Is it just me, or has there been some notable distancing going on over the past week between Donald Trump’s usually reliable cheerleaders in the conservative media and their guy? Some of Trump’s biggest promoters suddenly seem far less enthusiastic about their candidate, and shockingly, a few even appear to be testing the waters for a public withdrawal of support.
Author and commentator Ann Coulter — who just a few months ago famously demonstrated her commitment to Trump by tweeting that she’d back him even if he performed abortions in the White House — has finally expressed some embarrassment at his conduct.
Coulter was referring to Trump’s derogatory, highly-publicized retweet about Heidi Cruz’s looks. Coulter added, “This is the worst thing that he has done. Everything else I could probably defend.”
That’s a pretty interesting statement, considering that prior to the Heidi Cruz tweet, Trump had mocked American POWs for their capture, ridiculed a reporter for his physical disability, mused about a journalist’s menstrual cycle and trashed her on the Internet for over six months (all because she asked him a question he didn’t like), disparaged Carly Fiorina’s face, said George W. Bush “lied” about Iraq having WMDs, compared Ben Carson to a child molester, and portrayed World War II internment camps as a good idea.
I don’t think she really believes that. I think something has changed.
Fox News’s Andrea Tantaros had been an adamant defender and champion of all things Trump for quite some time, both on-air and on Twitter. She seemed to take personal offense to National Review’s “Against Trump” issue, and has at times lashed out at the magazine’s writers (which has included the leveling of false charges). Tantaros has taken subtle and not-so-subtle shots at her Fox News colleagues for being critical of Trump — her advocacy for the GOP front-runner has been so glaring that even Bill O’Reilly has called her out on it.
Last week, however, Tantaros unexpectedly knocked Trump on Twitter, lumping his corrosive behavior in with that of President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Ted Cruz, and declared that the United States “has no good options” in leaders. Since then, her Twitter feed has been virtually empty of both praise for Trump and condemnations of GOP “elites” — a term she had been using quite regularly to define Trump critics.
Something has changed.
Breitbart columnist John Nolte, who has garnered a lot attention this election cycle with his aggressive defenses of Trump, is suddenly conflicted as well.
You might recall that Nolte made waves back in December when he proudly declared that Trump’s often-derided assertion that he watched “thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey celebrate the 9/11 attacks on TV had been “100% vindicated.” Nolte’s “proof” came in the form of a local news report describing an eye-witness account of fewer than a dozen Muslim celebrators — who Trump couldn’t possibly have seen on TV because they weren’t captured on camera. Still, Nolte felt it appropriate to actually apologize to Trump for having doubted the candidate’s “thousands” claim. It was an embarrassing display, but fairly representative of Nolte’s accommodating coverage of Trump over the past several months.
Remarkably, Nolte appears interested in putting those days behind him. Early Tuesday, Nolte criticized Trump’s temperament on Twitter — “If Trump had just a bit of self-control he’d already be the nominee” — adding: “He seems to enjoy playing with fire more than actually winning.”
Three hours later, Nolte expanded on his suggested disappointment, tweeting, “Trump’s erratic moods make McCain look like the Sphinx. Been on fence between him & Cruz but am growing tired of waiting for him to GROW.”
The stark about-face — and the laughable notion that he’s been “on the fence” between Trump and Cruz — earned Nolte an enormous amount of Twitter heckling from those who’ve been paying attention to his work since last summer. Even so, Nolte seems eager to abruptly put some distance between himself and Trump, and one has to wonder why.
Something has changed.
Something has changed, but what?
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Is it the collective realization that the worst possible candidate to put up against Hillary Clinton is now just a stone’s throw away from actually winning the Republican nomination, and that they helped bring the effort to fruition?
Is the thought of a landslide loss — at the hands of the man they compromised their principles to legitimize — causing them to worry about their professional longevity? (After all, Dick Morris certainly paid a price for his grossly awry analysis back in 2012.)
Maybe they’ve become exhausted with defending the indefensible, and no longer feel they can keep putting forth the effort at this point in the contest. Maybe they’ve realized that the fan-following they’ve accumulated is composed of some awfully unsavory folks.
Maybe some behind-the-scenes relationships with Trump have somehow been damaged.What’s clear is that the one person who hasn’t changed his behavior is Donald J. Trump himself. He’s just as poor of a candidate as he’s always been. He’s just as flawed — just as vulgar, immature, and controversial. He’s every bit as lost on policy and shallow on solutions. Trump hasn’t taken some unexpected, ideological turn, or crossed new boundaries of indecency that he hadn’t already crossed. He’s the same guy he’s always been — a liberal-leaning showman who somehow won the devotion of many in the conservative media-entertainment complex.
And yet, he’s just now become toxic or at least embarrassing to some of them. I imagine the real explanation of why is probably a pretty interesting one.
— John Daly is an author of thriller novels and a political/media columnist for BernardGoldberg.com.