Donald J. Trump’s klown kar drove deep into Krazyland Sunday morning. CNN’s Jake Tapper asked — virtually begged — the real-estate magnate and GOP presidential contender if he would repudiate the praise of David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan. This should have been a dexterous dash across the speedway finish line (e.g., “Listen carefully, Jake: I hate the KKK. David Duke and the Klan can go to Hell!”) Instead, Trump triggered a high-octane traffic wreck.
Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK, wrote last Thursday on Facebook, “I think [Trump] deserves a close look by those who believe the era of political correctness needs to come to an end . . . I will vote for him and think you should too.” Duke also used that Facebook entry to excoriate “the Jewish tribalist takeover of our media, the crimes [of] Jewish predator banks such as Goldman Sachs and the total Jewish control over the Federal Reserve Bank . . . ”
Asked around 9:10 a.m. yesterday on CNN’s State of the Union if he would reject the plaudits of white supremacists, Trump replied, “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay?”
Tapper gave Trump two more opportunities to spurn Duke and his ilk. Trump just repeated himself.
“I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” Trump insisted. “So I don’t know. I don’t know. Did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.”
Perhaps Trump’s memory is failing. He knew very well who Duke was in 2000, when Trump explained why he chose not to run for president under the banner of the Reform party, in which conservative commentor Pat Buchanan and liberal activist Lenora Fulani were involved. “The Reform party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani,” Trump declared. “This is not company I wish to keep.”
#share#At 12:35 p.m., Trump took to Twitter to recapitulate something he had told journalists two days earlier, “As I stated at the press conference on Friday regarding David Duke — I disavow.”
But this was way too little, way too late. Trump’s detractors quickly recognized what a pile-up he created. And they pounced.
“We cannot be a party that nominates someone who refuses to condemn white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan,” Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) told a crowd in Loudon County, Virginia. “How are we going to grow our party with a nominee that refuses to condemn the Ku Klux Klan? Don’t tell me he doesn’t know who the Ku Klux Klan is.”
“Any candidate who cannot immediately condemn a hate group like the KKK does not represent the Republican party, and will not unite it,” said Senator Tim Scott (R., S.C.), a Rubio supporter and the first black American to represent a southern state in the Senate since Reconstruction.
“Really sad,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) via Twitter. “Donald Trump you’re better than this. We should all agree, racism is wrong, KKK is abhorrent.”
“A disqualifying & disgusting response by Donald Trump to the KKK,” former Republican nominee Mitt Romney said. “His coddling of repugnant bigotry is not in the character of America.”
RELATED: Trump, Would-Be Tyrant
Trump should have asked himself, “What would Reagan do?” When the KKK backed Reagan for reelection in 1984, Reagan unmistakably put the Klansmen in their place — in a galaxy far, far away. “Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse.” Reagan wrote in a letter to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, back in the days before the Internet and Fox News Channel. “The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood.”
The Federal Election Commission should fine Trump — a former donor to Hillary Clinton — for contributing excessively to her campaign. If Trump becomes the Republican standard bearer and faces Clinton, she will enjoy the priceless advantage of being able to tell voters, “Donald Trump had the chance to say, ‘No!’ to the KKK. Instead, he basically replied, ‘I’m thinking it over.’”
#related#She can repeat that line in every speech, and she probably will. This should drive the percentage of blacks who lately have voted Republican from 5 or 6 percent right down to asterisk levels.
Republicans have been cursed for decades by a failure to attract large numbers of minority voters, especially blacks. This is due, in large part, to the GOP’s senseless reluctance — with a few exceptions — to campaign in communities of color. Trump’s dreadful handling of the David Duke/KKK fiasco likely will hinder the GOP even further in this area. And if Trump becomes the Republican nominee, he could repel blacks, Hispanics, and — of course — white people who disdain the Klan, which is the overwhelming majority of them.