Political Editors / Mar. 4, 2016

'Don't Worry About It'

The most telling line from last night's debate?

Most of the focus at Thursday night’s debate centered (as always) on Donald Trump, thus, most of this analysis will focus on Trump, though that can be difficult because he doesn’t complete half the sentences he starts.

There were, as always, numerous phrases that Trump repeated over and over and over again. But one stood out to us as representative of his entire presidential bid: “Don’t worry about it.” Implication being, “I’ve got this, and I’ll work out the details later.” Oh, and, “Believe me.”

There are two things Trump is most defensive about – the size of his wealth and the size of his hands, and early in the debate, the thin-skinned narcissist defended the latter.

Last week, Marco Rubio quipped, “You know what they say about men with small hands? You can’t trust them.”

Last night Trump fired back, “He hit my hands. Nobody has ever hit my hands.” In fact, Trump has been defending his small hands since 1988, when a New York satire magazine panned his book, “Art of the Deal,” calling him a “short-fingered vulgarian.” That running dispute was highlighted last year in Vanity Fair. Though Rubio was pushing a well-known button when mentioning Trump’s small hands, Trump’s rebuttal was just more obfuscation.

Back to the first phrase — “don’t worry about it” — because it’s (arguably) more defining. With few exceptions, Trump offers no substantive answer to any question. To be sure, the 60-second-answer “debate” format lends itself to precisely his kind of vacuous rhetoric. But from a man trying to convince us that he can lead our nation out of the Obama malaise, is any answer more revealing than his dismissive, “Don’t worry about it”? No policy. No thought. No workable prescription for making America great again. Only The Donald’s mere presence and sizable, well, you know.

His answer on H-1B visas for higher-skilled workers may typify this attitude more than anything else. “I’m changing,” Trump said of his position. “I’m changing it and I’m softening the position because we have to have talented people in this country.”

Mark Krikorian, an immigration hawk’s immigration hawk, was astounded: “True enough, except that we already have twice as many technical degree holders as there are tech jobs. What made Trump’s ‘I’m changing’ comment even more shameless than usual for him is that just on Sunday he held a rally featuring former Disney employees who were replaced by the very foreign worker program he’s now praising.”

Wonder what Sen. Jeff Sessions thinks about his endorsement of Trump now.

There were also shades of Hillary Clinton being asked to release transcripts of her high-dollar speeches on Wall Street, as Trump was challenged to release a transcript of his recent “off the record” conversation with the The New York Times’ editorial board. In that discussion, Trump has been accused of contradicting key positions he has taken on immigration, the border wall, etc. Trump insisted, “I did have … a very nice meeting. Many of those things were off the record. … I have too much respect for that process to say, just release everything. I would not do that.”

Certainly, Trump’s immigration position is completely malleable, like everything else about him.

Moderator Chris Wallace asked about Trump’s claims he will balance the budget — and Trump trapped himself, responding with claims about hundreds of billions in savings in Medicare drug costs if we “bid properly,” insisting “they have hundreds of billions of dollars in waste. … Take a look — excuse me. You are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Unfortunately for Trump, Wallace had taken a look, and responded, “You say that Medicare could save $300 billion a year negotiating lower drug prices. But Medicare total only spends $78 billion a year on drugs. Sir, that’s the facts.” Trump stared at Wallace like a deer in the headlights of an oncoming semi.

Wallace (and Rubio and Cruz) further trapped Trump on the fact that his name-brand line of clothing is made in China and Mexico, and Trump stumbled over trying to justify that.

Another observation: Trump’s rebuttal every time he was pressed to respond with substance rather than fragrance was to invoke “polls,” the now-trademark operating procedure of the media poll master. “Donald lives by the polls every day,” Ted Cruz said.

Trump could only bluster, “No, I don’t. No, I don’t.” Yes, he does.

But by far the most troubling response of the night was Trump’s reply to moderator Bret Baier when asked about issuing illegal orders to military personnel: “So what would you do, as commander in chief, if the U.S. military refused to carry out those orders?”

Trump responded, “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me. … If I say, ‘Do it,’ they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about. … When I say they’ll do as I tell them, they’ll do as I tell them. And that’s very — it’s very simple. It’s very simple.”

Well, no, it’s not. And his response to Baier betrays his confusion about his authoritarian control over a private company with totalitarian control of our country.

Active-duty military personnel, and those of us who have family members serving our nation in uniform, take this presidential contest more seriously than most. What Trump fails to understand is that our military personnel are obligated, first and foremost, to uphold their oath “to Support and Defend” our Constitution, not their commander in chief. Our frontline fighters are not kitchen workers in a Trump casino.

Finally, when questioned by Megyn Kelly about “a class-action of over 5,000 plaintiffs” now suing Trump over his fraudulent “Trump University,” he claimed, “We have an ‘A’ from the Better Business Bureau.”

Kelly corrected the record: “The rating from the Better Business Bureau was a ‘D-’.” Caught in yet another outright lie, Trump flailed.

But it was these words Kelly cited from the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals judgment against Trump in one of the TU cases, that best summed up his entire presidential campaign and, unfortunately, those who support him: “They said that the plaintiffs against you are like the [Bernie] Madoff victims. [The Court] found that ‘victims of con artists often sing praises of their victimizers until the moment moment they realize they’ve been fleeced.’”

Indeed, Trump’s supporters are being fleeced by a con artist, and the most pressing question is, will they realize it before it is too late?

For the handful of Trump supporters reading this analysis, before you send hate mail, let us reaffirm that we get it – we understand and share your anger against status quo Republicans.

Indeed, as Ted Cruz said last night, “You’re angry at Washington, and Trump uses angry rhetoric. But for 40 years, he has been part of the corruption in Washington that you’re angry about… You’re not going to stop the corruption and the cronyism by supporting someone who has used government power for private gain… Donald Trump supported Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan. Donald supported John Kerry over George W. Bush. Donald Trump funded Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi taking over Congress to pass Obamacare. … [But] let’s talk about this election. The choice Republican primary voters are making is who is best prepared to beat Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump has written checks to Hillary Clinton not once, not twice, not three times. Ten times. Donald Trump in 2008 wrote four checks to elect Hillary Clinton as president.”

Donald Trump is NOT the solution.

And a footnote: In a moment of supreme hypocrisy, when Trump was interviewed by Bill O'Reilly after the debate, he scolded O'Reilly: “I think you get a little carried away with yourself.”

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