Am I the crazy one? Is that what’s happened?
It sometimes seems so. At other times, however, it’s clear that many Republicans aren’t falling for it. Polls have found that an even stronger plurality of Republicans think Trump lost that debate, and his numbers are down a tick since that embarrassing performance. Yet his numbers stay strong thanks to his rabid supporters, who amount to about a quarter of the Republican electorate, who have dug in their heels.
Trump supporters probably think I don’t get it. This guy is promising to make America great again! Well, yeah, anyone can say that, but what is he saying about how he’ll do it?
To try and get an answer to that question, let’s take a look at five of his debate responses. (Here is the debate transcript.)
1. When asked about his problem with the Fourteenth Amendment granting birthright citizenship, he several times said that many of the “great” or “greatest legal scholars” agree with his stance that it does no such thing. Politifact tells us that it’s actually a small minority of scholars who agree. So when part of his plan is to boot “anchor babies,” most Constitutional experts tell us he can’t. Plenty of bluster, but no substance. That should be his campaign slogan.
2. When challenged by a Marco Rubio quote saying Rubio had concerns with Trump’s unfamiliarity with foreign policy after he was bewildered by some key names and organizations in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Trump said the following:
Hugh was giving me name after name, Arab name, Arab name, and there are few people anywhere, anywhere that would have known those names. I think he was reading them off a sheet.
While most average Americans don’t know those names, someone running for president should, despite their Arab sound. Moreover, such a candidate should also be familiar with their recent histories. The fact that he’s not only ignorant but making excuses for his ignorance is troubling. Supporters who run to his defense here are validating such ignorance and reinforcing that this campaign is not about knowledge of the country and world, but about bravado and misdirection.
3. But he wan’t finished!
“And frankly I will have — and I told him, I will have the finest team that anybody has put together and we will solve a lot of problems.
You know, right now they know a lot and look at what is happening. The world is blowing up around us. We will have great teams and great people.”
He attempts to put us at ease not by showing he has since brushed up on those names, not by showing us that he studies and brings facts to the table (like Rubio and Carly Fiorina), but by saying he will eventually get around to putting together an unnamed team–not just any team, but the “finest team”–that will “know a lot and look at what is happening.” He reminds us just a few words later, in case we forgot in the intervening two seconds, that he will have “great teams” with, thankfully, “great people.” Clearly, no other candidates will put together a great team, or else they would say so.
4. When asked who might advise him on foreign affairs: “I’m meeting with people that are terrific people.”
5. When hit on his pseudo-scientific take on vaccines causing autism, he reminds us that autism is on the rise, then uses an anecdotal example out of an autistic child he met who once got a fever after vaccinations and later became autistic. The science vehemently disagrees with such a connection, and yet again we have an examples of Trump just saying what people want to hear instead of showing insightful, reasoned judgement.
And that was just the second debate! Even his campaign website is egregiously silent on the issues. Look at any other campaign site and they have detailed stance on a dozen issues (well, except for Larry Lessig, of course). Trump has TWO issues discussed: defending the Second Amendment and reforming immigration. Of course, it’s his aggressive stance on immigration that has fueled his campaign, but it has many critics — including Republican ones — saying it’s not viable. At the debate, in fact, the moderators gave Trump the opportunity to respond to this Chris Christie accusation: “There are not enough law enforcement officers — local, county, state and federal combined — to forcibly deport 11 to 12 million people.” The moderator directed Trump to “Tell Governor Christie how much your plan will cost, and how you will get it done.” In a surprise to no one, he didn’t answer the question, choosing instead to remind us we have an immigration problem and “really bad dudes” that he would get rid of on his first day in office.
So on half of his two issues, he cannot support his platform.
The last week gives us yet another example. We saw his now infamous decision not to correct a man who 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.”
When the man transitions into asking when we’ll get rid of terrorist training camps, Trump is as specific as ever: “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.”
It’s the kind of vague response that reminds us of his incredibly basic campaign vocabulary–that of a third of fourth grader. It’d be hilarious on Saturday Night Live, but this man is leading the Republican nomination fight. This comedy could all too quickly turn into a tragedy.
The thing is, it’s impossible that Trump is actually this big of an idiot — he just plays one on TV. He has dumbed himself down enough to be understood by every single voter. The average Republican doesn’t know the Arab names either, while they do know they don’t like this president and think he’s made America a laughing stock. This new guy says he’ll make us very great and he’s looking at a lot of things and talking with terrific people in order to do that.
That’s good enough for some people, but not for me. You’ll excuse me for losing my patience.