In the last month or so, both the presumptive presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have said stupid and even offensive things.
Trump, as we all know (because we heard it repeated by the media a thousand times), questioned the impartiality of a federal judge because he is of Mexican descent. Dumb. Even indefensible.
But Clinton, a few weeks earlier, said that she was going to put every coal miner in America out of a job. Messing with people's livelihoods is arrogant and smug beyond belief and, arguably, much worse than anything Trump has said.
Politicians often say stupid things. I'm old enough to remember when Ronald Reagan called ketchup a vegetable. Bill Clinton became a laughing stock when he said in 1992 that he "didn't inhale."
What is maddening about the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump gaffes is the reaction by the brain trusts of their respective parties. When Clinton promised to lay off tens of thousands of coal miners, the left knew she had stepped in it. But did you hear Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid denounce her as an out-of-control imbecile who has just threatened the jobs of middle-class union workers?
Did they clamor that one more of these unforced errors and she would be "disqualified" from the race? Did they rush on MSNBC and CNN and demand a retraction?
Of course not. Nope. Never. They aren't stupid. Like the worker bees, they did everything to protect the queen bee. They worked together to change the subject, denounce Trump and reassure voters that Clinton really does care about working-class people. She's even met some.
Nearly everyone dutifully parroted the party line: What Hillary really meant to say was blah, blah, blah.
That's called damage control.
The Republicans are, by contrast, pathetic wimps. They are so terrified of and traumatized by the "racist" charge, that they threw the GOP nominee under the bus so that the media wouldn't label them as bigots, too. They foolishly piled on to the media and Democratic attacks. The media didn't have to call on Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton to excoriate Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan lashed out at Trump for his "racist comment." Marco Rubio and others did the same.
They seemed to be saying, "See how racially progressive I am? I just denounced Donald Trump. He's the Republican racist, not me." That's statesmanship for you.
Question: Does anyone believe that this strategy will bring a stampede of black and Latino voters into the party? Do they think this will get the media off the GOP's back?
This wasn't the first time Republicans have played into the hands of the left. When Trump was absurdly charged with not properly denouncing a supporter who is a white supremacist, even many conservatives responded with leftist attacks. He wasn't sufficiently apologetic for the liberal media, and some Republicans, such as forgotten-but-not-gone Mitt Romney, nearly called him a member of the Ku Klux Klan. This is Romney's roadmap back to political relevance.
All of this is self-defeating on many levels. First, don't these lame-brained Republicans get that either they hang together or they hang separately? Tearing down Trump will mean thousands of political casualties down-ticket. Democrats do get this.
Second, since when do we judge our candidates based on the left's warped criteria? These Republicans seem to suffer from Stockholm syndrome, seeking the affection of their captors.
Finally, the GOP members of Congress would be wise to stop with the holier-than-thou strategy. These are the people who've blown a hole in the budget as big as Texas. These are the people who can't even defund the crony-driven Export Import Bank. How are they morally superior?
Instead, why don't Republicans ever try to seize the offensive on the race card? Want to divide and conquer the left? Take a school-choice agenda into the inner city and tell poor minority parents that the GOP is offering their kids better schools. Promise to bring safety, jobs and development to their neighborhoods. Promise to stop putting young inner-city blacks in jail for drug use.
The greatest victims of Barack Obama's litany of economic failures have been blacks and Hispanics. Obama's no racist, but the impacts of his policies are. Does it really matter that he means well? Republicans/Trump can win millions of votes of economically left-behind minorities in record numbers this year. But that won't happen by genuflecting to the left-wing civil-rights leadership. And it won't happen if the GOP's leadership is calling their flag bearer a racist.
Stephen Moore is a distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, economics contributor to FreedomWorks and author of "Who's the Fairest of Them All?" To find out more about Stephen Moore and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.