Politics & Policy

Donald Trump’s Surrogates Continue to Defend the Indefensible

Ben Carson and Donald Trump at a church service in Detroit, Mich., September 3, 2016. (Reuters photo: Carlo Allegri)
Their response to the Access Hollywood tape should surprise exactly no one.

Donald Trump just loves to talk about hiring magnificent people. “I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people,” he told the Washington Post in August. From his current campaign staff to his future adoring presidential coterie, we are told, all Trump political entities will be filled with the finest, most competent human beings Planet Earth has to offer — so terrific, in fact, they’ll resemble those sexy-yet-logical aliens on Star Trek!

With this grandiose vision in mind, it’s always a bit jarring to see Trump’s actual surrogates in action, stumbling through an unending trail of hilarious, horrifying, and jaw-dropping moments, all aired on live TV. It’s almost like all four seasons of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo combined.

Take the soft-spoken surgeon and former Evangelical darling Ben Carson. If you’ve been paying attention throughout this ramshackle election, you’ve probably noticed that Carson is a bit of an odd duck, beyond his baffling crusade to elect a man who once implied he was a child molester. Carson offers offbeat theories about the Pyramids. He wistfully discusses childhood knife fights. His Maryland house is filled to the gills with shrines to — you guessed it! — Ben Carson, including a plaque with “Proverbs” misspelled and an oil painting featuring Carson posing with a very approving Jesus.

Many CNN viewers, alas, were less than approving this week, when Carson sleepily took to the airwaves to defend Trump from his latest scandal. To clarify, this would be the scandal in which Trump was taped saying he could forcefully grab women by their private parts and get away with it because he’s a “star.” It is also the scandal that many prominent Republicans dismissed as simple “locker room talk,” leading me to wonder if those same Republicans had been unknowingly sharing locker rooms with the Crotch Grabber, the notorious sexual predator who haunted my college campus for two terrifying quarters in the late 1990s.

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Carson, for his part, gave a similar line on CNN: Waxing poetic about power-trip crotch grabbing is common “banter,” he said. It is distasteful, he argued, but certainly not rare. Anchor Brianna Keilar, looking slightly perplexed, informed Carson that few normal people have heard “locker room talk” of this amped-up variety. “I haven’t heard it,” she said, “and I know a lot of people who have not heard it.” 

“Well maybe that’s the problem. Maybe that’s the problem,” Carson replied, calm as a Xanax factory. “People have not heard this. Maybe that’s the problem.” Keilar stared in wonderment. Yes, folks, this was happening: Carson was blaming America for failing to frequent scarier locker rooms. Viewers scratched their heads, wondering why Carson couldn’t just call the remarks a mistake and move on. Carson, after a pause, started to ramble about a train going off a cliff, which, to be fair, seems appropriate enough.

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At least Ben Carson didn’t blame the lyrics of Beyoncé for Trump’s remarks, like surrogate Betsy McCaughey. Nor did he blame the tawdry women’s book-club hit 50 Shades of Grey, like spokesperson Scottie Nell Hughes. He did not credit the Donald’s remarks to an “alpha” personality, as did Trump’s son Eric. But let’s move on to Rudy Giuliani, a semi-tragic figure who has morphed from competent New York City major and 9/11 hero into a lively Trumpian opening act.

Here’s a quiz question: Your boss has been dogged by a crotch-related scandal for days. Your poll numbers with women have dive-bombed. Evangelicals are getting edgy. Mike Pence, “the sincere cop,” is busy telling people that Trump is dreadfully sorry, ashamed, and that his heart has changed since those days long ago. It’s all very unconvincing, but at least he’s trying. What do you do?

#related#Well, if you’re Rudy Guiliani, you get up at a rally and make a joke about Hillary Clinton stuffing socialized medicine up her you-know-what! No, seriously. On Wednesday, Giuliani stopped short of specifically where Clinton should shove said medicine. “I didn’t say it! I didn’t say it!” he joked, throwing his hands in the air. “I suggested it, but I didn’t say it!” But the meaning was quite clear. In pure Trumpian style, it was a not-so-subtle middle finger to all the prudes and haters and losers out there.

But no one should be surprised, should they? Once you’ve defended Trump for so long — past the Clinton donations, the abortion flip-flops, the call for war crimes, the praise for authoritarian governments, the admiration for single-payer health care, the never-ending conspiracy theories, the personal instability, the compulsive lying, the statist urges — you’ll defend anything, and with relish. Hence, we continue to witness the embarrassing spectacle of Trump’s line of surrogates. Buckle up: It will likely get worse before it gets better.

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