Just when you thought the Republican race for the presidential nomination could not possibly get embarrassingly worse, it does.
Last night, billionaire huckster Donald Trump had already won 7 of 12 state primaries and looked to increase his lead before the night was over.
Forty-eight hours earlier he was interviewed on CNN’s State of the Union (Feb. 28), by Jake Tapper.
Tapper: “I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be treason to your heritage. Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?”
Trump: “I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists.”
Tapper gives Trump another chance at the question: “…even if you don’t know about their endorsement… Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don’t want their support?”
Trump: “I don’t know what group you’re talking about. … If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.”
Tapper gives Trump a third chance at clarification: “The Ku Klux Klan?”
Trump: “But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So, give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know.”
Tapper’s fourth attempt: “OK. I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here.”
Trump: “I don’t know any – honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.”
For years, Trump has touted his educational background. He’s a graduate of Fordham University and the Wharton School of Business. Apparently, however, he was absent the day they talked about racism and the Ku Klux Klan, and he must’ve been out of the country when David Duke founded and operated the Louisiana-based Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in 1974.
Trump blamed his response on a defective earpiece – the equivalent of “the dog ate my homework,” but made no mention of it during the interview.
According to FactCheck.org (Mar. 1), Trump is suffering from David Duke Amnesia. “Duke ran for governor of Louisiana in 1991 as a Republican, and Trump said at the time that President George H.W. Bush was right ‘to come out against’ Duke’s campaign. Duke lost but he won a majority of the white vote — which Trump found troubling. ‘I hate seeing what it represents.’ ”
“In 2000, Trump considered running for the Reform Party presidential nomination but did not run because he said he did not want to be associated with Pat Buchanan, who had left the Republican Party to seek the Reform Party nomination, and David Duke, who supported Buchanan. Trump, at the time, called Duke ‘a bigot, a racist, a problem.’ ”
Okay, let’s just skip to the bottom line: Trump supporters… Could not care less.
Trump on Mexicans, June 16, 2015: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
Trump supporters: Agreed!
Trump supporters: Don’t care.
On Muslims: calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Trump supporters: Now you’re talkin!
Trump quoting Italy’s fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in a tweet (Feb. 28): “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”
Responding to why he quoted Mussolini, Trump said, “What difference does it make?”
It may not matter to Trump, but here’s how comments like that and others matter to Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan:
“When I see something that runs counter to who we are as a party and a country I will speak up. So today, I want to be very clear about something: If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.”
Trump supporters: Don’t care what he thinks.
Moving on, when it comes to policy issues, Trump relies on his standard no-specific-policy policy spiel.
Trump pledges to “knock out ISIS.” How? “We will, believe me. We will.”
Trump pledges to deport 11.3 million illegal immigrants. “They have to go.” How? “You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely.”
Trump pledges to build a giant wall between Mexico and the U.S. and make Mexico “pay for that wall.” How? “…you force them because we give them a fortune.”
In every speech Trump gives across the country, he pledges to “make America great again.” How? Well, he hasn’t exactly clarified that little detail yet.
Here’s what is clear.
Donald Trump does not represent how great America already is; he only represents the worst we have been. He’s a virus of everything we have fought against in our long history. From the fascism of Mussolini to fact-checking his statements, Trump fails the smell test for B.S. Our history is littered with the political debris of populous fanatics who fan the flames of fear and intolerance to support their own misguided need for power and attention.
Louisiana’s Huey Long, known by locals as The Kingfish, became that state’s governor and U.S. Senator with populist support only to succumb to the power he coveted for himself and his cronies.
U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy pandered to populist fears of communism and called anyone who challenged him a communist.
Populist Alabama Governor George Wallace stood in the doorway of Foster Auditorium at the University of Alabama to prevent Vivian Malone and James Hood, two black students, from enrolling, in a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court which had struck down segregation. In a 1963 speech, Wallace famously said, “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Donald Trump is only the latest incarnation of those extremists. Trump is not the elephant in the room. He’s the elephant man in the room – the freakish reality side show of demagoguery that dominates news cycle after news cycle, whose arrogant rhetoric goes against our most cherished values fostered by the likes of Lincoln and Reagan: human rights, religious tolerance, fairness and honesty.
America is not a perfect country. Americans see themselves as improvable, making incremental progress. History has demonstrated that we have not always been fair, respectful or honest. Nevertheless, from the Civil War to Civil Rights we have consistently held our own feet to the fire and shown the world that in spite of our imperfections, in spite of our struggles, and in spite of populists who incite fear and prejudice, we ultimately get it right. And that, Mr. Trump, is what makes America great, not words on a baseball cap.
And just like Long, McCarthy and Wallace, Trump will ultimately be turned away when the vast majority of Americans pull back the curtain and see the wizard for the snake oil salesman that he is.
Until then however, the message from Trump supporters to the rest of us is equally clear: DROP DEAD!