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Republicans baffled by Trump’s ascent

WASHINGTON – Who is Reinhold Richard Priebus? He, “Reince,” so nicknamed, Priebus, is the national Republican chairman. He crafted a perforated strategy to ensnare more Hispanic votes from the Democratic Party for next year’s presidential election.

All of the baker’s dozen GOP candidates were playing along with Priebus’ plan to make nice about the country’s porous southern border, except one.

That, of course, is the uncrowned Jerry Lewis of politics, Donald Trump of Manhattan and Palm Beach, 69, thrice married, a real estate mogul who has gone bankrupt and been investigated by federal financial regulators. He has as much gravamen and government experience as the above-named comedian.

Yet each time Priebus ordered Trump to fall in line, Trump got stronger. Last month, Priebus said Trump’s attacks on illegal immigrants were “not helpful.” Not helpful to the chairman’s grand strategy.

Last week, Priebus, by all published accounts, told Trump to “tone it down.” At week’s end, Trump’s brash charges about illegal immigrants and the Mexican government had pushed him to the top of all polls on GOP hopefuls.

The random killing of 32-year-old Kate Steinle July 1 by Mexican Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, five times deported, has edged along the campaign of The Donald, as one of his former wives dubbed him. San Francisco, where Steinle died, is a sanctuary city where local police do not cooperate with federal authorities in seeking out illegals charged with so-called minor crimes. Lopez-Sanchez, who said the killing was an accident, also said he was spaced out on marijuana and sleeping pills at the time.

Trump’s ascent has left the GOP baffled and frustrated. With the exception of Fox News, all the minions of conglomerate journalism, including NBC-Universal-Comcast, Time-Warner-CNN, and Disney-ABC are unloading on Trump around the clock with charges of shallow demagoguery and opportunism.

For the most part, their charges are valid. Trump has doubled down on his mantra that Mexico is mainly exporting to the United States murderers, rapists and drug dealers. And most controversial, Trump renewed charges that the Mexican government is behind the flow.

However, nothing has stemmed, so far, Trump’s swelling popularity, his 15 percent of likely Republican voters, in spite of – or is it because of? – the pounding he is getting, and loving. Furrowed brows in liberal academe try to explain it away by citing Trump’s long TV run with his show “The Apprentice.”

More is at work here, I think. Many voters have cast aside considerations about reputation and even truth. The administration’s misstatements about Obamacare, its spying on our telecommunications, breaches of personal security and stumbling in Iraq and Syria have left many disenchanted.

Fewer people trust the oligarchies in media. Many like it when Trump defies these combines and baits their headliners on television.

The rest of the platoon of Republican candidates, in their quest for more and more secret corporate money and a probably unattainable Hispanic vote, seem paralyzed on issues that matter most to the voters.

People have to ask for whom and what is Priebus speaking when he tells Trump to put a sock in it? The man in the white stretch limo and red comb-over who is prepared to say bold things – the only Republican who looks populist – is understandably having his day.

When covering the 1988 GOP primary, I strolled past the capital house in Columbia, S.C. I was stunned to see the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia flying there. As a black man passed me, I gestured to it. He shrugged and moved on. Now that hateful symbol is gone. Hurrah!