A report out this morning about a planned intervention in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign brings to mind a point in the career of Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Wood when he was doing so many drugs that Keith Richards -- Keith Richards! -- forced him into rehab.
NBC News says that Trump’s behavior over the past few days has become so undisciplined and erratic that former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former House speaker Newt Gingrich are being called on to meet personally with the former reality television star in hopes of restoring some order and decorum to his campaign.
Consider that for a minute. How over-the-top does your rhetoric have to get for Rudy Giuliani -- this Rudy Giuliani -- to tell you that you really ought to dial it back a bit? How undisciplined do you have to be for Newt -- “We interrupt this campaign for a Mediterranean cruise” -- Gingrich to tell you to step up your game?
If it’s a mark of desperation that Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus is roping in Giuliani and Gingrich, it’s certainly understandable.
Over the past two days, Trump has repeatedly made unforced errors that make political operatives cringe, Democrats rejoice, and his fellow Republicans running in November’s election worry seriously about down-ballot consequences of an electoral college wipeout.
Against all logic, Trump has not just continued, but escalated his public fight with the parents of US Army Capt. Humayun Khan who died in Iraq in 2004 protecting his soldiers from a suicide bomber. Khan’s father noted, in a smoldering speech at the Democratic National Convention, that Trump’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the US would have blocked his son from entry when he came with the family from Pakistan at age 2.
In a radio interview, Trump went so far as to suggest that the Khan family objected to preventing terrorists from coming to the United States.
Trump’s criticism of the Gold Star family for what he repeatedly called a “vicious attack” had prompted rebukes from the normally non-partisan Veterans of Foreign Wars as well as from Republicans like Arizona Sen. John McCain, who endorsed Trump.
At an event in Virginia yesterday, Trump made a show of the fact that he had accepted a Purple Heart from an elderly veteran he met at the high school where he was speaking. “I’ve always wanted to get the real Purple Heart,” Trump said, of the decoration awarded to US service personnel, according to the Pentagon, who are wounded or killed in any action against an enemy of the United States or as a result of an act of any such enemy or opposing armed forces.
“This was much easier,” Trump added. The exchange came on the same day that The New York Times reported on the five deferments Trump received in order to avoid military service during the Vietnam War.
Also on Tuesday, Trump said that he was not prepared to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the nation’s highest-ranking elected Republican, in a primary election against a relative political unknown. He also attacked New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte, another Republican, who is locked in a tough reelection battle, and refused to endorse McCain in Arizona.
He also raised eyebrows by appearing to publicly mock a woman with a crying baby at his rally in Virginia, by accusing fire marshals in various town of conspiring against him by enforcing occupancy rules at his events, and by floating the idea that the general election may be “rigged” against him.
As all this was happening, Republicans like former Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, long-time Jeb Bush aide Sally Bradshaw, and New York Congressman Richard Hanna all announced that they would support Democrat Hillary Clinton for the presidency over their own party’s candidate. Whitman called Trump a “demagogue” who has “undermined the character of the nation.”
At this point, it’s unclear why Republican leaders might think that Trump will listen to Giuliani and Gingrich -- or to anyone for that matter -- but desperate times call for desperate measures, and it is difficult to imagine a party in more desperate straits than the GOP right now.