Monday, July 27, 2015


Nate Cohn of The New York Times says that we shouldn't assume Donald Trump is undamaged by his John McCain remarks just because polls still show him riding high -- these things take time, Cohn says:
... it is not at all clear that we should expect Mr. Trump to suffer discernible losses in the near future. Take Herman Cain, who faced reports that he was accused of sexual harassment in late October 2011. These reports were surely more problematic for his candidacy than Mr. Trump’s comments about Mr. McCain, and yet the early polls conducted after the allegations did not show much evidence that they had any effect on his standing. One month later, Mr. Cain was out of the race.

If sexual harassment allegations didn’t immediately bring Mr. Cain down, there’s not much reason to think Mr. Trump’s ratings should crash either. It will take time for the effects of the scrutiny brought by Mr. Trump’s comments to take their toll. Maybe even a long time. What’s important is that the process of scrutiny, from party leaders and journalists, is now underway.
But here's the difference.

The initial big Cain scandal story, "Herman Cain Accused by Two Women of Inappropriate Behavior," appeared at Politico on October 31, 2011. Immediately, Cain went into a damage-control mode, claiming on Greta Van Susteren's Fox News program that he just made an innocent gesture in one accuser's presence, but conceding that the woman was paid a dollar amount "in the five-figure range." By November 2, we had a Rick Perry pollster claiming he'd personally seen Cain sexually harass a woman. We had a third woman claiming harassment. We had Cain calling the story a Perry hit job and then, a day latter, walking back that accusation. By November 7, USA Today was reporting on yet another woman's claim of harassment, under the headline "Woman Says Cain Put Hand Up Her Skirt." This accuser was represented by publicity-magnet attorney Gloria Allred. And then one of the original accusers went public with her account of harassment the next day. And on and on.

Does this remind you in any way of the Trump/McCain story? Let's compare: Trump said a controversial thing. Horrified political observers and fellow Republicans told us that what Trump said was awful. Trump walked it back slightly -- then moved on as if nothing terrible had happened. There have been no new Trump/McCain revelations, no secrets, no real or alleged skeletons in closets -- yeah, we were told that Trump had a cushy life as a draft-avoider while McCain was being tortured in a POW camp, but Trump didn't care. He has no sense of guilt about any of this. He's continued to be his usual cocky self. He hasn't been scrambling to do damage control. His wife hasn't been promising to go on Fox to defend him, then backing off. He's clearly never believed he needed to go into a defensive crouch -- and, because he acts as he's above it all, his fans agree. Dave Weigel saw this over the weekend when he hung out with some Iowa Trumpites:
Trump survived his McCain spat. Lots of people gasped at Trump’s “war hero” snark against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Not many of them will participate in the Iowa caucuses. According to CNN’s polling, Trump actually ticked up marginally in the Hawkeye state after the McCain joke. That may not last -- indeed, other polls in other states suggested that the joke backfired. But the sort of voter inclined to back Trump is not a fan of McCain.

“He had the nerve to put McCain in his place,” said Angie Binns, 59.

“I’ve been thinking that for years myself,” said Don James, a 62-year old immigration control activist who brought a “Deport Illegals” banner to the rally. ”No more walking on eggshells, no more political correctness.”

Another voter, who declined to state his name, reacted to the mention of McCain’s name by referring to (false) rumors that he had collaborated with Communists. Yes, McCain’s heroism powered him to many primary victories with Republican voters. But it’s 2015, and to many conservatives, McCain’s claim that Trump would “rile up the crazies” on immigration reform was more offensive than what Trump said.
Trump might fall -- but not because of the McCain incident. He's just acted as if he's above it all since he criticized McCain. He obviously doesn't feel he's guilty of anything, or even that anyone who matters might think he's guilty of anything and need to be persuaded otherwise. So he's just moving on.


Unknown said...

This goes along with one of the takeaways of Jon Ronson's book, So You've Been Publicly Shamed. It is the idea that acting repentant only makes the public go more wild. I actually think that's not so much true. What I see is that it is harder to publicly shame the rich and powerful. Regardless, this is doubtless what is happening to Trump. If people like Trump, they think his comments are truthful and brave. If they don't like him, they are offensive and cowardly.

Chai T. Ch'uan said...

Trump's spokesman (and attorney) is clearly trying the same strategy with the latest skeleton: "Totally legal, no big deal." It will be interesting to see whether it works again this time.

Professor Chaos said...

The Republican base voters have never been a fan of John Mccain. They can't forgive him for reaching across the aisle and working with Feingold. In Atlanta I saw very few. McCain bumper stickers until he chose Palin as his running mate. The McCain/Palin stickers started showing up all over.

Glennis said...

Stop using the word "controversial" to describe what Trump said. It wasn't controversial, it was simply offensive.

It's his MO. The only thing that made it noteworthy is that this time the subject of his offensiveness was a sacred cow.

petrilli said...

Hard to believe Cain went down, considering that brilliant TV ad featuring his charisma challenged chain smoking campaign manager. "Pure gold, Jerry!"