October 2, 2015: a date… which will live… in infamy; at least for one journalist.
That look of utter defeat on Washington Post Columnist Dana Milbank’s face comes as a consequence of a promise he made last year.
“I’m so certain Trump won’t win the nomination,” Milbank wrote, “that I’ll eat my words if he does. Literally: The day Trump clinches the nomination, I will eat the page on which this column is printed in Sunday’s Post.”
And Milbank, a fair-minded journalist, offered several points to back up his claim.
In that October column, Milbank wrote, “On Wednesday, the day the front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination was in New Hampshire alleging that Syrian refugees fleeing for their lives may actually be clandestine terrorists, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee was in Washington, talking sense.
“ ‘Donald Trump will not be the nominee,’ Mit Romney told a group of business-school students at Georgetown University.’ And why won’t Trump, who, when he isn’t besmirching Syrian refugees as terrorists, is maligning Mexican immigrants as rapists, get the nod? Because, Romney said, ‘when all is said and done, the American people usually do the right thing.’ ”
Sadly, there is nothing “usual” about this election cycle.
In that 2015 column, Milbank wrote, “The Post’s media reporter, Paul Farhi, took me to task this week for expressing such a sentiment. I was one of the pundits he named as being ‘consistently wrong’ in predicting Trump’s demise, one who ‘declared his candidacy dead or mortally wounded’ while Trump instead ‘maintained his leading position in opinion polls.’ ”
So, what does Milbank do?
Just like Trump, he doubles-down.
“…my prediction that Trump will ultimately fail isn’t about punditry or polling. It comes from faith that American voters are more sensible than many poll-obsessed journalists and commentators give them credit for. Trump (and Muslim-baiting Ben Carson) won’t prevail in the Republican primary because voters, in the end, tend to get it right.”
Then, we all sat back and watched as a millions of Trump supporters went from sensible to irrational in the blink of dozens of primaries.
Flash forward to last week.
“Seven months ago,” Milbank writes, “I said I would eat an entire column, newsprint and ink, if Trump won the nomination, calculating that Republican voters were better than Trump. The Republican voters let me down: Though a majority didn’t support him, enough did, and no viable alternative arose. …
“I’ve dispensed with the unhelpful suggestions from readers that I consume my column with hemlock, cyanide or excrement. And though I appreciate all the Hannibal Lecter references, I won’t be eating the column with fava beans and a nice Chianti…
“A large number of readers said eating the newspaper in any form but raw would be cheating. ‘Man up! No sneaky dodging!’ argued Jeffrey Drummond.”
And so, last Thursday, with the help of local chef Victor Albisu of Washington’s Del Campo restaurant, Milbank sat down to eat his printed words LIVE in front of the world on The Washington Post’s Facebook page.
All of this reminds me of a quote by Britain’s eminent statesman, Winston Churchill:
“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”
I can only hope – along with a few million other Americans – that the Churchill Doctrine will survive in November.
In the meantime, bon appétit, Dana!