It's increasingly common for Republican strategists, advisers, donors, and leaders to disavow the party's official nominee. What was once treated as significant, even breaking, news — like with Hewlett Packard CEO Meg Whitman or Congressman Richard Hanna declaring he won't vote for him — gets a bit of a shoulder shrug just a week later because these proclamations have become rather frequent. But on Monday, when 50 Republican officials denounced Donald Trump as a threat to "our country’s national security and well-being" in a letter shared with the The New York Times, it's more than GOP buyer's remorse.
The letter begins with the signers noting that they have all worked in Republican presidential administrations, "from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush." Then, it simply states:
We know the personal qualities required of a President of the United States.
None of us will vote for Donald Trump.
The letter paints a deeply grim picture of a United States under a President Trump. The letters hammers Trump for his lack of knowledge of "America's vital national interests, its complex diplomatic challenges, its indispensable alliances, and the democratic values on which U.S. foreign policy must be based," but is also highlights something more potentially disturbing about his candidacy than mere ignorance: "Unlike previous Presidents who had limited experience in foreign affairs, Mr. Trump has shown no interest in educating himself."
But what is most damaging to the Trump campaign is not the content but the people signing their name to it. Former Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden signed the letter. Two former secretaries of homeland security, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, are also among the top GOP officials who say they fear the dangers of a Trump presidency. In short, this letter is really bad news for those who want to Make America Great Again — perhaps too bad for even the Teflon Don.
Many will be quick to point out the Trump has never been the favorite of the Republican establishment (that would be the understatement of the election cycle) and that he was never going to find many friends among this GOP cohort. Many may also point out that Trump handily beat 16 other Republican candidates without the support of said establishment, so perhaps, he shouldn't worry about such a public rebuke of his prospective presidency.
Here's the problem with that logic: Trump needs a helluva lot more than his base to make it to the White House. From the time he was declared the presumptive Republican nominee by Chairman Reince Priebus in May, Trump needed to work on not only unifying the party but wooing over independents and undecided voters. That anti-establishment base was — and probably is — going to stick with him, pretty much regardless of what he says or does between now in November. Or, in Trump's own words from January, "I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." That attitude was well and good for the primary, but that's been long over.
Until November, Trump has got to squarely worry about all the people who have their doubts. Now, an elite and trusted group of Republican officials just validated the worst fears and concerns about Trump's temperament, stability, and knowledge. It may be the final green light to not only independents but wary Republicans to go ahead and vote for Hillary Clinton — and it could be a lethal blow to the Trump campaign.
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