It’s a landslide verdict: A whopping 60 percent of Republican voters nationwide say they’re “mostly embarrassed” by the GOP presidential campaign. Gee, I can’t imagine why.
And this new national poll was conducted before Donald Trump dragged his knuckles into a Monday sitdown with The Washington Post’s editorial board. If Republicans were to read the transcript of that meeting, I bet that embarrassment stat would spike another 10 points.
Here’s your Republican frontrunner, talking to a roomful of grown-ups. Try to read this whole passage. Feel free to forward it to a well-accredited psychiatrist:
“Look at my hands. They’re fine …. My hands are normal hands. During a debate, [Marco Rubio] was losing, and he said, ‘Oh, he has small hands, and therefore, you know what that means.’ This was not me. This was Rubio that said, ‘He has small hands and you know what that means.’ Okay? So, he started it. So, what I said a couple of days later — and what happened is I was on line shaking hands with supporters, and one of supporters got up and he said, ‘Mr. Trump, you have strong hands. You have good-sized hands.’ And then another one would say, “‘ou have great hands, Mr. Trump. I had no idea.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I thought you were, like, deformed, and I thought you had small hands.’ I had 50 people — Is that a correct statement? I mean people were writing, ‘How are Mr. Trump’s hands?’ My hands are fine. You know, my hands are normal. Slightly large, actually. In fact, I buy a slightly smaller than large glove, okay? No, but I did this because everybody was saying to me, ‘Oh, your hands are very nice. They are normal.’ So Rubio, in a debate, said, because he had nothing else to say — now I was hitting him pretty hard. He wanted to do his Don Rickles stuff, and it didn’t work out. Obviously, it didn’t work too well. But one of the things he said was ‘He has small hands and therefore, you know what that means. He has small something else.’ You can look it up. I didn’t say it …. I don’t want people to go around thinking that I have a problem …. I even held up my hands, and said, ‘Look, take a look at that hand.’ And by saying that, I solved the problem. Nobody questions. Everyone held my hand. I said look. Take a look at that hand.”
Seriously, the writers who craft the cold openings on “Saturday Night Live” should just copy-paste this transcript and go home early.
Trump defends his vile rhetoric this way: “I think it is presidential, because it is winning.” He says, “I would knock the hell out of ISIS in some form” without defining (much less, detailing) any particular form. Also, despite new evidence that man-made climate change is happening at an unprecedented rate, he says “I am not a great believer in man-made climate change” — without offering a scintilla of counter-evidence. Also, on the well-documented racial disparities in law enforcement, he punts: “I’ve read where there are, and I’ve read where there aren’t. I mean, I’ve read both. And, you know, I have no opinion on that.”
And hey, he abhors specifics anyway: “Sitting at a meeting like this and explaining my views, and if I do become president, I have these views that are down for the other side to look at, you know. I hate being so open.”
Actually, Trump got specific at one point. He specifically named a few foreign policy advisers, including “the Honorable Joe Schmitz, inspector general at the Department of Defense.” Oh, man. Somehow Trump forgot to mention that Schmitz was forced to quit his Defense job back in 2005, amidst allegations — leveled by Senate Republicans — that he stonewalled criminal investigations of senior Bush officials. Schmitz parachuted into a job with the mercenary outfit then known as Blackwater. Schmitz has also described himself as a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta — reportedly, “a Christian militia formed in the 11th century, before the first Crusades, with the mission of defending ‘territories that the Crusaders had conquered from the Muslims.'”
Swell. This is what we get when we ask for specifics.
But if you read the transcript, you’ll see that, when somebody asks Trump a question, he typically responds by endlessly circling the airport. Take, for instance, his obsession with the press. He so wishes that he could sue the people who write things that aren’t nice. He has vowed to “loosen up” the libel laws, and here he says:
“What I would do, what I would do is I’d — well right now the libel laws, I mean, I must tell you that the Hulk Hogan thing was a tremendous shock to me because — not only the amount and the fact that he had the victory — because, for the most part, I think libel laws almost don’t exist in this country, you know, based on, based on everything I’ve seen and watched and everything else. And I just think that if a paper writes something wrong — media, when I say ‘paper,’ I’m talking about media — I think that they can do a retraction if they’re wrong. They should at least try to get it right. And if they don’t do a retraction, they should, they should you know have a form of a trial.”
I’ll try to unpack that. Start with “the Hulk Hogan thing.” Last week the wrestler won a lawsuit against Gawker, which had posted a sex video of the Hulk. That was a right-of-privacy case, it had nothing to do with libel. Secondly, libel laws do exist in this country. The Supreme Court ruled 54 years ago, in Times v. Sullivan, that public figures who are ticked off about negative coverage cannot successfully sue the press unless they can prove that the journalists knowingly made false statements or reported stuff “with reckless disregard of whether it was true or false.”
Trump may not realize this — his knowledge of governance seems a tad sketchy — but a president can’t simply overturn the Supreme Court by issuing an executive order that loosens up libel laws and makes it easier to conduct what he calls “a form of a trial.”
Indeed, during the editorial board meeting, he was specifically asked: “Given the Supreme Court rulings on libel — Times v. Sullivan — how would you change the law?”
Trump: “I would just loosen it up.”
Question: “What does that mean?”
Trump: “… I would loosen them up. I would loosen them up.”
That’s how a child thinks. I’ll give you an example. When my son was 4 years old, I took him to a Sesame Street show. As we exited, I asked him for comment. He said, “I liked it.” I asked why he liked it. He said, “Because it was fun.” I asked why it was fun. He said, “Because I liked it.” I asked why he liked it. He said, “Because it was fun.”
Yo, embarrassed Republicans: Are you having fun yet?