Ben Carson took back his remarks about U.S. Muslims celebrating 9/11, but Donald Trump insists he heard his false interracial murder statistics on the radio. Yes, really. Also, President Obama is standing firm on Syrian refugees. (More)
“He doesn’t stand behind his comments”
“He doesn’t stand behind his comments to New Jersey and American Muslims,” said campaign spokesman Doug Watts said. “He was rather thinking of the protests going on in the Middle East and some of the demonstrations that we’re going on in celebration of the towers going down.
“He doesn’t stand behind his references and apologizes for the mistaken references. It was a mistake on his part and he clearly wasn’t really thinking about New Jersey, he was thinking about the Middle East.”
“Many people have tweeted that I am right!”
At a rally in Alabama on Saturday, Mr. Trump claimed that he “watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering” as the World Trade Center fell on Sept. 11, 2001. He repeated the claim to Mr. Stephanopoulos on Sunday. But it was false, as fact-checkers at The New York Times and other organizations have since reported.
Mr. Trump did not budge, however. Instead, he pointed on Monday to a 2001 Washington Post article that said “a number of people” in Jersey City were detained and questioned for “allegedly” celebrating on their rooftops.
“I want an apology! Many people have tweeted that I am right!” he wrote on Twitter. (On Monday evening, the NBC reporter Katy Tur said that Mr. Trump had called her to say he has “the world’s best memory.”)
In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump defended tweeting a series of fabricated murder statistics designed to perpetuate racist stereotypes.
“I retweeted somebody that was supposedly an expert and it was also a radio show,” Trump said.
Trump actually copy-and-pasted a tweet from @SeanSean252, an anonymous Twitter user. @SeanSean252’s bio does not indicate that he is an expert in crime statistics or any other kind of expert.
In fact the original graphic came from an avowed neo-Nazi. But by midday today I expect someone will have found audio of someone on wingnut radio citing those false statistics. And if Trump heard it on the radio, then he’s not lying, right?
“The same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked”
I could bemoan the decline of our political dialogue, as we seem to have reached a point where “I heard it on the radio!” is taken as a legitimate defense when one is confronted with an easily-disproved falsehood. But it’s a holiday week and I don’t want to feel that grumpy.
Quite often, however, the Trump’s-really-got-a-chance! case is rooted almost entirely in polls. If nothing Trump has said so far has harmed his standing with Republicans, the argument goes, why should we expect him to fade later on?
One problem with this is that it’s not enough for Trump to merely avoid fading. Right now, he has 25 to 30 percent of the vote in polls among the roughly 25 percent of Americans who identify as Republican. (That’s something like 6 to 8 percent of the electorate overall, or about the same share of people who think the Apollo moon landings were faked.) As the rest of the field consolidates around him, Trump will need to gain additional support to win the nomination. That might not be easy, since some Trump actions that appeal to a faction of the Republican electorate may alienate the rest of it. Trump’s favorability ratings are middling among Republicans (and awful among the broader electorate).
There are a ton of links embedded in Silver’s post, and you should read it in full. But the point is, Trump’s poll supporters comprise the same percentage of Americans who believe moon landing conspiracy theories. And I’ll go out on a limb – squirrels like to do that – and speculate that they’re a lot of the same people.
Silver looks at the data – up, down, and sideways – and concludes:
So, could Trump win? We confront two stubborn facts: first, that nobody remotely like Trump has won a major-party nomination in the modern era. And second, as is always a problem in analysis of presidential campaigns, we don’t have all that many data points, so unprecedented events can occur with some regularity. For my money, that adds up to Trump’s chances being higher than 0 but (considerably) less than 20 percent. Your mileage may vary. But you probably shouldn’t rely solely on the polls to make your case; it’s still too soon for that.
Pass the pecan pie, please.
“That’s when we’re the shining light on the hill”
Nonetheless, Obama has been unyielding. Last Monday from Turkey he went after Ted Cruz, declaring that, “When I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not American.” On Tuesday in the Philippines, Obama targeted Chris Christie for being “worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.” On Wednesday he fired off six straight tweets on the subject, the last of which declared that, “Slamming the door in the face of refugees would betray our deepest values. That’s not who we are. And it’s not what we’re going to do.” Then, after meeting refugee children on Saturday in Malaysia, he declared that, “American leadership is us caring about people who have been forgotten or who have been discriminated against or who’ve been tortured or who’ve been subject to unspeakable violence or who’ve been separated from families at very young ages. That’s when we’re the shining light on the hill.”
In that article at The Atlantic, Peter Beinhart says the president’s firm stance is grounded in his understanding of American history:
Obama tells the story of American history differently: as America overcoming the evil within itself. In his 2008 Democratic convention speech, he talked about “a promise that has led immigrants to cross oceans and pioneers to travel west, a promise that led workers to picket lines and women to reach for the ballot.” The first two references – to immigrants escaping foreign oppression and pioneers overcoming nature’s hardships – are standard political fare. But by twinning them with workers battling exploitation and women battling sexism, Obama suggested that external and physical forces aren’t the only barriers to American progress. Sometimes, the barriers are other Americans.
Obama clearly sees the current nativist, bigotry-laden, hysteria as such a struggle. He knows he may not win. But he wants future historians to know exactly where he stood. They will. And as a result, I suspect, they’ll record the Syrian refugee battle among his finest hours.
I’m honored to share a homeland with President Obama. So pass the pecan pie.
Or at least the pecans. I shouldn’t eat the pie.
Photo Credit: Luke Sharrett (Getty Images)
Good day and good nuts.