Littwin: Will Cory Gardner be punked by Donald Trump? Will we all? |

Littwin: Will Cory Gardner be punked by Donald Trump? Will we all?

Mike Littwin
Fair and Unbalanced

Now that Paul Ryan has officially endorsed Donald Trump, following in the party-hack footsteps of Little Marco, Big Chris and so many others besides, we are left waiting to hear from our own — Cory Gardner.

Yes, this is a long shot. But what if Gardner took it upon himself to play hero ball and announce that he couldn’t support The Donald, that the stakes were too high, that America was too much at risk, that common decency wouldn’t permit it, that, well, he was one up-and-coming Republican who wouldn’t be punked?

OK, that’s not going to happen. This is the same Gardner, after all, who once needed seven tries before he could answer the relatively straightforward question of whether he’d support the eventual Republican nominee. He finally said/stuttered that he would, but I’m pretty sure he hasn’t said anything on the topic since, hoping, I’m sure, that no one would notice.

And yet, last I looked, Gardner was in South Korea with two other freshmen senators flatly assuring their hosts, with all the certainty that only powerless freshmen senators could muster, not to pay attention to anything Trump said on trade deals or defense costs. This is pretty risky stuff. I mean, Trump could call him Toothy Cory or something.

Gardner didn’t say how exactly he could promise any of this since Trump — his party’s presumptive nominee for president — has said he was ready to renegotiate all manner of trade agreements and that he thought South Korea and Japan were getting a mostly free ride on defense and could develop their own nukes (prompting North Korea to call Trump both “prescient” and “wise,” which, just guessing, would get them an A+ in diplomacy at Trump University, if there were still a Trump University).

We know these are things Gardner couldn’t support. But could he support Trump, whom Gardner once called a buffoon? So far, to no one’s surprise, he’s on the “unknown” list. At some point, he’ll have to say, of course. Either that or he’ll return to his default position and claim that there is no federal Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Ryan picked the worst possible day to endorse Trump. It was a victory for spinelessness and a defeat for principled conservatism. As The Washington Post wrote in an editorial, it was a sad day for Republicans, for Ryan and for America. As Charles Murray — yes, that Charles Murray — wrote the other day in The National Review, “In my view, Donald Trump is unfit to be president in ways that apply to no other candidate of the two major political parties throughout American history.”

So, any day would have been bad enough for Ryan, but this was the day Hillary Clinton went all Daisy-ad on The Donald, asking voters to imagine what a thin-skinned Trump would do if he had the nuclear codes instead of just a Twitter account. She might as well have been picking the petals off the flowers as the mushroom cloud — over Japan? over South Korea? — emerged in the distance. Clinton wondered why Trump buddied up to strongmen like Vladimir Putin, why North Korea is cheering for him, why Trump took out full-page ads calling America “weak” and saying the world was laughing at us — in 1987 — when Ronald Reagan was president. Yes, the sainted Reagan.

It was the moment Democrats have been waiting for — and Republicans have been dreading — when Clinton showed some actual life in her campaign, hitting The Donald high and low, dismissing him with a Trumpian-style flourish, except that she used complete sentences: “Donald Trump’s ideas aren’t just different — they are dangerously incoherent. They’re not really ideas, just a series of bizarre rants, personal feuds and outright lies.”

Trump, being Trump, responded by saying Clinton should be put in jail (for her emails) and that he was sure his attorney general (imagine the busy times for Trump’s AG) would be looking into it, because that’s the way he rolls.

It was the same day that Trump doubled, or was it tripled, down on ethnic bashing the federal judge presiding over the Trump University case — the first ever case, historians tell us, in which a presidential nominee is accused of running a bait-and-switch operation. Trump hit the “Mexican” judge — born and raised in Indiana — by telling The Wall Street Journal that it was an “absolute conflict” for someone of “Mexican heritage” to preside over the case because he’s bound to be a Trump hater even if Trump keeps saying that the Mexicans love him. To give him credit, though, Trump never said Indiana Mexicans would love him.

“I’m building a wall,” Trump said. “It’s an inherent conflict of interest.”

Meanwhile, in San Jose, California, where presumably a wall wouldn’t work, anti-Trump protesters were attacking Trump supporters in one of the uglier turns taken in this ugliest of campaigns. Pro tip, as someone tweeted, you don’t fight crypto-fascism by engaging in street violence, which just gives Trump the opportunity to change the subject.

This is what it would be like to live in Trumpland, the buffoonish right turn from Nixonland, a place where the presidential nominee mocks the disabled, says he’ll impose a religious test at the borders, is ready to walk from NATO, says that if war between Japan and North Korea were to break out, “It would be a terrible thing, but if they do, they do.” He added, “Good luck. Enjoy yourself, folks.”

Yes, good luck to us all.

Mike Littwin runs Sundays in The Aspen Times. A former columnist for the Rocky Mountain News and Denver Post, he currently writes for

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