The GOP must make it clear: Eric Greitens’s ad is out of bounds

The new campaign ad from Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens is beyond reprehensible. It’s a test for whether anything is out of bounds in today’s GOP.

Greitens’ spot is a tacit call to violence. In it, the disgraced former Missouri governor cocks a shotgun and says, “We’re going RINO hunting” (RINO, of course, refers to “Republicans in name only”). 

He then joins a group of men dressed in tactical gear storming a house, weapons ready to fire. Greitens enters the house and tells the viewer to “join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO-hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

This would be a disgusting, tasteless ad at any moment. Whatever you think of your political opponents, it is never acceptable to implicitly threaten violence against them. But in the current political environment, it’s positively vile.

Political tensions are rising on all sides. The Jan. 6 Capitol riot was at best a terrible protest gone wrong; at worst, it was a serious attempt to undo an election. Abortion rights fanatics are firebombing or disfiguring pregnancy clinics run by pro-life organizations.

A man was recently arrested with a gun near Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh’s home and said he wanted to kill the justice. Throw in the mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tex., and any reasonable person would see that it’s best to cool passions, not inflame them.

But Greitens is no reasonable man. He was forced to resign as governor in 2018 after being accused of having an affair and then blackmailing his mistress with nude photos. His ex-wife also says he abused her and his children.

(Greitens has repeatedly denied both the blackmail allegations and the accusations of abuse.) Rather than step back and rebuild his life, Greitens is doubling down on his political ambitions. He clearly does not deserve to hold any public office.

The question now is what Republicans will do about it. Even before Greitens’ ad emerged, establishment leaders were worried that his past would place an otherwise safe seat up for grabs if he won the party’s nomination.

This isn’t a case of someone who says something off the cuff that damages him, as was the case for 2012 GOP Senate candidates Todd Akin of Missouri and Richard Mourdock of Indiana. Greitens is someone who recklessly courts controversy rather than stumbles into it with inarticulate expressions. If he is willing to run an ad like this to win a primary, who knows what he’ll do to win the general election.

Responsible Republicans need to be clear and consistent: Anyone but Greitens will do. The Eagle Forum, a venerable conservative women’s group founded by Phyllis Schlafly, has stepped up and called on Greitens to drop out of the race. But the call has to come from higher up to have any chance at succeeding.