I’m sure that headline alone will generate the same breathless, vituperative comments my American Spectator column on a similar subject has generated. In that column I addressed this business of how Fox News supposedly was “out to get Trump” with mean questions designed to ruin his campaign. My response was that if Trump’s answers to those questions hadn’t been so lousy nobody would have thought to criticize the questioners, because if Trump really was the candidate his fans seem to think he is he would have given better answers to them.
And I offered a few suggestions of what those better answers might have looked like…
Those questions might have been hard. So what? There are 17 candidates running. We desperately need tough questions to disqualify as many of the pretenders as possible. Actual contenders can take hard questions and knock them out of the park like a high fastball off Mike Trout’s bat.
Which Trump didn’t do.
Consider, for example the question Trump received from Kelly about sexist remarks he has made on a number of occasions beyond just his well-publicized imbroglio with the horrible Rosie O’Donnell. Here, from the transcript, is Trump’s answer…
TRUMP: I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct.
I’ve been challenged by so many people, and I don’t frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn’t have time either. This country is in big trouble. We don’t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.
And frankly, what I say, and oftentimes it’s fun, it’s kidding. We have a good time. What I say is what I say. And honestly Megyn, if you don’t like it, I’m sorry. I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be, based on the way you have treated me. But I wouldn’t do that.
But you know what, we — we need strength, we need energy, we need quickness and we need brain in this country to turn it around. That, I can tell you right now.
The real estate tycoon and reality TV star followed that up by attacking Kelly as a “bimbo” on Twitter and then making the suggestion that she had “blood coming out of her wherever” in a CNN interview about the debate. Most pundits took that to mean a suggestion Kelly’s question in the debate came from her menstrual cycle rather than her debate preparation, and that led to Erick Erickson disinviting Trump from his annual RedState Gathering over the weekend.
None of this was necessary. What if, instead, Trump had answered the question with something like this?
TRUMP: Look, I’m not politically correct and I don’t ever plan to be. I think political correctness is one of the worst things we have happening in this country. And whatever consequences for that there might be, I can handle.
And I really don’t accept the premise of your question, which is that because I might have said something nasty about Rosie O’Donnell, or somebody else who happens to be female, that it means somehow I have a problem with women. We might just have to disagree here, because I know at times you’ve been a little sensitive about this and I respect that. To me, though, if somebody happens to be female that’s not some defense to me calling them out when they need it.
Like for example, I don’t think it would be sexist for me to say something terrible about Lois Lerner, that awful woman from the IRS who persecuted all those people. Or Valerie Jarrett, who’s the one actually running the country and who’s more or less a communist from Iran. Or Loretta Lynch, who wants to prosecute the people who made those Planned Parenthood videos rather than Planned Parenthood. I get to criticize them without getting called sexist. Sorry, but that’s how it is.
That is every bit as tough an answer as Trump gave, but it actually scores some points — on the conservatism Trump’s allegiance with is in question, on the irritating and destructive weaponized political correctness used so often on Republican candidates, and on Kelly — who has perhaps injudiciously bitten the heads off male guests on her show for what she thinks are sexist statements.
It’s worth a full read, if I do say so myself.
The Trumpkins are going to need to do a lot better job explaining why it is that asking somebody about multiple business bankruptcies is out of line as a political debate question (and in the Spectator column I talk about how to crush the question with a good answer), or why Trump gets to accuse the Mexican government of actively exporting violent criminals across the border without having to prove it. Bear in mind, on the latter issue, that Trump could have easily said we can’t expect the Mexican government to help us control the border because it’s in their interest to unload their undesirables on us – that would have generated the same amount of backlash among the PC/corporatist crowd but with the benefit of being unassailably true. What Trump did was to overreach and then try to double down without doing anything to prove his case, which is stupid – he’s worth $10 billion, and if there is evidence that the Mexicans are letting their crooks out of jail to cross the border it’s well worth it to drop a couple hundred thousand dollars on some investigators to put together a brief of evidence to that effect and then throw it on a website he could tout on his Twitter and in media appearances.
These are the kinds of things that Trump could be doing if he was actually worthy of the support he’s getting. But this is very much a seat-of-the-pants operation, and that’s why it has little staying power despite the public reaction to Trump saying things that have needed to be said.
Rand Paul’s speech Saturday, that Kevin Boyd covered this morning, was a second tug at a thread which will unravel one of Trump’s chief narratives as the race continues – namely, that he’s better than the politicians because they all beg him for money.
Trump has scored a few rhetorical points by saying all the politicians are bought and paid for and that’s why the government can’t do anything right. But the response, as Paul and to a lesser extent Mike Huckabee delivered it on Thursday night, is that you don’t get to act like you’re better than the bought politicians if you’re the one buying them. And you especially don’t get to act that way if what you claim to get out of buying them is Hillary Clinton showing up at your wedding.
You simply can’t sustain that without getting dirtied up over the course of the campaign – and especially when the oppo researchers come up with what Trump has actually been getting from buying the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin.
But right now it looks like Trump is going to take a dump even before the real political arguments get engaged by his opponents. He’s killing his own campaign.
The Roger Stone thing is a good example. On Friday night Stone either quit or was fired as Trump’s chief messaging guru. Stone says he resigned, and released a letter he had written to Trump telling him he couldn’t be part of the campaign anymore if it was going to be about provoking media fights with people like Megyn Kelly. Stone has been around for a long time, and collected a large number of enemies for having been Machiavellian in his craftiness, and a wise old operator like him knows that you can only take a campaign based on personal animus against media figures so far before you get hurt.
So he quit, he says. But Trump’s camp denies it and counters that Stone was fired because he’s been using the campaign to generate publicity for himself.
This is difficult to believe, given that another of Trump’s consultants Corey Lewandowski, had a big writeup in POLITICO a few weeks back and he wasn’t fired.
Trump meanwhile went on CNN and did that insane “blood out of her wherever” rant on Megyn Kelly Saturday, which got him booted from the schedule at RedState. His response to that was to put out a press release calling Erick Erickson a “loser,” The release was beyond bizarre…
And meanwhile, the Trumpkins are hardly acquitting themselves well. Erickson…
Last night, people were leaving voicemails in my hotel room — having somehow managed to navigate the hotel switch board. At 3 o’clock this morning I had to unplug the phones in my room.
My twitter feed is unusable. It’s just angry people, many of them very recently created accounts of people following few others and with little to no followers. But I can’t interact with much of anyone because of the timeline.
Greta Van Susteren exacerbated it earlier today with her tweet piling on me, which brought in her followers on top of Donald Trump’s. They could not really distinguish that I had apologized for things I had said and Trump just changed his story.
Facebook is much the same way.
RedState suffered a denial of service attack throughout the night and into this morning.
Yesterday, my wife and kids had to pack up and leave the hotel because the few angry people were very loud and vocal as my kids were present. The kids got upset and scared so were unable to see the Gathering or go to last night’s party. The party itself was fine. Only two people told me they disagreed and they characterized it as “understanding but disappointed.”
It has the look of a campaign increasingly off the rails.
Stone’s interview with CNN over the weekend was tremendously interesting and well worth keeping in mind as events play out over the next several days.
And finally, the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes on how the campaign will end…
Trump is right, sadly, when he boasts that he is partly responsible for the 24 million viewers who tuned into the debate Thursday night. He has convinced himself that people watch because they love him and in a limited sense, he’s probably right about that, too. While I suspect that the Trump hype is driven by curiosity more than admiration, there is no doubt some segment of the population that is properly understood now as “Trump supporters.” That segment is small and will be shrinking in the coming weeks, but it won’t disappear.
The true Trump apologists are way too far in now. They’ve invested too much to bail on him. So his defenders will become increasingly desperate to convince people that this is all part of the establishment’s failure to understand their anger and the media’s failure to appreciate Trump’s appeal.
That’s backwards. It’s not that the media have failed to give Trump enough credit; we’ve given his supporters too much. We assumed that at some point they’d embarrassed to be associated with him: If not his slander of Mexican immigrants, then perhaps his mockery of POWs; if not his kindergarten Twitter insults, then perhaps his sad and compulsive boasting; if not his incomprehensible answers to substantive questions at the debate, then maybe, finally, his juvenile and misogynistic put-down of the female moderator.
Those who still remain Trump supporters seem to be beyond shame. It doesn’t matter that they’re angry about the incompetence in Washington. Turning to Trump to solve the problems in Washington is like turning to an ape to fix a broken refrigerator. It’s embarrassing, but rather than embarrassment, the Trump followers will feel more anger and their pose will shift from self-righteousness to victimhood. And many of them will dig in further.
More worrisome, for conservatives and for the country, so will Trump. As he’s abandoned by more rational beings, Trump, a man of deep and evident insecurity, will need these remaining supporters as validation that it’s the world that’s gone crazy, not him. They will encourage him to march on, guided by the misapprehension that there are many more behind them, perhaps hard to see, but following in the distance nonetheless. Trump will tout this support and insist, unconstrained by reality, that he can win. (This is the man who continues to say Hispanics love him and will support him, despite polls showing his favorability among Hispanics in the mid-teens).
And Hayes’ finale…
Trump threatened to leave if Republicans treated him badly. Now, because he’s a churl and a buffoon, Republicans have no choice but to treat him badly.
It’s foolish to pretend to know how it all ends. But one thing is certain: It won’t end well.