Donald Trump has not had a good week. In Trump terms, that means he had a great week and that everything is going according to plan. His motto should be: never let reality get in the way of a good story.
Trump continues to embarrass himself and his supporters, but no one is deterred. Some of his most prominent supporters, like Ann Coulter and Newt Gingrich, are beginning to waver, but one suspects that after a couple of good primary election nights they will be running back into the Trump fold.
This morning Peggy Noonan analyzed the Trump phenomenon. Since her views are close to mine, I am happy to pass them along.
Obviously, Noonan had to address Trump’s flubbing the question of whether or not a woman should be punished for having an abortion. Christ Matthews asked the question aggressively and since Trump is not used to having anyone get in his face or talk back to him, he got flustered and flubbed the question. It’s what happens when a bully gets bullied.
Noonan explained her view:
I guess it’s still new to Donald Trump, and so unexamined, un-thought-through. Yes, he walked back or clarified his stand on punishment, and yes, Chris Matthews badgered and browbeat him on MSNBC. But presidential hopefuls, especially Republican ones, are routinely badgered and browbeaten. You have to deal with it. It’s part of how you earn the big job.
Of course, we know that Trump is beyond embarrassment. We know that his followers are missing an embarrassment gene. Everyone else on the right side of the political spectrum is horrified at the mistake, not only because it makes the candidate look like a rank amateur who is out of his depth, but because his befuddlement and his hostility toward women is dragging the Republican Party into oblivion. You might think that it’s the best thing that can happened to the GOP, but still, would it not be better if the Party lost on the issues, and not for nominating someone who is manifestly unfit for the presidency.
Trump is far more comfortable when he is insulting people and especially when he is insulting women. A bully who cannot stand his ground against a man, but who constantly manifests hostility toward women is a coward.
The list is too long to review, but, the pattern is becoming clearer. Trump is a caricature of the way Democrats and liberal progressives have always seen Republicans. If your purpose in life is to give aid and comfort to the Democratic Party, to ensure that Paul Krugman continues to believe that he is always right, then Trump is your man.
Worse yet, Trump is unprepared. He is unprepared to take tough questions from a journalist. He is unprepared to discuss the central issue of the campaign. He has not thought through the issues. He has not reflected and considered and studied them. He has not debated them. The more he appears in public the worse he sounds… except to his true believing cult following idolatrous supporters. They are the ones who should really be embarrassed by it all.
The weakness and the ignorance appear more blatant now because there are so few candidates. When there were ten or so people on the debate stage, Trump could get away with banalities and platitudes, with slogans and tough talk. Now that there are only two candidates, people are tiring of the shtick the questions are becoming more pointed and he is floundering.
If you expected otherwise, you were not paying attention.
John Cassidy tells about Sam Nunberg, a former Trump advisor who has decamped for the Cruz team:
Earlier this week, Sam Nunberg, a former political adviser to Trump, endorsed Ted Cruz, saying that his ex-boss lacked the policy substance and intellectual coherence to be President. To be sure, Nunberg isn’t the most desirable of character witnesses. Last summer, Trump fired him after it emerged that he had used racist and derogatory language on Facebook posts. But Nunberg’s comments about Trump’s inattention to detail were in line with the testimony of others who have worked with him over the years. Nunberg said that he began to grow concerned last fall, when, during a debate, Trump didn’t appear to know what the nuclear triad was. “I was concerned but I figured that he would bulk up on policy,” Nunberg told Politico. “He has not. I do not see a candidate who takes these issues seriously.”
If Trump were seriously preparing for the upcoming campaign and the presidency, he would be boning up on these issues. If he is not, he is showing that he knows something that his followers do not know: that he is not a winner.
For her part Noonan believes that an accumulation of gaffes-- not a single error-- will doom the Trump candidacy… will doom it now or will doom it in November. She writes:
It’s been going on for four or five weeks, and you can take your pick as to the tipping point. Maybe it was when he threatened to “spill the beans” on another candidate’s wife, or when he retweeted the jeering pictures of her and his own wife. Maybe it was his inability to clearly, promptly denounce the KKK; maybe it was when he hinted at riots if he’s cheated out of the nomination. Maybe it was Corey Lewandowski’s alleged battery of reporter Michelle Fields. Maybe it was when Mr. Trump referred in debate to his genitals, a true national first.
It has all added up into a large blob of sheer dumb grossness. He is now seriously misjudging the room. The room is still America.
Trump ought, at this time, to be consolidating his gains and bringing the party together. He is not. He is doubling down on offensive and embarrassing:
At this point it is his job to keep the support he has and persuade those who don’t like him to give him a second or third look. To do that he only has to be more thoughtful, stable and mature in his approach—show he may be irrepressible and fun and surprising, even shocking, but at bottom he has within him a plausible president.
Instead, he is stuck at nutty. Rather than attempt to win over, he doubles down. In the process he shows that what occupies his mind isn’t big issues, significant questions or the position of the little guy, but subjects that are small, petty, unworthy.
Instead of reassuring potential or reluctant supporters, he has given them pause. Instead of gathering in, he is repelling. This is political malpractice on a grand scale.
Noonan might be grasping a little too hard, but she suggests that perhaps Trump is unworthy or his supporters:
Maybe the sadness here is that Mr. Trump’s supporters are earnest and full of concern for America and he isn’t worthy of them. Maybe he only harnessed their legitimate anger but can’t do anything with it because he’s not as serious as so many of them are, but a flake, a dope with poor impulse control.
What happens to Trumpism—his stands on illegal immigration, trade, entitlements—when Mr. Trump is gone? Does he have any sense of responsibility for what he leads?
What is going on here? I have offered some of my own views on the matter. Others have made similar remarks. They have either been saying that Trump is self-sabotaging or that he does not really want it or that, as I suggested, he never really thought he would win it.
John Fund offers this opinion:
No one knows how the Trump drama will play out, but if indeed he contributes to his own loss of the nomination the consequences for politics will be, to borrow a Trump word, sad. The legitimate anger and cynicism toward Washington that is felt by many of his supporters may be channeled into unproductive behavior and their alienation only enhanced. Far from Making America Great Again, Donald Trump might wind up leaving his supporters even more powerless and feeling like Trump’s Chumps.
John Cassidy has a thoughtful assessment at The New Yorker. Obviously, Cassidy does not belong to the conservative commentariat, so he is far less torqued by a candidacy that is conspiring to put Hillary Clinton in the White House and to deliver American politics to the progressive left for a generation.
Even if he is cheering Trump on, his views merit attention.
Obviously, Trump mishandled the Lewandowski manhandling incident. Again, it is not a good thing for a man, or, should I say, a thug, to manhandle a woman. For Trump and his supporters, beating up women is OK. They have been beating up and blaming Michelle Fields-- it's so much easier than answering questions from Chris Matthews or Anderson Cooper. Now, as if on cue, Trump supporters have been threatening Michelle Fields, to the point where she has had to move out of her apartment. Another victory for the Teflon Don!
Cassidy explains what a serious leader would have done, if he did not want to start hemorrhaging female votes:
After Tuesday, when police in Jupiter charged Lewandowski with battery and released a security video that showed him grabbing Fields’s arm and turning her around, the situation became very different. (Lewandowski denies the charges.) Practically any other candidate would have fired Lewandowski, or at least severely reprimanded him; said sorry to Fields; and tried to move on. Far from doing any of these things, Trump sought to deny the evidence provided by the video. Not only that, he defended Lewandowski’s actions, on the grounds that Fields might have represented a physical threat to him. “She had a pen in her hand which the Secret Service is not liking because they don’t know what it is, whether it’s a little bomb,” he said on CNN.
At some point someone should have apologized. Trump says that it would have done no good, but he does not know if he has never tried it. Serious leaders know how to apologize. Only a god never has to apologize.