Horseshoes and hand grenades

Donald Trump can be a strong advocate of playing by the rules.

For example, he defends four Chapter 11 corporate bankruptcies by saying he appropriately used the law.

“I have used the laws of this country — just like the greatest people that you read about every day in business have used the laws of this country, the chapter laws, to do a great job for my company, for myself, for my employees, for my family, et cetera…

You know what it’s called? It’s called negotiation.”

Mr. Trump also praises the rules of eminent domain: “[W]hen it comes to jobs, roads, the public good — I think it’s a wonderful thing.” In fact, he understands eminent domain well enough to have been on both sides of it.

On other rules, Mr. Trump can be less particular. For example, he has said that if he’s within 100 votes of winning the GOP presidential nomination on the first ballot, that’s close enough: Otherwise there might be riots. To accommodate Mr. Trump, the long-standing convention rule on this question would have to be replaced by a new rule. Call it the “horseshoes and hand grenades” rule.

Historically, a convention where no candidate had a majority on the first ballot has been called “contested.” Among many others, Abraham Lincoln, FDR, Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford were nominated at contested conventions. A very brief review of nominating convention history would have revealed to Mr. Trump that the rules for a contested convention are neither new nor nefarious. That would have required just the slightest practical, not even intellectual, curiosity.

Assuming the horseshoes and hand grenades rule is not adopted by the Republicans, and Mr. Trump does not accumulate the requisite majority, the 2016 GOP convention may be contested. This means that at least some delegates will become “unpledged” on second and subsequent ballots. “Unpledged” means they no longer are bound to vote for the winner of their state’s primary/caucus. Knowing this rule, Ted Cruz is asking delegates to consider voting for him where the rules allow it.

Donald Trump is upset about this. He should be. Senator Cruz is demonstrating superior understanding of the rules and he’s out-negotiating Mr. Trump.

All in all, I’m afraid this doesn’t matter very much for the general election, because Mr. Trump is assuring an outcome where Mrs. Bill will be President whether he wins or loses the nomination.

It would be more satisfactory if he loses at the convention, however, because Cruz would have used the convention rules, to paraphrase Trump, “just like the greatest people that you read about every day in politics have used the rules of these conventions to do a great job for their country and its citizens.”