Donald Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, but members of his own party keep excusing his outrageous behavior as if he's a preadolescent whose cognitive functions and sense of right and wrong haven't fully developed.
Returning to Washington from recess on Tuesday, Republican lawmakers faced a barrage of questions over Trump's overtly racist tirade against a federal judge. The real estate mogul has repeatedly accused U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who was born in Indiana, of being biased due to his Mexican heritage. Trump has also said Muslim judges may be biased against him.
Though some GOP politicians were quick to condemn Trump, others rushed to his defense, implausibly suggesting that a 69-year-old running to lead the country should be granted leniency for his inexperience on the campaign trail.
Don't Pick On Trump
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) seems to think Trump is being unnecessarily bullied for his remarks. "Be nice to him. He's a first-time candidate," he told reporters. "When you're in a big race, you make mistakes."
In a separate interview with The Huffington Post, Hatch speculated that Trump just felt like he was "being picked on."
"He's the type of a person who will make comments that sometimes you differ with, and then as he gets to reality on things," the senator said. "He'll change his point of view and be, you know, more responsible."
"I think he does feel like he's being picked on by the courts. A lot of people who go through the courts feel the same way. He just speaks about it."
Others, however, seem in awe of Trump precisely because of the number of cases he's won. "He must respect the judiciary," Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said. "I've seen statistics that he's won over 400 cases, only lost 30."
'Learning And Growing'
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee, seems to hope that by praising Trump's positions and embracing him, the presumptive GOP nominee will see the light and act like a grownup.
"It’s up to him to pivot. I want to encourage that. I’ve been criticized for saying some nice things about his foreign policy," he said in an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass) also expressed optimism that Trump will change his ways. Weighing in on the controversy over Trump's comments about Curiel on Fox News, Brown claimed the presumptive nominee was still “learning and growing.”
I Know You Are, But What Am I?
Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), on the other hand, expressed disappointment in Trump's latest remarks and said he expected better. "I just thought he was a lot smarter than that," he told HuffPost.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also issued a reprimand, saying it was time for Trump to knock off his tantrum and stop offending minorities with racist comments.
Yet despite these sterner voices, Trump appears to have no intention of backing down. On Monday, the real estate mogul reportedly instructed his supporters to impugn reporters as racists for questioning his line of attack against the judge.
One of Trump's surrogates, CNN political commentator Jeffrey Lord, took that advice and accused House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) of being racist after Ryan said Trump's comments about Curiel fit the "textbook definition" of racism.
Jen Bendery contributed reporting.