Reprinted from The Hill
First PolitiFact, the respected and politically neutral fact-checking organization, named Donald Trump's campaign statements in 2015 as the lie of the year.
Then leaders of the Republican establishment, desperate to stop Trump's White House bid but unable to unite behind a credible candidate like Marco Rubio or John Kasich, pretended in large numbers to believe that Ted Cruz -- a man they almost universally despise -- should be the next president.
A long line of leading Republicans who now support the party's presumptive nominee, including many who are running for the House and Senate in November, privately believe Trump will be a disaster as president and commander in chief but publicly claim they believe he's the right man to have his finger on the nuclear button.
There are exceptions to this widening circle of GOP deceit. Former nominee Mitt Romney and Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse warn Republicans about Trump along with leading Republican columnists George Will, Michael Gerson and David Brooks and principled conservatives such as William Kristol and Erick Erickson.
It is hard to tell when Trump is lying and when he is merely ignorant. He will say and do anything to be elected. His core beliefs change almost every day.
Let's take his statement that he wants to build a Berlin Wall-like construction on the Mexican border. It has been suggested, though not authoritatively, that Trump told The New York Times's editorial board that he doesn't really believe what he says about the wall. Every reporter who interviews Trump should ask him to authorize the Times to release the transcript.
Is Trump lying when he claims he will build the wall? Is he ignorant when he claims Mexico will pay for it?
My view is that Trump is incompetent by the standards of a president. Many Republicans agree -- some publicly, many secretly.
Recently Trump stated that America does not have to pay its debts as scheduled and could simply "print more money." If an American president ever said in office that the full faith and credit of the U.S. should be destroyed in this manner, it would trigger a global financial crash and meltdown. What do fiscally responsible Republicans who "support the nominee" think about this?
Why does Speaker Paul Ryan, formerly chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, think Trump keeps his tax returns hidden?
Trump said he would punish women for abortions. Then Trump said he would not punish women. Trump said he would cut taxes for the wealthy. Then Trump said he would raise taxes of the wealthy. He said he would order U.S. troops to commit war crimes. Then, perhaps, he would not. Trump would never cut Social Security benefits. But then he might. Trump will self-fund his campaign. Then he won't.
What do Republicans who support the right of 9/11 victims to include Saudi Arabia in lawsuits think of Trump's suggestion that Saudi Arabia should have nuclear bombs?
Do GOP candidates support Trump's admiration of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin? Or when he favorably retweeted the words of Benito Mussolini? Or his view that NATO is obsolete? Or his hope to chat with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, whom Trump once praised for eliminating his rivals, before suggesting South Korea should have nuclear bombs? Or his charge that immigrants from Mexico are rapists and murderers? Or his denigration of women he disapproves of? Or his low esteem for American POWs because they were captured? Or his physically mocking disabled Americans?
It is astounding to watch leaders and candidates of the party of Lincoln and Reagan base a presidential campaign on a big lie, claiming a candidate they fear and hold in contempt is worthy of the presidency, suggesting he doesn't really believe the things he says, secretly dreading the damage he will do to their party and to our nation.