New York Times reporter Jennifer Steinhauer gloated a little too obviously over the sight of GOP senators avoiding talking about Trump in Thursday’s “In G.O.P., Many Shades of Sentiment on Trump – ‘Never,’ ‘No Comment’ and a Fast Getaway.”
Steinhauer dwelled lovingly on the issue, devoting no less than five categories of Republican responses to Trump. One can hardly imagine the Times making such a concentrated effort to personally embarrass Democratic allies of Bill Clinton during the years of his scandal-stocked presidency.
His unrelenting stream of incendiary remarks have left horrified congressional Republicans divided into five loose categories about the problem that is Donald J. Trump.
There are the fast walkers -- like Senator Patrick J. Toomey, the endangered Republican from Pennsylvania -- who try to run briskly away from questions about the party’s presumed nominee for president. Mr. Toomey -- never the most loquacious lawmaker -- has mastered the art of twisting his face into a grimace and racing away from reporters before they can ask him about Mr. Trump’s latest statements about expanding a ban on Muslim immigration.
Steinhauer got oddly personal in her descriptions of Republican senators, who you would assume would be entitled to a little more respect:
Another senator in a tight re-election bid, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, also tries to avoid talking about Mr. Trump, whom she supports, as she makes her way through the halls of Congress. (To be in this category, it is very useful to have Ms. Ayotte’s long legs.)
Then there are lawmakers best described as grumps, like Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who appears decidedly downbeat about his party, and Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who offered early support to Mr. Trump’s campaign but said this week, “I don’t know that I really have a lot to say,” adding that he had tried to advise Mr. Trump and was “discouraged by the results.” Add to that list Senator Dan Coats, Republican of Indiana, who has struggled to find a single policy position he shares with Mr. Trump.
Another group are doing “the McConnell,” taking a cue from their majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz -- as well a number of House members -- rotely repeat that they are supporting Mr. Trump, and refuse to engage on his specific statements most days. Mr. McConnell preemptively cuts off discussion by saying things like, “I’m not going to be commenting on the presidential candidates today.”
Mr. Trump has created a feedback loop in which he says increasingly outrageous and at times incoherent things about national security, immigration and other issues and Republicans are forced to answer for it. On Wednesday during a rally in Atlanta, Mr. Trump addressed Republican criticism by basically telling lawmakers to shut up.
The toxic combination of Mr. Trump’s statements and his falling poll numbers has given signs of life to the Never Trump movement, whose members cling to the hope that they can prevent Mr. Trump from becoming the nominee next month.
Many Republicans, even those who appear in need of a box of chocolates or a bourbon to get through each day of Mr. Trump’s remarks, oppose a rules changes. “That’s like saying in baseball that you’re a run behind and now you want to add three innings,” said Mr. Coats, after conceding that the process has been a slog.
Steinhauer has a history of finding glee in the sight of Republicans reaping what they sow, whether its Trump or the Tea Party.