In a column for Bloomberg, longtime conservative commentator Ramesh Ponnuru took Republicans to task for betraying their conservative values to align themselves with Donald Trump -- putting the spotlight on Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) in particular.
Under a damning headline, "How Long Can Real Conservatives Make Excuses for Trump?" Ponnuru expressed his dismay with a Republican Party that has been cowed into submission by the president using his recent descent into racism as a focal point.
"Over the span of decades, our whole society, conservatives included, has become less tolerant of racist jokes," he wrote. "At the moment, though, conservatives seem to be moving in the other direction. Support for Trump and opposition to his critics are making them less willing to condemn behavior as racist and more inclined to dismiss accusations of racism as moves in a political game."
With that, he singled out Graham who is arguably Trump's biggest cheerleader in the Senate despite saying in 2015, " He's a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot."
"Just compare the way Senator Lindsey Graham used to talk about Trump and race to the way he talks about it today. Or read some conservative intellectuals," he wrote. "If you had posed the hypothetical question to him a few years ago, a conservative man of letters might have agreed that a president who told a nonwhite member of Congress to go back to the hellhole she came from instead of criticizing him was saying something racist -- attacking someone in terms he would never use against a white person."
"Turn the hypothetical into one of today’s live partisan disputes, however, and see how readily and plentifully the defenses come forth," he continued, quoting the South Carolina Republican defending Trump by saying, "Maybe it was juvenile, but it wasn’t racist. Only a small fringe of extremists is racist. It’s offensive to say he’s racist. Are you calling 62 million Americans who voted for him racist? The president’s policies have done a lot of good for black people. Trump criticizes white people too! He was making a point about the gratitude immigrants owe America."
Ponnuru sarcastically commented, "When Trump said that Representative Elijah Cummings’s Baltimore congressional district was a land of filth and misery, he was … standing up for the poor misgoverned people of that city! When he said that a federal judge could not be fair to him because he was 'Mexican,' Trump was … making a profound, nay Lincolnian, point about identity politics."
According to the conservative columnist, Graham -- and other Republicans who look the other way when confronted with the president's bombast and racism -- are willing to tolerate him as part of the "transactional" nature of politics -- but at the risk of destroying their reputations.
"The evidence of his bigotry has to be ignored, wished away, re-interpreted. If Republicans refuse to fit their standards around the president — if, like former House Speaker Paul Ryan, they occasionally condemn the bigotry — it means they were weaklings all along," he concluded.
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