- - Wednesday, June 8, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Hysteria is rarely pretty and never reassuring, and the hysterics never achieve what they think losing their heads will accomplish. No one wants a surgeon to throw up his hands in disgust if he drops his scalpel, or an airline pilot who runs screaming from the cockpit when the plane encounters severe turbulence.

What the Republicans need now, with a crucial election to win, are a few good men and true, including strong men of the female gender, who can keep calm and carry on when the Democrats and their media acolytes leap from the bushes to cry “boo!”

The auguries, alas, are not necessarily good. Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House who obviously misses the applause from the box seats when he was railing about Donald Trump, returned to the ranks of the sore losers to berate the Donald for his wrong-headed attack on the judge in the lawsuit against Trump University. The speaker was quick to invoke the R-word.

Mr. Trump’s remarks about Judge Gonzolo Curiel were across the line and over the top, and he knows it now. He wasn’t the abject penitent that Washington connoisseurs of the political apology wanted, but his excuse, that his remarks were “misconstrued,” was par for the Capitol Hill course. “Misconstrued” is a version of the usual “my remarks were taken out of context.” The sought-after apology is never an apology, anyway.

“Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment,” Speaker Ryan said. “If you say something that’s wrong, I think the mature and responsible thing is to acknowledge it.” Sen. Mitch McConnell, speaking in the windy vernacular of what used to be called “the world’s greatest deliberative body,” said he had been “asked over the course of the last week on numerous occasions to express myself on the utterances of the nominee. And I have done that.” He then invoked Barry Goldwater as the ghost who walks with Donald Trump, recalling how Mr. Goldwater alienated black voters a generation ago. The Donald, he said, “needs to get on message.”

Sen. Ted Cruz, who called Mr. Trump a “pathological liar” in December and a “terrific” candidate in May, sounds like a man who doesn’t know what he’ll call him in November. “I don’t have anything else to say about Donald Trump,” he said, and for emphasis, said it twice. His Texas colleague, John Cornyn, said he wasn’t going to have anything to say, either. “You guys can talk about it,” he told reporters. “Doesn’t mean I have to.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin of New York said that even some of President Obama’s policies and rhetoric could be called “racist” — hardly an original observation — and then assured reporters that “my purpose here isn’t to just go through the list and call everyone a racist.” That’s mildly encouraging in a season when calling everyone a racist is high sport.

Most of the Republicans want only to join Democrats in treating Judge Curiel as the virgin trapped in a bordello, pure of heart and punctilious in purpose, and have no interest in calling legitimate attention to the judge’s long record of encouraging radical Hispanic activism, all perfectly legal but disturbing nonetheless. Mr. Trump would have had a legitimate question, if asked appropriately, about Judge Curiel’s ability to preside over a fair trial.

Race is never a disqualification for public service, but neither is it a shield against fair questions. The Republican leaders could have used this as a teaching moment, but hysteria called louder. Treating their nominee as if he were the skipper of the Titanic is no way to win an election.

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