Reality strangles invention: Just another day in the ’16 campaign

    Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump look on as he speaks to an overflow room during a campaign rally at Cumberland Valley High School

    Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump look on as he speaks to an overflow room during a campaign rally at Cumberland Valley High School

    Years from now, if the grandkids ask you what the ’16 presidential campaign was really like, just tell them about August 2. It was much like every other day this year, except moreso. To borrow an old quote from sportswriter Red Smith, it was one of those days when “reality strangled invention.”

    I won’t try to analyze it. It’s enough just to itemize it.

    1. At a rally in Virginia, Donald Trump had a beef with a baby: “I love babies. I hear that baby crying, I like it! I like it! The mom’s running around – don’t worry about it. Young, beautiful, healthy.” Moments later: “Actually, I was only kidding. You can get the baby out of here. I think she really believed me that I love having a baby crying while I’m speaking.”

    2. At the same rally, a kid who looked to be 10 years old stood up and yelled for Trump to beat Hillary Clinton. In his words: “Take the bitch down!” When reporters later asked the kid’s mother where he learned to talk like that, she replied: “Democratic schools.”

    3. A retired lieutenant colonel gifted his Purple Heart to Trump. Trump, who got five deferments during the Vietnam war, and who has described his sex life during that era as his “personal Vietnam,” happily pocketed the medal, saying: “That’s big stuff. I always wanted to get the Purple Heart. This was much easier.”

    4. Chris Christie, in a rare breach of servitude, defended Khizr and Ghazala Kahn: “The pain of losing their son while defending our country is unfathomable, and I think it gives them the right to say whatever they want.”

    5. Trump told a TV interviewer that he refuses to apologize to the Khan family: “I don’t regret anything.”

    6. Christie wasn’t happy that his master on Monday had described Hillary Clinton as “the devil.” Christie disputed the notion that the Democrat hailed from hell. In his words, “She’s not the devil.”

    7. Maria Comella, a top Christie aide and loyal Republican who helped map his two gubernatorial wins, emailed CNN: “I’m voting for Hillary Clinton in November….There are times when principle trumps (no pun intended) party.” She said that, for too long, Republicans have stayed mum about Trump’s racism and inflammatory rhetoric. “For me, if our party has a future, we have to change that trajectory.”

    8. Trump attacked three Republicans – John McCain, Paul Ryan, and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte. He said that if McCain and Ryan lose their upcoming primaries, he’d be fine with that. He singled out Ayotte (who has a tough reelection race) because Ayotte has knocked him for dissing the Khans. In his words: “You have a Kelly Ayotte who doesn’t want to talk about Trump, but I’m beating her in the polls by a lot…We need loyal people in this country. We need fighters in this country. We don’t need weak people.” (By the way, he was lying again. Ayotte’s poll approval in New Hampshire is far higher than his.)

    Let’s see, what else…

    9. Reince Priebus, the Republican chairman, was reportedly “apoplectic” about Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan and McCain. (Insulting entire ethnicities and voicing ignorance about the world – that’s apparently OK. But dissing Paul Ryan? An apoplectic offense.) Elsewhere, Republican congressman Richard Hanna announced that he’s voting for Clinton, and Meg Whitman, the Hewlett Packard CEO and veteran Republican fundraiser, announced that she intends to not only vote for Clinton, but to raise money for her campaign – because Trump is “a dishonest demagogue.”

    10. Trump spokeswoman Katrina Pierson said that the death of Army Captain Humayun Khan was Obama’s fault. She told CNN: “It was under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton that changed the rules of engagement that probably cost his life.” Khan died in Iraq in 2004. When the rules of engagement were set by Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld. When Barack Obama was a state senator in Illinois. (Pierson is a piece of work. I’m old enough to remember when Nixon flunky Ron Ziegler was the nation’s most laughable flack.)

    11. Corey Lewandowski, the ex-Trump campaign manager, went full birther on Obama during an exchange on CNN: “Did he get in (to Harvard) as a U.S. citizen, or was he brought in to Harvard University as a citizen who wasn’t from this country? I don’t know the answer.” (Just a reminder. For commentary like that, CNN pays him.)

    12. In a California federal courtroom, Judge Gonzalo Curiel – whom Trump has attacked as “Mexican” (Curiel was born and raised in Indiana) – ruled that a federal lawsuit by former students of Trump University shall proceed to trial, because the aggrieved plaintiffs have raised legitimate questions about whether Trump “knowingly participated in a scheme to defraud.”

    13. And CNBC’s John Harwood reported that Team Trump is frazzled by its nutso leader. Campaign chief Paul Manafort is “not challenging Trump anymore. Mailing it in. Staff suicidal.”

    Yeah, just your basic slow-news summer day. But one long-awaited story did not happen yesterday:

    Yet again, Donald Trump did not release his tax returns.

    Today’s column, cartooned.

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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