Op-ed: Playing bad hands

  • By Bob Franken
  • Saturday, March 5, 2016 4:11pm
  • Opinion

Who knew that when Sen. Lindsey Graham, the thwarted GOP presidential candidate, stated that his Grand Old Party had gone “(expletive) crazy,” he was not just being gross, but was guilty of gross understatement? He gave his memorable analysis just days before the latest debate between the candidates who remain standing. Actually, wallowing is more like it.

Who could have imagined that this wrestling match could sink further down in the mud than the previous one? How low? Down where Marco Rubio went when he ridiculed Donald Trump for having small hands and suggested that meant something about Trump’s inadequate manhood. I’m trying to be family-friendly here, people.

Apparently, Mr. Trump (as Chris Christie calls him) understood what Mr. Rubio was talking about. So it didn’t take long after the show — excuse me, debate — began for Trump to put up his hands and insist that his “misterhood” is … well, let’s use his words: “He referred to my hands, if they are small, something else must be small. I guarantee you there is no problem. I guarantee.”

For starters, I know I speak for everybody when I say, “Thank you for sharing.” We also should express our gratitude to all the fact-checkers for deciding not to seek the evidence about that one. What will they prove, beyond the fact that this is a primary battle between men who obviously are very crotchety?

But thanks to The Donald, these are trying times for the Republican organization. Trumpy, excuse me, Mr. Trumpy, has ridden the wave of resentment and scapegoat bigotry that the party power brokers spent decades churning — to the point that it might drown them. Thus far, he’s surfing away with the primary election, while the establishment Republicans are plotting ways to turn the tide of the processes they themselves installed. Since forever they have been feeding at the political trough; now they need to save their bacon.

They’re openly musing about strategies that could utilize all their chicanery to snatch the nomination away from Trump at the party convention, if necessary. They don’t even try to hide this new, uh, conventional thinking. And in a desperation ploy, they dusted off Mitt Romney, who has been pouting since he lost the last time around, to rise from his slumber. Mittens took off the gloves, calling Donnie “a phony, a fraud,” and chastised the “bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.” He attacked everything but the size of his hands, and you know what else.

Trumpo was less restrained. Surprise, surprise. Soon after Romney had his tantrum, things, to quote my wife, “went south in a hurry.” The Donald pointed out that Romney was “begging” for his endorsement in 2012: “I could have said, ‘Mitt, drop to your knees.’ He would have dropped to his knees.” Whatever did he mean by that?

While the party rulers are wringing their hands (all sizes), their candidates were showing that they had small ones. All four of them agreed that they’d support the Republican nominee, no matter who he is, no matter how they feel he’d harm the nation if elected.

As for the Democrats, they’re being downright boring. Hillary Clinton seems to be close to a lock on the nomination. Some of the Dems worry that, with her secrecy tendencies, there is something she tried to hide that will come out. Voter questions persist about her honesty, and a scandal could land hard and undermine the party’s dreams of keeping the White House, to say nothing of their dreams about taking Congress and the Supreme Court.

What we have then is a bipartisan nightmare scenario that has two words: President Trump. In that case, Lindsey Graham’s flippant description of his party might become an apocalyptic prophecy when the world goes “(expletive) crazy.”

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

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