Trump’s ugly apprenticeship in politics needs to come to an end

(AP Photo / Mark Humphrey)

It does not matter why Donald Trump says the things he says. It does not matter if he says them to get media attention, to send “dog whistles” to people at the fringe of the electorate, to stake an unassailable claim to certain political ground, to establish an extreme position from which he will later negotiate back toward a subsequently shifted middle ground — none of these explanations justify the things Trump continues to say in his bizarre, unpredictable presidential campaign.

The hallmark of the Trump campaign has been his willingness to say absolutely anything if he thinks it will give him some kind of an advantage. He has said outrageous-to-merely-insulting things about Mexicans and Hispanic immigrants in general; women collectively and Rosie O’Donnell and Megyn Kelly individually; Iowans; Ben Carson specifically and Seventh-Day Adventists generally; John McCain personally and all POWs by implication; and of course pretty much every one of his opponents in both the Republican and Democratic primaries. Of course, he has also pandered to most, if not all, of these groups along the way as well, part of his apparent routine of playing both good cop and bad cop all by himself.

But his latest belief-beggaring statement — that the United States should ban all Muslims from entering the country, for any kind of reason, whoever they are and wherever they might live or be coming from — should be a clarifying moment to anyone who has been willing to indulge the various excuses for Trump.

This was no slip-up, no case of anyone in the media over-hyping or distorting what Trump said. Below is a screenshot (as of 9:10 a.m. today) of a press release on Trump’s campaign website:

Trump Muslims

That initial description of what Trump wants — “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” — leaves no room for distortion, misinterpretation or anything else. The candidate has previously said he thinks mosques should be under surveillance and that the U.S. should maintain some kind of database of Muslims living here.

I’ve seen some folks speculate Trump, who has built his campaign on what politicos call “earned media,” or getting the media to talk about you rather than paying for advertisements, was just trying to gin up some attention for a speech he gave last night in Charleston, S.C. I’ve seen suggestions Trump would never actually do that (and sure enough, he apparently has tried to backtrack a bit and claim the ban might not apply to U.S. citizens or those present legally). As I said from the outset, though, it no longer matters if there’s a method to Trump’s madness.

I continue to believe Trump will not be the GOP nominee — though I no longer exclude the possibility. But this is not about partisanship. This is about whether it is acceptable to allow a man who speaks this way to be a major political figure in this country. I’m not talking about censorship by the government; I’m suggesting the public need to stop indulging the man (although a strong defense of American liberty, and explanation of why Trump is out of step with it, from someone like RNC chairman Reince Priebus would also be most welcome right about now). However we may be warped into thinking reality TV is real, that celebrity represents something meaningful, that the political system is so corrupt as to warrant turning it upside-down — again, whatever your pet justification for taking Trump seriously — there is no justification for supporting a man who would rip the Constitution to defend the nation established by it. If you have ever criticized President Obama for acting unconstitutionally, as I have, your answer cannot be that two wrongs make a right.

In closing, I will acknowledge one possible, exculpatory explanation for Trump’s words: that he got into this race not intending to win it and, having risen to the level of GOP front-runner, is now trying to sabotage his own campaign and drive away supporters before either the ignominy of actual defeat at the ballot box or an undesired victory. If that’s the case, then, to borrow from H.L. Mencken, we should give Trump just what he wants, good and hard.

Reader Comments 0

91 comments
Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheRealJDW 2/3 of Republican voters also say they approve of Trump. The numbers for approval of Trump/approval of this idea among general-election voters, Dems and independents are also virtually the same. Probably because the question about the proposal included his name, which is called "priming" in opinion polls and means the question doesn't tell us as much about what people think of the idea as it does what they think about Trump.

The better gauge, given the way this poll was done, is the question about whether the proposal makes people more likely to vote for Trump. Only about a third of Republicans said so.

lvg
lvg

When government releases the blacked out part of the 9-11 report we may begin to figure out what h-ll is going on  with Saudi Arabia promoting radical Muslim theology and jihadism through mosques in the US.  The jihadis in Boston, Chattanooga and San Bernadino all were raised in the US and had benefits not available to Muslims outside US but they still wanted to kill us-why?


Trump is right that government needs to figure out what is causing home grown jihadis to kill Americqans after they travel overseas or if the are on "express" visas from abroad.Americans tired of Muslims spitting on this country.

DawgDadII
DawgDadII

This is what happens when the politicians and power brokers ignore and openly thumb their noses at the will of the people, repeatedly, for what is now decades. We are sitting out here living with terrorists on our own soil, and leaders in Washington, collectively people who by all DOI/Constitutional prisms are not ideologically "Americans". We pay to send our kids and everyone else's kids to good Universities which have become indoctrination centers for promotion of anti-American values and which graduate whining debtors instead of the foundation of a productive future for our nation. They sell our jobs and entry to our country to overseas interests, for their profit. We see open disrespect of law enforcement and law abiding citizens by our President and many political leaders and power brokers, open encouragement for tearing apart the fabric of our society. 


We did not create Donald Trump. He is an opportunist, leveraging circumstances we fought very hard to prevent and quite frankly are fed up with. 

Bruno2
Bruno2

@DawgDadII

My personal feeling about Trump is that the other candidates should look for the kernel of truth in what he says and address it in a reasonable way rather than clucking their tongues, pretending that what he says doesn't resonate with the public in some way.


FIGMO2
FIGMO2

I don't know who the heck Trump supporters are? His approval numbers fly in the face of all things logical.

Are his supporters conservative voters? Disenchanted white liberals engaging in a delayed Bradley effect? Disenchanted black voters who want Donald to bring back jobs, utilize his progressive tax plan, or boot the immigrants taking jobs that should rightfully be theirs? A combination of all three?

Why is Hillary ahead when Bernie seems to be the preferred candidate of the common folk?

Something's afoot when Trump's choking on his own and still rising in spite of it.

Maybe he'll drop dead from toenail fungus?

ByteMe
ByteMe

@FIGMO2 His supporters come from the same defective group of tea partiers who claimed "keep government hands off my Medicare!"  It's not that hard to fathom that 35% of Republican primary voters translates into only about 10% of the voting population.  It's the media distorting how big that 10% is that's keeping this horse race so fascinating.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@ByteMe @FIGMO2 


And democrats are alright with the government taking their Medicare?

Donald Trump at a GOP summit:

“Whether it is we are going to cut Social Security, because that’s what they are saying,” he continued. “Every Republican wants to do a big number on Social Security, they want to do it on Medicare, they want to do it on Medicaid. And we can’t do that. And it’s not fair to the people that have been paying in for years and now all of the sudden they want to be cut.”

No applause. Neither he nor you knows the audience to whom he was speaking.

Every time the topic is brought up on the AJC blogs, it's a vast majority of liberal Democrats who protest cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. A couple of moderate Republicans have chimed in as well.



ByteMe
ByteMe

@FIGMO2 Making up assumptions not in evidence in my post.  Reading is fundamental.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@ByteMe @FIGMO2

I agree with you on the media's distortion, but this part...

His supporters come from the same defective group of tea partiers who claimed "keep government hands off my Medicare!?

Just lookin' to spread your love around.


Eye wonder
Eye wonder

@FIGMO2

Head on over to Bookman's, fIGMO.  Many of your con friends are Trump thumpers. There are none so blind as those who will not see. Sheesh!

ByteMe
ByteMe

@FIGMO2 You do realize that "government hands" define, implement, fund, manage, and maintain Medicare, right?  It's not a corporate program or a church charity, it's a freakin' government program.

Lil_Barry_Bailout
Lil_Barry_Bailout

Let's not repeat the cowardly, racist mistakes made by FDR.

And leftists really ought to come down from their high horses.  They're actively working to deprive American citizens of their First, Second, and Fourth Amendment rights.  Like the radical Islamic terrorists, they hate our freedoms when they hinder their liberal fascist agenda.

ByteMe
ByteMe

@Lil_Barry_Bailout You spew words like they have meaning to you, but they don't have any meaning to the rest of us.

SGTGrit
SGTGrit

I don't believe that the majority of Conservative voters support Trump. I think what we're really seeing is an influx of those on the far-left posing as Trump supporters falsely lifting his numbers.

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

A conspiracy of people randomly called...

Gawatcher
Gawatcher

I have had the feeling the last couple of months that I was watching Richard Pryor's Movie "Brewster's Millions" and on New years eve, Trump will urge everyone to vote NONE OF THE ABOVE. See  this is just a bet he has with Karl Rowe.

sssinff
sssinff

GOP:


"We like Trump when he's a little crazy, hassling Obama to release his birth certificate. But we don't want him TOO crazy....you know, derailing the feeble chance we had at retaking the white house in 2016."


How does the saying go, you make your bed with dogs, you're gonna lie and get fleas?


No wait, it's that you shouldn't hitch your wagon to a sinking ship.


Yeah, that's the ticket!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@sssinff "hassling Obama to release his birth certificate"

Are you still holding that against Hillary, the original birther?

ByteMe
ByteMe

@Kyle_Wingfield so you're reduced to repeating a lie.  You know better, since your own newspaper printed the facts about it:


Trump said that Clinton started the birther movement and "was all in."

It’s an interesting bit of history that the birther movement appears to have begun with Democrats supporting Clinton and opposing Obama. But Trump, and others who have made this claim, neglect to mention that there is no direct tie to Clinton or her 2008 campaign.

The story appears to have started with supporters of Clinton, an important distinction.

Trump goes on to completely distort the chain of events by claiming Clinton "was all in" on the birther movement. Most of the talk started after Clinton suspended her presidential campaign. And the only thing she officially has ever done is deny any accusation of starting a whisper campaign.

We rate this claim False.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@332-206 So we all agree it came from her supporters. Where do you think they got it from?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@ByteMe "Trump goes on to completely distort the chain of events by claiming Clinton "was all in" on the birther movement."

So the quote hinges -- as these fact-check questions usually do -- on one phrase: "was all in."

I'll repeat what I wrote below: We all agree the story started with Clinton's supporters. Where do you think they got it from? Today, you might be able to say it came from social media (although those lies don't appear just spontaneously, either). But not in 2008. Of course she denied "starting a whisper campaign." What else was she going to say? And we're suddenly going to pretend that she's the kind of person who comes clean and owns up to things?

If you believe the Clintons stood by idly and innocently while that was going on, you'll believe anything.

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

@Kyle_Wingfield @ByteMe

"If you believe the Clintons stood by idly and innocently while that was going on, you'll believe anything"

Such as believing George Bush had nothing to do with the "John McCain has a black illegitimate child SC primary rumor".

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@332-206 I recognize both whisper campaigns likely started with someone in the candidates' campaigns. You?

ByteMe
ByteMe

@Kyle_Wingfield You referred to Hillary as "the original birther".  False.


Now you're trying to justify that she knew something about it and let it happen.  Not the same thing.  Goalposts being moved to support your mistake.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@ByteMe Did I use overly broad shorthand? Yes. Is it still rich for someone to hold the birther thing against Trump but not Hillary? Yes again.

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

@Kyle_Wingfield @332-206

Of course. The difference is one Party continually presents themselves as Owners of The Truth, Champions of the middle class, Disciples of The Faith, and the only True Americans. All of which is belied by their behavior.

Bush whispers are no more honest than Clinton whispers.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@332-206 "Owners of The Truth, Champions of the middle class"

You're really going to claim with a straight face that only one party claims that?

Pub Heaven
Pub Heaven

@Kyle_Wingfield @332-206

You left out the Disciples of the Faith and the only True Americans part.

And the face is one of wonder, for the Party whose mouthpieces urge war but avoid service, promote family values while servicing mistress at a Democratic pace, advance impeachment while conducting affairs, condemn gays until their own conduct is revealed, and wave faith flags as a useful step on their political ladder. 

Only one Party? No. Does one Party exceed another in those areas? Just a smidge,Kyle. Just a smidge.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@332-206 "You left out the Disciples of the Faith and the only True Americans part."

Well, no one would accuse the Dems of being overly religious. But Obama is fond of trotting out the "True Americans" thing, describing as "un-American" those who disagree with him about immigration, Syrian refugees, voter ID, etc. So thanks for reminding me to point that out.

And I got a good LOL at your "just a smidge" comment  re: the "Owners of the Truth," considering how often Obama and other Democrats accuse Republicans of having no honest reasons for holding their positions. Or don't you notice those things?

lvg
lvg

Glad to see Supreme Court finally realized Heller decision has to be limited to a second amendment right  strictly for guns used in the home for self defense and not assault weapons. NRA stooges Thomas and Scalia not too happy about that decision.  Ted Cruz has been  promoting assault weapons as a means of self defense .  Man is just as dangerous as Trump and equally hated by most members of Congress except the Anarchy Caucus.

lighteredknot
lighteredknot

@lvg  If you have any common sense and can be in any regard,non-biased;  then just read Justice Thomas's dissent and look at both sides.  If you can not see the distinction of UnConstitutional in refusal to hear,  then you have  no unbiased reasoning.

bu2
bu2

@lvg @ligfhteredknot He's perfectly qualified.  Ginsburg has lost it and Sontamayor never had it.

lighteredknot
lighteredknot

All you liberals who slam  Fox and Trump for wanting all muslim  refugees stopped or vetted and all so-called returning muslim citizens being vetted in order to return to US are delusional. If you love the lying, incompetent, Unconstitutional portended policies ( one can not have certain religious beliefs, own guns, etc.) as  obama and Hillary contend and state they will change that simply ignoring the Constitution and enforce laws they choose to do so and ignore the laws they choose then you will get as you deserve. To see a Bernie Sanders,  Communist (like obama) have the following that he has, if that does not petrify one, then what the hades would.                                                You liberal lovers are the only one who may have an opinion right? If you had any wisdom you would be preparing to get into the fetal position with the so-called obama Iranian deal which Iran has never signed. Sanctions lifted, money released and no investigations  ( the 24 day notice is beyond comprehension) then mark it on you pad; within 12 months Iran will go nuclear.  The elite Repubs and Dems will be hiding in their Applachaian Fortress and where will you be CYAing for that duration?                                                                                                 Yes you great pseudo-savant liberal geniuses know it all,  only your opinions should matter.  Just as the global waring   and warming crap position and if anyone opposes it, then the gov't should step on them and render them moot and mute;   Right? I would like to see Cruz first and then Trump second be elected over anyone running as a Democrat.  Now you just Carpe Diem and continue to blatherrate against that.  For the record,  America is now fiscally and morally bankrupt and those will be addressed in the near term with egregious consequences. Believe and proceed as you choose.  Best be preparing accordingly. 

popgun
popgun

What's wrong with being anti-Obama, anti-Washington? If you want to beat Trump, you're going to have to deal with this anger and lack of trust among the electorate. We have six months for this to sort itself out. If another candidate cannot knock him out, then the party had better not resort to dirty tricks to go around him. That will doom us to another left wing democrat.

ByteMe
ByteMe

Trump is really just saying what so many conservatives believe in their hearts... and some of whom actually come out and say similar junk in the blog comment areas on this site.


I say you should embrace the jingoistic misogynistic race-baiting message that Trump repeats and amplifies.  Only good can come from trying to elect a "true conservative" like Trump, right?  Right?

bbutcherAJC
bbutcherAJC

Just who are these apparently uneducated followers who give him the edge...certainly not the Republicans that I know, most of whom are reasonable and do not agree with either Trump or the myriad announced candidates.


Kensucharski
Kensucharski

No, neither the the white house or it's cronies are going to tell me how to vote.

MargaretHolt
MargaretHolt

Thank you, Kyle, for speaking out.  I know this was not an easy piece to write, but I feel it is critical at this time for thoughtful people who have access to a wide audience to be very clear about what we are hearing and observing.  This man does not have the character or civility that we need to lead our Nation.