Editorial roundup

The Dallas Morning News, July 20, Donald Trump’s conduct merits public repudiation

A Republican gut check is in order regarding pursuit of the White House. The fact that billionaire Donald Trump ranks at the top in poll popularity among 16 presidential candidates offers a glimpse of the dangers ahead if shock-jock antics are allowed to shape the GOP agenda.

It’s tempting to say that Trump is destined for a flameout. But the selection process for debate participants in September — based on rankings in five major public opinion polls — encourages exactly the kind of crass, headline-grabbing buffoonery that have become Trump’s trademark. Given Trump’s strong standing, we worry that other candidates will adopt his objectionable tactics just to get a bump in the polls.

Trump generated weekend headlines by asserting that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., doesn’t deserve war-hero status for having been a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for more than five years. Trump implied that service members who let themselves be captured don’t get hero status in his book.

McCain has his faults, not being a war hero isn’t one of them. His conduct was stellar as a Navy pilot performing missions over North Vietnam before his plane was shot down in 1967. Both arms and a leg were fractured when he ejected. He was beaten and tortured for years. The North Vietnamese sought repeatedly to release McCain from captivity, but he correctly sensed it was a public-relations ploy. McCain refused, and that principled stand cost him additional years of horror.

Trump, by the way, never served in the military.

The problem is Trump talks first and thinks later. As a billionaire real estate mogul, such brash behavior may help seal big deals. On television, his penchant for snap decisions helped boost ratings for his show, The Apprentice.

But serving as leader of the world’s biggest superpower requires leadership skills that go beyond shouting, “You’re fired!” or swinging a rhetorical sledgehammer at every adversary. Persuading members of Congress, setting domestic policy and shaping world diplomacy requires deftness, dignity and aplomb — hardly Trump trademarks.

Up to now his brash and often hateful messages (see last month’s tirade about Mexicans as criminals and rapists) have resonated. In a recent Fox News poll, Trump led the field. Since Fox News is using poll results to determine the top 10 candidates who will be invited to the first GOP presidential debate in September, such rhetoric seems destined to earn him even more air time.

Instead, Trump’s conduct should be repudiated. By the public. That’s the most effective silencer to such offense.

Republicans should select a candidate who can lead responsibly. Leave the clowns and whip-snapping barkers for the circus.