- - Tuesday, March 1, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

This week has been open hunting season on Donald Trump. The elites of the Republican shooting party have been playing a game of “can you top this?” Everyone wants to be the Donald-killer. Some of the pundits have exhausted the thesaurus gathering synonyms for “bad.”

This has tempted some of the hunter-gatherers — highly trained to “ready, fire, aim” — to dispatch fusillades of cheap shots at an imaginary target. There’s a lot to scold the Donald for, his vulgarity, his occasional flights of exaggeration that border on fantasy, his ignorance of subjects he pretends a knowledge of (he should read Two Corinthians again). He comes across as the apprentice who hasn’t studied as hard as he should have.

But the cheapest shot of all — so far — is the canard that he’s a racist for not having “disavowed” the endorsement of David Duke, the Ku Klux Klan and assorted similar groups. The felony of racism has become a mere misdemeanor through careless use, and this accusation against the Donald is particularly outrageous because David Duke, a Louisiana politician who boasts of his affiliation with the Klan, never endorsed Donald Trump and Mr. Trump “disavowed” it, anyway, to eliminate whatever residual support might be lurking in whatever kind thoughts David Duke has ever thought about Mr. Trump.

The source of the controversy apparently bubbled up from carelessly written and carelessly read blogs on the Internet, where anything goes and there’s always an audience for it. He declined to “disavow” again on a CNN talk show on Sunday. He says the earpiece he was wearing malfunctioned and he didn’t hear the question clearly. His explanation is believable because, as Katy Tur of NBC News recalls, “I asked Trump last Thursday in the spin room about Duke and white supremacist support. He ‘disavowed’ it. He also ‘disavowed’ Duke on Friday.”

Nevertheless, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who joined the hunting season late, continues to bang away at a target that never was there. Mr. Ryan wants everyone to know that he’s against bigotry, prejudice, racism and all other bad stuff. “We believe all people are created in the eyes of God and our government,” he says. “This is fundamental. And if someone wants to be our nominee they must understand this.” There’s no evidence that Mr. Trump believes this any less than Paul Ryan, but the speaker reloads and bangs away, anyway.

Mr. Ryan and the members of his shooting party might be excused because they were running out of ammo as Super Tuesday bore down on them, and they were determined to fire at anything, or nothing at all, while they could. But there is never an excuse for bearing false witness, and Donald Trump, who may not be innocent of a lot of things, has never been accused of consorting with Klansmen. Mr. Ryan, who reads the newspapers and watches Fox News, surely knows that. If he wants to stay in the Republican shooting party, he should look for actual targets and work on his aim.

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