When it comes to calling out Donald Trump, silence is not golden.
Every top Republican elected official in Illinois has an obligation to tell the voters where he or she stands on Trump. Do they support his candidacy or not? And, either way, do they agree with or condemn his most controversial statements, beginning with his attacks on federal Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel?
Every voter should feel free to assume the worst about anybody who continues to duck. That elected official either quietly agrees with Trump’s most objectionable views, or doesn’t have the guts to put principles above politics and call the man out.
Gov. Bruce Rauner, the top Republican officer-holder in Illinois, has taken a relatively strong — yet ultimately inconsistent — stand against Trump.
On the one hand, Rauner says he is “disgusted” by Trump’s attacks on Judge Curiel. “They do not reflect the values of the Republican Party, they do not reflect the values of America,” he told us Tuesday through a spokesman. Rauner won’t be endorsing Trump or attending the Republican National Convention in July.
On the other hand, Rauner has not completely disavowed Trump. As head of the state’s Republican Party, he says, he will support the “party’s nominee.”
Go ahead, Gov, say his name — Trump.
More consistent is Sen. Mark Kirk, who said Tuesday he will not support Trump for president “regardless of the political impact on my candidacy or the Republican Party.”
Kirk’s change in position — he previously said he would support the party’s nominee — is in part a political calculation. Dumping Trump will infuriate many of the senator’s potential hard-right supporters, but it will please the more moderate voters whose support he needs in an uphill re-election battle against Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
It’s tough to say, though, whether Kirk wins or loses votes with this one. We’d like to think he just decided to do the right thing.
Next up are the eight Republican congressmen from Illinois. Where do they stand on Trump? Pretty much everywhere and nowhere.
Four congressmen representing Downstate districts in which Trump fared well in the March Illinois primary — Mike Bost, Rodney Davis, John Shimkus and Darin LaHood — all say they will support Trump. At the same time, none of them seems keen on defending the more controversial views of their party’s presumptive nominee. On this, they are more or less silent.
That won’t do, right?
If, for example, Shimkus is “on the team” for Trump, as he told a radio interviewer a couple of weeks ago, then he owes it to the voters to explain how that enthusiasm squares with Trump’s most offensive statements.
Or does Shimkus actually agree with Trump that Judge Curiel, simply because he is Mexican-American, cannot be trusted to be unbiased in a civil suit involving Trump? Does Shimkus also agree a Muslim judge could not be trusted?
Step up, Congressman Shimkus — as well as Representatives Bost, Davis and LaHood. Don’t be shy. Tell us just how much bigotry you’re willing to stomach for fear of losing a single vote in November.
A fifth Illinois congressman, Bob Dold, who is running for re-election in the North Shore’s politically divided 10th district, has made his aversion to Trump clear. There is no way, he says, he will even vote for Trump.
“Donald Trump’s continued discriminatory comments are appalling, unacceptable, and only drive our country further apart at a time when our country needs more leaders committed to unity, not division,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “I have always put the country before partisanship and politics.”
Definitely no ambivalence there.
But our state’s three remaining Republican congressmen — Peter Roskam, Randy Hultgren and Adam Kinzinger — must be getting splinters from all their fence-sitting. None of them has yet to either endorse or reject Trump, no doubt wishing folks would just quit asking. They represent districts that are strongly Republican, but not nearly as gung ho on Trump as further downstate.
By both phone and email, we asked Roskam and Hultgren to weigh in on Trump’s views on an independent judiciary (and other Trump foibles) but nobody got back to us — which says something.
Of the three, Kinzinger has been the most critical of Trump, to the point that a group of conservative leaders headed by Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard approached him about running as an independent for president. Kinzinger declined the offer.
Kinzinger’s office has complained about Trump’s “negative, violent rhetoric and his outlandish comments on foreign policy proposals.”
But Roskam and Hultgren have been much more circumspect in their criticisms, saying nothing that we could find about Trump’s most inflammatory views and statements.
For the good of the country, every principled Republican leader should stand up to Donald Trump.
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