You’ve heard the phrase, no doubt, of “a distinction without a difference.”
How does a politician “support” another politician without “endorsing” that individual?
This is one of the myriad dilemmas facing Republican pols across the nation as the party gets ready to nominate a certifiable huckster as its next nominee for president of the United States.
I refer to Donald J. Trump as the huckster.
Some leading Republican politicians, though, are seeking to hedge their bets in occasionally awkward manners.
Consider the statement of U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, the GOP senator from New Hampshire, who said she can “support” Trump but cannot “endorse” him.
Ayotte is facing a potentially difficult re-election effort as Democrats likely will send Gov. Jean Shaheen against her. Ayotte can’t take the full plunge by endorsing Trump but, by golly, she’s going to support him.
A distinction without a difference?
It looks that way to me.
Other leading Republicans are walking away from Trump. Still others are offering tepid support. Sure, some have endorsed the hotel mogul and reality TV celebrity; former campaign foes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who once called Trump “unfit” for the presidency, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who once called Trump a “cancer on conservatism” have endorsed him.
It’s the Ayotte caveat, though, that I find most intriguing.
I’ve been watching politics for nearly 40 years. I studied political science in college. I became engaged in the presidential election process starting around 1968, when I shook Sen. Robert Kennedy’s hand at a chance meeting one week before an assassin robbed us all of a chance to see if RFK could be elected president.
This truly is the first time I’ve witnessed such intraparty reticence to clutch the coattails of the presumed party presidential nominee.
But it’s there. It’s real.
Sure, Trump has appealed to millions of Americans who claim to be “angry” with politics as usual. This clown “tells it like it is,” supporters tell us, while they ignore — or laugh off — the abject crassness of his rhetoric and the tastelessness of his insults.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, another former primary campaign foe, said it well: “I just really believe that the Republican Party has been conned here, and this guy is not a reliable conservative Republican.”
Just today, on “Meet the Press,” Trump said he would consider raising taxes on wealthy Americans, which by my way of thinking runs utterly counter to standard Republican Party tax principles.
This is the problem facing Republicans across the country as they ponder their own political futures. How do they run with someone who says whatever pops into his head?
Or do they seek to split hairs as finely as they can by “supporting” him without “endorsing” him?
It is tough to be a Republican these days.