Republicans Have the Best Bullies

Marty Kaplan's picture

It’s too soon to know how badly Donald Trump damaged himself by belittling John McCain’s war record in Iowa on July 18. After all, George W. Bush wasn’t hurt in the 2000 South Carolina primary when his operatives rumored that McCain had an illegitimate black child, nor was W hurt in the 2004 election when his Swift Boat surrogates defamed John Kerry’s war record, nor was McCain’s campaign for the 2008 Republican nomination derailed by his own reputation as a bully and hothead.

Trump himself has until now been helped, not harmed, by insulting his GOP rivals as losers, clowns, dummies and lightweights. But his McCain slam gives other candidates an opening to mime indignation. For them, it can’t come a moment too soon, because Trump was on the verge of owning the machismo brand.

My fantasy: Trump’s rise must have infuriated Chris Christie, who thought he had a lock on schoolyard bullying. It must have pissed off Ted Cruz, who’d been planning to step on Rick Perry’s glasses. Until Trump announced, Scott Walker was spoiling to steal Jeb Bush’s milk money, the way Antonin Scalia dunked Anthony Kennedy’s head in the toilet for siding with the liberal kids on gay marriage. Rand Paul was ready to rip Marco Rubio a new one; Mike Huckabee was fixing to send Lindsey Graham to the fainting couch; Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal and Ben Carson were jostling to pull Hillary Clinton’s pigtails.

But then along came The Donald — the king of contempt, the tower of testosterone — surging in the polls, sucking the media oxygen from the room and making the rest of the pack eat his exhaust. Gang way, Gingrich and Giuliani, look who’s the meanest dog in the junkyard now. Move over, Dick Cheney, the billionaire is the one who carries the biggest stick. Don’t believe me? Go ahead — measure my money.

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