Team Obama believes it can accomplish this. Surely the White House understands that a GOP candidate who showed any sign of unwillingness to oppose Hillary Clinton’s candidacy next year would, to use Josh Earnest’s word, “disqualify” himself (or herself) from the Republican nomination. Thus, I believe the White House understands that the serious, and even half-serious, members of the GOP field will decline its invitation to renounce Trump in this manner.
Why, then, does the White House call on Republican candidates say they wouldn’t support Trump in the general election? I think it is just trying to make these candidates look bad. It hopes to persuade some voters who might vote Republican next year that, as Earnest put it, “if [GOP candidates] are so cowed by Mr. Trump and his supporters that they’re not willing to stand by the values enshrined in the Constitution, then they have no business serving as president of the United States themselves.”
Will the White House’s campaign succeed? I doubt it. Some voters may recoil from the Republican nominee (assuming it’s not Trump) out of disgust over Trump. But they won’t do so because President Obama says they should. Voters recognize the inherent partisanship of such comments. Thus, even popular Democratic presidents aren’t taken seriously by potential Republican voters when they pass judgment on GOP candidates (and visa versa). And Obama is not a popular president.
Indeed, it took some nerve for Obama’s PR flack to instruct the GOP field that Trump is disqualified from the presidency because his positions are inconsistent with “the values enshrined in the Constitution.” After all, Earnest’s boss issues executive orders that are inconsistent with the system of government established by the Constitution and a dereliction of his duty to faithfully execute the laws.
As for Hillary Clinton, whom Obama is telling Republican candidates they should not oppose if Trump is the Republican nominee, it seems to me that her reckless and almost surely unlawful handling of information relating to national defense “disqualifies” her from serving as president. So does her lawless destruction of government records.
But I’m a partisan. I don’t expect Democrats to take seriously my conclusions as to the fitness of Obama and Clinton for the presidency.
Obama and his PR guy are even more partisan. They should not expect non-Democrats to take their views about the Republican field seriously.