Team Trump (minus Steve Bannon) was so hunkered in its bunker yesterday that when “Meet the Press” and the other Sunday shows tried to book a White House spokesman, the regime went darker than a solar eclipse. Which meant that the bookers were stuck with the likes of Jerry Falwell Jr.
Yup, this is what happens when a failed president sends no aides to defend him. Where did they all go? Maybe we should put their faces on milk cartons.
Inevitably, the vacuum gets filled by someone from the D-team. Sure enough, Sunday’s sole surrogate was Falwell, son of the late religious right leader and a prominent member of the evangelical Christian community that has shamefully cleaved itself to Trump, a thrice-married money-hungering antithesis of Christian humility. Surfacing on ABC News, Falwell tried to defend Trump’s weak, equivocating rebukes of Nazis and white supremacists – and wound up making things worse. Big surprise.
I have to assume that the 81 percent of white evangelicals who voted for Trump were probably thrilled with Falwell’s defense (at this point, Trump’s main priority is shoring up The Base, without which he’s politically doomed), but the rest of us recognize tone-deaf spin when we hear it.
Was Falwell offended when Trump equated Nazis and white supremacists with those who showed up to oppose Nazism and white supremacism? Was Falwell offended when Trump said there were “very fine people” among the marchers who carried Nazi flags?
Ah, nope. Falwell replied: “I didn’t hear anything there that would offend somebody.”
Falwell sorta conceded that perhaps Trump could’ve been more sensitive to “my friends in the Jewish community,” that perhaps “he could be more polished and more politically correct.”
(Hang on a sec. Since when is it “politically correct” to condemn Nazis? Didn’t we conclude as a nation, on a bipartisan basis 75 years ago, that Nazis were bad?)
But ultimately, Falwell decided not to concede anything: “At least (Trump) is not politically correct. He’s not so concerned about focus-grouping every statement he makes….He says what he thinks and he is bold about it. I admire that in a leader…He doesn’t say what’s politically correct, he says what is in his heart.”
Again, hang on a sec. Trump spoke from “his heart” when he said there were “very fine people” marching with Nazi and white supremacist flags?
Host Martha Raddatz asked the question. Falwell replied: “He has inside information that I don’t have.”
Raddatz asked, what kind of “inside information?”
Falwell replied: “I think he was talking about what he had seen, information that he had that I don’t have.”
Raddatz, moments later: “I’m still intrigued by your idea that Donald Trump somehow knows there were some good people there.”
Falwell, suddenly in reverse gear: “I don’t know that to be the fact.”
Raddatz, moments later: “So would you say, given what you know, there were no very fine people on the side of the neo-Nazis?”
Falwell, reversing at 60 miles an hour: “I don’t have that information.”
I was tempted to feel bad for Falwell – who helms his late dad’s Liberty University, where hundreds of alums are planning to return their degrees to protest Trump – because it’s impossible for an outside flunky to defend the indefensible. But at the point when he extolled Trump as “something we haven’t had in national leadership for a long time, he’s substance over form,” I had no sympathy.
Trump is “substance over form”? This guy seriously needs a crash course in earthly reality. Norm Ornstein, the veteran observer of Washington governance, could teach Falwell a few things about Trump’s dearth of substance:
“Trump has not helped in the way a standard president would – bringing lawmakers along, participating in logrolling and horse-trading, using his own expertise to find the right formulas. Trump’s tone-deafness to politics and Congress, his complete lack of knowledge of major policy areas, and his narcissism have made the tasks of (Republican leaders) more difficult…The machinations and dysfunction inside the Trump White House, and the president’s stunning and defiant embrace in his press conference of white supremacists and anti-Semites, have made the fate of must-pass legislation more dicey.”
Seriously, by the time Falwell was finished yesterday with his D-Team duty, I almost yearned for the slick jabber of Kellyanne Conway.