- The Washington Times - Monday, July 18, 2016

Time is running out for the sore losers in Cleveland (and other places). Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee, and attacks on him now, deserved or not, are attacks on the party and can only cripple the chances of taking back the White House.

Elephants have long memories, and losers in the primaries who have further presidential ambitions, imagining that four years of Hillary Clinton will whet a ravenous appetite for someone else in the year 2020, had better think this through. Anyone who helps Hillary this year, however good it might feel now, will pay dearly four years hence.

The agents out to demolish the Trump candidacy still roamed the hotel corridors, coffee shops and drinking holes along the Lake Erie shore Monday night, spreading doubt, confusion and resentment, and eager to share their cultivated rage with anyone willing to listen. Not many delegates were.

One Trump delegate likened the ragtag Never Trump forces, many of them hungry and barefoot from their fruitless pursuit of faithless delegates, to the Japanese stragglers in the South Pacific jungles who held their hopes close for decades after all the armies had gone home.

“They had not heard that the war was over,” Bruce Ash, a delegate from Arizona, told inquiring minds that wanted to know. “The war is over. Donald Trump is our prospective nominee, he will be named our nominee and he will win in November irrespective of a few people who have bruised egos and sore ribs from the contests that we’ve had over the past several months.”

This was not good news for Jeb Bush, who is still writing op-eds and giving interviewers the poop on his opinion of the Donald (he doesn’t like him much). He does concede that the Donald is a master campaigner. And why not? It’s not very flattering to yourself to say that the man who whupped you is a 97-pound weakling. But some media voices that joined the din against the Donald haven’t given up the ghost, and they’re beginning to cover their bets while there’s still time.

Some are not. Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, expects to surpass the record of the last Japanese straggler who finally gave up in the Philippines back country after more than a quarter of a century in his cave. This would put Mr. Kristol in Republican purgatory until about the 2040 campaign, perhaps to work for Chelsea Clinton against George P. Bush. These dynasties seem to last in modern America.

The nominating conventions are not a patch on what they used to be. The radio networks and then the television networks suspended regular programming and competed with gavel-to-gavel coverage, sometimes far into the night. There was suspense then, and try as the cable-TV networks try now, manufactured controversy and fabricated suspense is no substitute for the real thing.

The Never Trump agents claimed Monday night to have the votes to require a roll-call vote on a package from the Rules Committee to bind delegates committed to the Donald. Nobody was taking this threat to defeat the package with much seriousness. The broader message of such a vote would be that “Trump is a fraud,” said one tub-thumper for the roll call. But who among the sore losers has not been saying that for weeks already?

Bob Dole, the senator from Kansas, longtime majority leader in the Senate and the 1996 Republican nominee, is one of the adults in the room and he reminds the losers that every one of the candidates in the Republican primaries took an oath, if not an oath on the Holy Bible an oath on a politician’s honor (please do not laugh), to support the eventual Republican nominee. This was aimed at Donald Trump, who at the time was making clucking noises about a third-party run if he couldn’t win the Republican nomination. There was great relief last February when the Donald signed up.

Mr. Dole, now 92, endorsed Jeb Bush early in the primaries, before the famous exclamation point became a joke, and he’s in Cleveland as a loyal Republican. He’s disappointed that Jeb! won’t be there. “I’m really disappointed that he’s now — I watched him on TV going after Trump,” he says. “Trump was on the stage with him and Trump said some things that I know upset Jeb! But they did sign the pledge. I am sorry I won’t see him in Cleveland. I have great respect for the Bush family, particularly Bush 41.”

Politicians who cook up fanciful feasts during their campaigns rarely have an appetite for humble pie cooked to another recipe. But once the convention is past everything changes. Dissenters in both parties will rally ‘round the flag. We still ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Wesley Pruden is editor-in-chief emeritus of The Times.

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