Tuesday night, following California’s primaries, Donald Trump explained his “America First” policies. In any global interaction—economic, military, political—he will put America’s interests first. But I suspect that a President Trump would make one exception.
Germany (West Germany until unification) has been a friend of the United States since the end of World War Two. But its views don’t always match America’s. That’s normal. Every nation puts its own interests first. Suppose a rift occurred. Mr. Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel get on the phone. “Here’s what I want America to do,” says Mrs. Merkel. “Yes, ma’am,” says Mr. Trump.
Far-fetched? I don’t doubt that Donald Trump is an American. But he’s also a hyphenated American like all but the Native Americans who populated the country before the arrival of Europeans, Africans and others. On his father’s side, the Trump heritage is German. Trump’s grandfather, Friedrich Trump, came to the U.S. from Germany in 1885. Can a President Trump—a German-American—represent the United States’ best interests when dealing with Germany?
If this seems like the hyphenated American bit is being stretched thin, you’re right. What makes America great is that we all share common ground on the right aside of the hyphen. We’re Americans. Unless, that is, we’re Mexican-Americans. Witness Mr. Trump’s claims that U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, born and raised in Indiana, cannot be impartial hearing a lawsuit against Trump University because a President Trump would build a wall between Mexico and the U.S.
Now to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R.–Wisconsin). He’s been put through the ringer. Speaker Ryan doesn’t seem to care for Mr. Trump’s rhetoric. It took him some time before throwing to Mr. Trump his half-hearted support. On Tuesday, he called Mr. Trump’s statement about Judge Curiel, “a textbook definition of a racist comment.” Still, he finds more common ground with Mr. Trump than with Hillary Clinton. America first? Or ideology and party first?
On Tuesday, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called for the formation of a New Republican Party (“Dump the G.O.P. for a Grand New Party”). Friedman wrote, “Today’s G.O.P. is to governing what Trump University is to education — an ethically challenged enterprise…” Good luck, Tom. When Barack Obama was nominated by the Democrats in 2008, Republicans went ballistic. The birther movement, including Mr. Trump, erupted. The Tea Party coalesced and lashed out. When John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate and went down in flames, the G.O.P. seemed doomed. It lost the presidency again in 2012. It’s still here.
I suspect that the Republican Party will be embarrassed in this November’s presidential election despite the convenient target of Hillary Clinton, like Donald Trump a candidate with low approval ratings. But what about Speaker Ryan? He, along with many Republican leaders, will wind up giving at least nominal support to a candidate who makes racist comments, which he and they find off-putting to say the least. If Mr. Trump wins, Speaker Ryan becomes a factor in establishing the legitimacy of a nasty approach to politics and the denigration of a great many Americans (myself included). Only a Clinton win will keep Speaker Ryan from emerging as a big loser.
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