‘GOP at 'new level of panic' over Trump," ran the banner Washington Post headline on August 4. Just two weeks earlier Donald Trump had accepted his party's presidential nomination, marking the occasion with an effective if not elegant speech. A few days later, polls showed Trump opening up a slight lead over Hil-lary Clinton.
Then came the Democratic convention, well-produced but not particularly notable—except for the speech of Gold Star father Khizr Khan. Even this powerful statement would have drifted quickly into the rear-view mirror but for Donald Trump's grotesque and undisciplined reaction to it, which continued for days on end. Now his poll numbers are cratering, and GOP leaders are at a new level of panic.
The Post found panickers all over—from party chairman Reince Priebus, who is said to be "very frustrated," to Newt Gingrich, quoted as saying that "right now" Trump is not an "acceptable" candidate; from Rudy Giuliani in New York, trying to arrange an "intervention" with the candidate, to RNC member Henry Barbour in Mississippi, also "frustrated." Other strategists, named and unnamed, make an appearance in the article. The panic room is a popular place for GOP big shots to huddle in these days.
But it's a stupid place to be. Worse, it's a pathetic and contemptible place to be. All of these Republicans have expressed support for Trump. They're prominent people with access to Trump. They should persuade him in private to improve his campaign. Or they should give up and go on a long vacation. Or, if they have come to the belated realization that Donald Trump should not be the next president of the United States, they should stand up and say so.
But they should get no credit for whining to the press and complaining to their peers so long as they continue to support for president the individual who is the very cause of their whining, their complaining, and their panic. The only act they should get credit for is withdrawing their support for the candidate. If they were to do so, as late in the day as we are, many things are still possible.
Absent a withdrawal of support, each of the panicking Trump-supporting Republicans will deserve his fate as "an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."