Donald Trump has everyone’s number. Whenever he’s in trouble — when he’s caught making an outrageous comment, or revealing the depth of his ignorance, or when he says something untrue, or simply when the polls aren’t to his liking — he says something that gets the Mainstream Media to get its collective dress over its head. Trump’s supporters all rush to his defense, eager for a fresh fight.
In fact, if you listen closely to Trump when he does his stream of consciousness answers you can actually hear him do this mid paragraph — throwing out non-sequiturs, red herrings, and entirely unrelated insults. And it works almost every time. I’ve taken to shouting “squirrel” at the TV whenever he uses this rhetorical trick.
So the polls weren’t to his liking in Iowa. He walks out, reads a statement about “shutting down” all Muslims coming into America. He doesn’t “clarify” that he didn’t mean American citizens until the next day. That in itself was rather remarkable. What’s the point of presidential candidates writing policy proposal down if they don’t reflect any more consideration than his usual brain flatulence?
What happens? Everyone – and I do mean everyone — takes the bait. We’re doing it here at NRO — we have several items up on the topic right now, and no doubt more to come. That giant sucking sound you hear isn’t the supposedly job-sucking economy of Mexico, but Donald Trump hoovering up all of the media oxygen. Legal scholars weigh in on the constitutionality of it. Debates over the nature of fascism sprout up like mushrooms after a rainstorm. It is an entirely unserious proposal taken seriously by just about everyone, including the people who condemn it.
The media loves it for all the obvious reasons, including good ratings and the more comfortable storyline than Barack Obama’s myriad failures. Hillary Clinton loves it because it harms the serious GOP candidates, sows discord in the ranks of the Republicans, and supports her unfolding argument that the GOP is a vessel of warmongering, bigotry, and silliness. ISIS loves it (in this case) for remarkably similar reasons because it bolsters their efforts to say that the West is bigoted towards Muslims. Trump supporters love it because they’ve somehow convinced themselves that attacks on Trump prove he’s right. I would love for Trump to come out and declare 2+2 equals 17 just to see who gets booked on cable news to defend the proposition.
I have no solution for the problem. If conservatives and Republicans ignore it, the media and the Democrats will insist that silence equals agreement. If we join in the frenzy we only make the frenzy greater and give Trump exactly what he wants: all of the limelight. It’s all so transparent and pathetic. But it is also simply where we are.