Following up on my comments Monday about Donald Trump “changing his tone,” I note that this week prominent Republicans are offering different timetables for Trump beginning to act like a leader instead of an angry score‐settler.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, “My advice to our nominee would be to start talking about the issues that the American people care about and to start doing it now. In addition to that, it’s time to quit attacking various people that you competed with or with various minority groups in the country and get on message. This election is eminently winnable.”
Note that, as I pointed out Monday, McConnell is not hoping for the 69‐year‐old Trump to change his actual character or his vast ignorance about public policy, just to “get on message” and listen to his campaign consultants. But he wants it done now.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker is a bit more lenient: “He’s got this defining period that’s over the next two or three weeks where he could pivot, can pivot, hopefully will pivot to a place where he becomes a true general election candidate.” Corker also refuses to say whether the candidate he supports is fit to be president.
Former speaker Newt Gingrich, perhaps remembering his own verbal stumbles, offers a much longer leash: “I am confident the Trump campaign, from the convention on, will be remarkably inclusive and will do much better with minorities than [Mitt] Romney did in 2012.”
So Gingrich gives Trump a full six weeks to start presenting himself as a serious, civil presidential candidate not focused on personal slights and ethnic insults. That’s very generous.
But as I wrote Monday,
When Republicans say that Trump must change his tone, they are saying that they want him to conceal his character for the duration of the election. But he’s a scorpion, and they knew that when they picked him up.
Perhaps along with changing his tone, Trump could change his policy positions: Support free trade, not trade war; sensible immigration reform, not walls around America; religious liberty, not Muslim immigration bans and spying on mosques; fiscal responsibility, not more money for the military and for transfer programs. Now that would be an attractive pivot.