WASHINGTON: Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s derision of his political opponents draws hearty boos of support at rallies. That he castigates as many Republicans as Democrats is another sign of the fractures within the GOP.
Trump shrugs off the high-profile Republicans who have stated they aren’t voting for him, among them former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., both one-time rivals for the nomination he has all but won. While Trump declares that such GOP naysayers don’t really matter when compared to all the votes he garnered in primary elections, he still takes time to mock Bush and Graham.
Appearing at rallies Friday in Nebraska and then Oregon, Trump repeated his nickname for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton — “crooked Hillary” — but stepped up his attacks on Clinton by referencing her husband’s infidelities for the first time since he became his party’s presumptive nominee while dismissing her criticism of how he treated women.
“Bill Clinton was the worst in history and I have to listen to her talking about it?” Trump said. “Just remember this: She was an unbelievably nasty, mean enabler. And what she did to a lot of those women is disgraceful. So put that in her bonnet and let’s see what happens.”
Trump also turned to a relatively fresh target, Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The Massachusetts Democrat, he said, is a “goofus” and a “basket case” who has done nothing in the Senate. Warren, a favorite of the Democratic left whom some would like to see as Clinton’s running mate, had insulted Trump earlier on Twitter, calling him “a bully who has a single play in his playbook.”
Slamming Democrats was to be expected, but Trump’s problems within the GOP itself remained an unusual spectacle of Republican vs. Republican discord. The nominee-to-be grudgingly agreed to meet next week with House Speaker Paul Ryan, the nation’s highest-ranking Republican whose statement a day earlier — he said he was not ready to embrace Trump’s nomination — set off the intraparty fireworks. Trump said he had “no idea” if they would patch things up.
“The thing that matters most are the millions of people that have come out to vote for me and give me a landslide victory in almost every state,” Trump said moments after Ryan announced their planned meeting.
Rather than let the subject rest, Trump told supporters Friday night in Eugene, Oregon, that he and Ryan had had a nice phone conversation three weeks ago but that, “all of a sudden, he wants to be cute.” Still, Trump assured the thousands gathered that “we’re going to be a unified party.”
Ryan said his meeting with Trump would occur next Thursday and that Trump also would meet with other House GOP leaders. Discussions will center on “the kind of Republican principles and ideas that can win the support of the American people this November,” Ryan said.
Democrats were generally steering clear of the Republican infighting, letting the party’s leaders tear at each other.
However, President Barack Obama did say when questioned about it at the White House: “This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show,” and candidates need to show they have the qualities to lead the world’s strongest nation.
Some Republicans were not shy about expressing their displeasure with Ryan. The telegenic Wisconsin Republican served as his party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, was drafted to the high-profile role of House speaker last fall and is seen as having designs on the 2020 presidential nomination himself.
“Yesterday’s statement emboldens others to be equally publicly difficult. And that runs the risk of creating a Goldwater kind of moment where the party really does split,” former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told The Associated Press, referring to the 1964 Republican presidential nominee whose candidacy divided the GOP and was followed by a big Democratic victory.
“I don’t necessarily know that that’s his role, to be a sticking point for the Republican nominee,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, one of a growing number of Trump supporters in the House. Added Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania: “The voters of our party have spoken loud and clear, and it’s their voice that matters.”