One of those candidates — for years a reliable source of pop-culture comic relief — has managed to detonate his campaign, and threaten to implode the Republican brand, before the thing’s even started.
Donald Trump, trainwreck
The Verge reported. Twice.
It didn’t last long, of course, but it couldn’t be more symbolic of the self-inflicted PR wounds of our reigning carnival barker on steroids, a man whose presidential campaign is nothing more or less than an advertisement for himself.
Trump reignited his never-ending campaign for relevance on June 16, when he formally declared. But the stage and the rhetorical tone were set in earlier speeches, in Phoenix and Las Vegas. We should have known what was coming.
Even before his announcement, the style and bombastic tendencies of The Donald had grievously wounded not just his own presidential bid, but also damaged the GOP’s still-tender hunt for a fresh message and identity. The probable end of the Trump campaign arrived before the certain beginning.
At his formal announcement, at Trump Tower in Manhattan. his longtime embrace of passive-aggressive rhetorical intolerance continued. In several breathtakingly tone-deaf statements, Trump managed to condemn the Mexican people en masse for a host of social ills common to modern times on the long border between the United States and Mexico.
“When do we beat Mexico at the border?” Trump said. “They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us.
“They're bringing drugs, they're bringing crime, they're rapists, and some I assume are good people, but I speak to border guards, and they tell us what we are getting," he said. Doubling down on dumb, and stealing a page from the Herman Cain 2012 campaign playbook, Trump said he’d build a “great wall” between the United States and Mexico.
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THE REACTION was swift and visceral. Days later, NBC, responding to reaction from Hispanic groups, said the network would not air the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants co-owned by Trump. Univision, which broadcasts Spanish-language content to millions of U.S. Hispanics, had already pulled the plug on covering the pageants. Other companies bailed on him too.
“With one short speech about us,” Los Angeles advertising executive Roberto Orci said to NPR, “he tarred the entire Latino culture as being rapists and murderers and terrorists.”
Probably emboldened by a poll that showed him at the top of the early GOP leaderboard, Trump then went on to, well, trump himself. On Saturday, at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Trump suggested that Arizona Sen. John McCain, imprisoned for five years at the infamous Hanoi Hilton, was something less than a veteran worthy of the respect accorded to everyone serving this nation in uniform.
“He's not a war hero,” Trump said. “He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured.”
“I believe perhaps he is a war hero,” he said later, “but right now — he said some very bad things about a lot of people.”
But the damage was done. The Donald’s comments took a serious beatdown in the mainstream media and also among ops in the Republican National Committee.
“Senator McCain is an American hero because he served his country and sacrificed more than most can imagine. Period. There is no place in our party or our country for comments that disparage those who have served honorably.“ said RNC communications director Sean Spicer in a statement.
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And if Trump’s slagging of Mexico and certain American veterans was meant to capitalize on a recent poll that suggested the GOP primary electorate is tired of professional politicians and ergo ready for a fresh breeze, like Trump — he was disabused of that notion by another, more important poll on Tuesday.
That’s when The Des Moines Register, flagship paper of the state of Iowa (that primary primary state next year), published an editorial that could be the first nail in the coffin, or the last, of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign.
It reads in part: “It's time for Donald Trump to drop out of the race for president of the United States.
“If he were merely a self-absorbed, B-list celebrity, his unchecked ego could be tolerated as a source of mild amusement. But he now wants to become president, which means that he aspires to be the leader of the free world and the keeper of our nuclear launch codes.