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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Republican elite’s kissing up to Trump is quite the spectacle

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz,

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence endorsed Sen. Ted Cruz, on Friday, but took the opportunity to praise GOP front-runner Donald Trump at the same time. Photo Credit: AP / Michael Conroy

There is dark humor to be found in hearing members of the so-called Republican establishment surrender to their supposedly bitter antagonist, Donald Trump.

On Friday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence seemed to do all he could to cushion his endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz by saying he thought Trump “has given voice to the frustration of millions of working Americans.” If Cruz was poised to finish off Trump for the nomination, rather than the reverse, you can be sure that Pence would have sounded more committed to the Texas senator.

Pence could have at least given lip service to how awful it was to hear the man he’d endorsed earlier, Marco Rubio, degraded by the blustering billionaire as “little Marco.”

Rubio had stood up to defend Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This measure was touted by cultural conservatives as an act of political courage — and condemned in liberal and gay-rights circles as limiting rights.

Pence also skipped a chance to say how cheap it was for Trump to taunt the governor’s new candidate as “lyin’ Ted.”

But party unity isn’t the same as political courage.

Another profile in caution belongs to Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania), who said: “Donald is a private sector business leader who knows what it takes to get things done — and that is something that Washington desperately needs.”

Actually, it was Shuster who got something he desperately needed last week — enough votes to narrowly beat back a primary challenge from a real estate executive who, like Trump, has never held public office.

According to multiple published reports, Shuster lost some mojo in a scandal involving his romantic relationship with a transportation lobbyist with business before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which he chairs.

While outspending his challenger, Shuster hadn’t yet endorsed a presidential candidate.

But as the House member secured his nomination Tuesday, Trump swept his state. So the congressman has now called for the party to unite behind Trump.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty put himself forward for president in 2012, but then got behind Mitt Romney — a special object of Trump’s sneering contempt and a voice of the rapidly declining “Never Trump” movement.

Pawlenty, too, is bowing before the strength of Trump’s support from GOP voters and reciting words from his script.

“He doesn’t look and sound like all the other politicians who yap and yap and don’t get anything done,” Pawlenty told The Washington Post.

Four years ago Pawlenty wrote a book called “Courage to Stand.” He talked about “the courage to do the right thing, the courage to say ‘no’ when everyone else says ‘yes’ because we know it’s the right thing to do.”

Perhaps defending Romney from Trump’s claims that he is a “phony” and a “fraud” might have exemplified the courage Palwenty preached.

But it’s a little late for lessons in grit, or even manners.

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