RICHMOND — If the family sat down to dinner, we couldn't invite Donald Trump to join us because Hannah, age 9, would be moved to tell him that he isn't allowed to call anyone stupid (the whole state of Iowa) or an idiot. She's also death on cussing. If his voice rose above the ordinary level and he became argumentative, Summer, almost 18, would be likely to say, quietly, "It's probably time for everyone to stop talking."

We couldn't invite Ted Cruz, either, because he'd want to say grace and it might be long, and everyone would get very wiggly and want to get at the food. The whole family is very much into food, even if some, like Jake, don't like everything that's served. And if Mr. Cruz became too intense, there's little doubt Max would say something funny, and we'd all fall apart laughing. Or he'd ask, plaintively, "Is this unsalted butter?"

We could break bread with Chris Christie. He might be a little boisterous, but we'd know he had the guts to walk the Jersey shore with Barack Obama even with the cameras rolling, and we have several family members who really love the Jersey shore. In addition, he gave the thoughtful answer when asked what American woman's face should be on the $10 bill, if the U.S. Treasury decided to acknowledge that women have currency in this country. Abigail Adams, he said with conviction, after his debate stage buddies had mentioned their mothers, a daughter, Rosa Parks (a possible contender) and Mother Teresa, a very blessed nun who isn't American.


Low key and intelligent, Jeb Bush might fit in even if we didn't agree with him across the board. We don't always see eye to eye at the table — but we usually offer contrary opinions with low energy. And we're pretty sure Jeb would pass the olives, use the right fork and put his napkin in his lap. The napkin thing, if paper, is admittedly a hazard around here — Tracer the sheltie surreptitiously steals them and retires to a corner to shred the paper before the owner even knows he's been robbed. Probably Jeb would be nonplussed.

John Kasich would be OK, although we don't talk about God's input much when we're all together because we're a mixture of things when it comes to religion, all the way from agnostic to devout, plus some with Jesus and some without. If Ben Carson sat down with us, we'd want him to explain the brain in low-tech terms, like why one of us can come down in the morning and unerringly reach for a jigsaw puzzle piece — impossibly elusive the night before — and pop it into place without thinking. But we wouldn't allow him to talk about opening up children's skulls — subjects involving blood or gore are verboten at our table.

A number of us would be unable to get our heads around shutting out Muslims and walling out immigrants. My mother-in-law, without English and probably terrified, went through the grim processing of Ellis Island after spending long days on a boat with her older sister, 15-year-old Rosie. Those members of her family who didn't join the Brunell exodus from Eastern Europe were killed by the Nazis. Ellis Island was tough, but it didn't block those two little girls from joining the older brother who waited for them in New York.

And the big bunch that would not be invited for dinner is that seemingly enormous crowd of people who cheer vulgarity, who are filled with anger, who think it's grand for a presidential candidate to physically threaten people and who believe they are put upon and abused every day in the United States of America. One wonders why they stay.

Ruth Bass is a former Sunday editor of The Eagle. Her web site is