How do Republicans who don’t seem to care much for Donald Trump gently rebuke him without provoking his wrath or alienating his supporters?
They register a complaint about the tweets — or his attacks on the press and the FBI, or his mollifying of white supremacists — before pivoting to how, by and large, they’re delighted with his policies.
Those words are emerging as an operative phrase for many conservatives trying to reconcile themselves with Trumpism. Nearly 18 months into the Trump presidency, it’s both a verbal crutch toward fragile Republican Party harmony and a rueful but not exactly complete explanation of why most won’t abandon Trump.
Mitt Romney — who in six years has gone from Trump-endorsed presidential nominee to Trump scold to Trump-endorsed Senate candidate in Utah — acknowledged last week in an interview with NBC News that there are times he may have to call out the president for saying something “highly divisive or racist or misogynistic,” and wouldn’t consider Trump a role model for his grandchildren, “on the basis of his personal style.”
But, Romney said, “I believe his policies have been, by and large, a good deal better than I might have expected.”
Several days later, former House speaker John Boehner, while enjoying a Bloody Mary onstage at a policy conference in Michigan, sardonically assessed what Trump’s blend of nationalism and populism has meant for Republicans: “There is no Republican Party. There’s a Trump party. The Republican Party is kind of taking a nap somewhere.”
But, Boehner added, “If you can peel away the noise and the tweets and all that, which is virtually impossible to do, but if you peel all this away, from a Republican standpoint the things that he’s doing, by and large, are really good things.”