For the most part, when I've written about Donald Trump (R-Wherever), it's been more in a general sense of his impact on the Republican campaign, not any specifics. Not just because there aren't any specifics, but he's not a serious candidate. Even by his own admission, many of the things he says are just for "entertainment." But Mr. Trump had a Q&A session at a rally on Thursday in Rochester, New Hampshire, that was so troubling -- seriously so -- that I can't let it pass without mention.
I'm not going to embed the video, because the question doesn't deserve that much of a platform. Though it's gotten plenty enough on television and online, so you can easily find it there.
It came when a supporter in a Trump t-shirt began by saying, "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American."
Trump quickly jumped in, saying, "We need this question. This is the first question."
The man in the audience went on. "Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question: When can we get rid of them?"
We all likely recall how Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) responded when he was the GOP candidate for president, and was asked an equally disturbing, though far more benign question. But to just refresh your memory --
So, how did Donald Trump respond when one of his supporters said, "We have a problem in this country. It's called Muslims. You know our current president is one. You know he's not even an American...Anyway, we have training camps growing where they want to kill us. That's my question: When can we get rid of them?"
Donald Trump replied this way: "We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things."
As attorney Joseph Welch famously said to Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI), which helped lead to the senator's fall, "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?"
Disgraceful doesn't even begin to touch Donald Trump's response. Or lack thereof. Divisive and harmful moves the line closer, and then add in irresponsible. Toss in race-baiting, too.
I've said here before that I don't believe Donald Trump is a racist, but that I do believe he has no problem pandering to racists. I hold to that, but he's making it a whole lot harder to stand by the first part. And to be clear, even if he's "just" pandering to racists, it's the equivalent of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. It's inviting the racists into your house and giving them room and board, along with a place to hold their meetings and spew their harmful wrath.
I think a lot of the problem for Donald Trump at that rally is that because he has built his "brand" on the birther movement, those people are the base of his support, and so it's difficult for him to contradict what he's long said and what they believe. And it's become increasingly difficult to extricate himself from their growing voice, if he even wants to.
A Public Policy Poll reported that 66% of Donald Trump supporters think that Barack Obama is Muslim. And a full 88% of Trump supporters think that the either is or might be Muslim. That's who's supporting Donald Trump.
The thing to keep in mind is that outlier fringe people like this don't tend historically to vote. So, though they might tell a pollster that they support Donald Trump, that doesn't necessarily translate to votes. And that's long been the problem he actually faces.
Chris Hayes on MSNBC had a perceptive comment. He said that if you replaced the world "Muslim" with "Jew" in the Trump supporter's question, and Donald Trump responded the same way, his campaign would be over.
"Or any minority," one of his guests added, I believe Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post. "He'd be looking in the Want Ads for a new job the next day."
But in the petty, mean-spirited, empty, racist, divisive world of Donald Trump and his supporters, saying something this sick about Muslims is not only acceptable, it's one of the core beliefs.
Is saying that too harsh? It's harsh, but I can think of no lesser description that is as accurate. We've seen too much evidence, and a question about getting rid of American citizens because they're Muslims requires a harsh response, not letting it slide by.
By the way, as another columnist said in the Hayes discussion, the correct response to someone talking about "training camps for Muslims" is that -- we actually do have training camps for Muslims, they're called the United States Army. Because Muslims here in the United States are Americans and fight and die for this country.
Not that any of this would matter to Donald Trump and his racist, ignorant supporters. No, not all of Donald Trump supporters are racist and ignorant. I'm just referring to the great many who are.
Over the weekend, I was talking with a friend who had just been reading a book about the Holocaust. He commented that when Hitler started, he wasn't someone evil pushing for ethnic cleansing and world domination. He was just a failed painter, seen as a joke. My friend wasn't remotely suggesting that Donald Trump is a Hitler nor even ever would be, nor am I. He was just making the point that over the course of history such things don't tend to start that way, but sometimes are just seen as a joke. Which is why, in the end, they aren't funny.
"We're going to be looking at a lot of different things. You know, a lot of people are saying that and a lot of people are saying that bad things are happening. We're going to be looking at that and many other things" -- isn't funny. And it isn't something that a spokesperson can try to explain away (yet again) as what Donald Trump "meant," that he meant her persona, or he meant the blood would be coming out of her ear, or that he meant to be humane about Mexicans, or that he loves The Blacks, that The Hispanics love working for him, that really he loves all women. The questioner demanded being shut down -- and Donald Trump let it pass.
And the fact that so many people are telling pollsters that they support Donald Trump and what he says, that isn't a defense of his response. It's the explanation why this is a problem.
It's been likely since Donald Trump began to hit his heights that the two biggest problems he faced were 1) translating mere poll support into actual votes, and 2) maintaining support the longer he's on the stage with absolute nothing to offer. And those two problems hold true and get more pronounced as the days continue.
The problems for the Republican Party are who do they have who can take over the leadership? And -- as I said before -- what do they do about inviting this man and his entourage of racism to the GOP convention?
Now, when will the Republican Party finally quit being afraid of its base and call this man on it?
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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