The presence of Scott Baio on the list of speakers for this week's GOP convention in Cleveland is not the only clue that Donald Trump, the party's presumptive nominee, had trouble finding prominent Republicans who were keen to sing his praises. The list also includes a bunch of people better known for harshly criticizing Trump, in some cases unambiguously pronouncing him unfit for the presidency. It is hard to say who should be more embarrassed by this turn of events: Trump, who does not have enough famous fans to fill a program, or his erstwhile critics, who claim to have discovered the blowhard billionaire's hidden virtues. But lest we forget, here is what they thought of him until recently:
Rick Perry, former Texas governor: "He offers a barking carnival act that can be best described as Trumpism: a toxic mix of demagoguery, mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican Party to perdition if pursued. Let no one be mistaken: Donald Trump's candidacy is a cancer on conservatism, and it must be clearly diagnosed, excised and discarded. It cannot be pacified or ignored, for it will destroy a set of principles that has lifted more people out of poverty than any force in the history of the civilized world—the cause of conservatism."
Michael Mukasey, former attorney general: "A Donald Trump presidency would imperil our national security….Trump's proposal [to bar Muslims from entering the country] would assure the enmity of all Muslims, including those whose support we need if we are to prevail….Trump says he would order the military to kill the families of terrorists. That would be a direct violation of the most basic laws of armed conflict, which require that deadly force be used only when required by military necessity, under circumstances that allow distinction between military and civilian targets, and when incidental damage to non-military targets is proportional to the military advantage gained. A military that adhered to the laws of armed conflict would necessarily disobey such an order; if it followed the order, both the person who gave it and those who followed it would be subject to prosecution for war crimes….To inspire the respect that creates fear and trust when and where each is necessary, we will need a president who summons our strength with a reality-based strategic vision, not one who summons applause with tantrums and homicidal fantasies."
Newt Gingrich, former House speaker: "I don't know what Trump's reasoning was, and I don't care. His description of the judge [overseeing a lawsuit by former students of Trump University] in terms of his parentage is completely unacceptable."
Paul Ryan, House speaker: "Claiming a person can't do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I'm not going to defend these kinds of comments, because they're indefensible."
Chris Christie, New Jersey governor: "You do not need to be banning Muslims from the country….In my view, that's a ridiculous position and one that won't even be productive. [It's] the kind of thing that people say when they have no experience and don't know what they're talking about….Showtime is over. We are not electing an entertainer-in-chief. Showmanship is fun, but it is not the kind of leadership that will truly change America."
Mike Pence, Indiana governor and Trump's running mate: "Calls to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. are offensive and unconstitutional."
Marco Rubio, Florida senator: "We're on the verge of having someone take over the conservative movement who is a con artist….This boiling point that we have now reached has been fed largely by the fact that we have a frontrunner in my party who has fed into language that basically justifies physically assaulting people who disagree with you….[Trump is] the most vulgar person ever to aspire to the presidency….I believe Donald Trump as our nominee is going to shatter and fracture the Republican Party and the conservative movement."
Ted Cruz, Texas senator: "I'm going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump. This man is a pathological liar. He doesn't know the difference between truth and lies. He lies, practically every word that comes out of his mouth. And in a pattern that I think is straight out of a psychology textbook, his response is to accuse everybody else of lying….Whatever he does, he accuses everybody else of doing. The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist—a narcissist at a level I don't think this country has ever seen. Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and says, 'Dude, what's your problem?' Everything in Donald's world is about Donald….The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him….Donald is a bully….Donald is cynically exploiting that anger [at the political establishment], and he is lying to his supporters. Donald will betray his supporters on every issue."