Another day, another thing that's definitely going to end Donald Trump! Or maybe even two things! In a newly-published Rolling Stone article, Trump went after Carly Fiorina over her looks, and is also now on the attack against his nearest GOP presidential rival, Ben Carson. Neither of these things figure to actually dent Trump, but maybe we can learn a few things from them.
To set the table, the new Rolling Stone features a profile of Trump that includes this description of the candidate watching Carly Fiorina on TV:
When the anchor throws to Carly Fiorina for her reaction to Trump's momentum, Trump's expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina. "Look at that face!" he cries. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?"
That attack once again has people wondering if Trump has gone too far, and if this will finally put a dent in his now 30% support, but that's because the mainstream media still doesn't understand that to Republican voters, Carly Fiorina is just an estrogen hammer to beat Hillary Clinton with, and that there are lots of Republican women who feel that their white male husbands/brothers/sons/fourth husbands are just as put-upon and victimized by feminazis and minorities as those white males feel they are. We'll know soon enough when Trump inevitably attacks Fiorina at next week's debate, and if it does anything but give him a five-point bump, I'll eat a "Make America Great Again" hat.
If they're really paying attention, though, the mainstream media can learn something from Trump's response to the Fiorina flap when CNN's Chris Cuomo confronted him about the "un-presidential" attack on her looks, which is a bit like saying that public urination isn't very kingly. Trump responded by repeatedly insisting that he wasn't talking about Fiorina's face at all:
Even when Cuomo reads the quote to Trump verbatim, Trump insists he was referring to Fiorina's "persona," a point which Cuomo eventually has to just move on from because he's only got 22 minutes to spend on Trump (that's right, 22 minutes). Now, this is important, mainstream media, because this is where the lesson is: Trump's appeal is not about authenticity, since he is clearly unable to be honest about the thing he was so brave to say, that nobody else will. It's about the actual hateful things he says.
Also new this week was an attack on Trump's faith by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has been nipping at Trump's heels in polls of late. Aside from some low-amperage attacks on Carson's record of job creation, Trump has largely held fire, until Carson said this:
"I realize where my successes come from and I don't in any way deny my faith in God. And I think that probably is a big difference."
Do you stand on that? You don't believe his faith is sincere when he's made comments about it?
"I haven't heard it. I haven't seen it. You know, one of my favorite bible versus, Proverbs 22:4. it says 'By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life. And that's a very big part of who I am. Humility and the fear of the Lord. I don't get that impression with him."
Trump responded by lashing out at Carson, first by calling him so "low energy," he "makes Jeb Bush look like the Energizer Bunny," and then by hilariously attacking the thing that nobody in the world would ever attack Ben Carson for:
"I only bring this up, Chris, because I saw him hitting me yesterday. He's questioning my faith. I happen to be a great believer in God and a great believer in the Bible. Who is he to question my faith when I am -- he doesn't even know me. I've met him a few times. But I don't know Ben Carson. He was a doctor, perhaps an okay doctor, by the way, you can check that out, too. He was an okay doctor. He's a doctor and hired one nurse. He's going to end up being the president of the United States?"
"But for him to criticize me on my faith is absolutely -- for him to read from the Bible in his memory, it looked like he memorized it two minutes before going on stage."
This is actually an opportunity for the media to learn something about Ben Carson, because the amazing thing is that Trump id kinda right about Carson. Here's what the world-renowned surgeon recently suggested to survivors of rape and incest:
“I would hope that they would very quickly avail themselves of the emergency room, and in the emergency room, they have the ability to administer RU-486 and other possibilities before you have a developing fetus.”
Dr. Carson may be the go-to guy if you have a sibling attached to your head, but any middling pharmaceutical rep can tell you that RU486 is not approved for use as an emergency contraceptive in the United States, and that the so-called "abortion pill" is actually several pills that must be taken with a doctor's supervision over a course of weeks.
But Trump also nails the problem with Carson's attack on his faith, which might look like a winner to the mainstream media, but which plays very differently with actual Christians. There's an image of Evangelical Christians as judgmental people, and a lot of them are, but if there's an equivalent to Reagan's "11th Commandment" in religion, it's that you don't judge what's in another person's heart. That's why when Trump was pressed to name his favorite Bible verse, his failure to do so didn't hurt him, it hurt the reporter who asked. Faith is a very personal thing, and if Mark Halperin had asked me that question, I'd have said "Well, I've always been partial to the Book of SLAP! Chapter 'Fuck,' verse 'You'."
The genius of Trump's response is that he doesn't attack Carson's faith in return, he attacks the attack. He's probably right that Carson rehearsed that answer, right down to the Evangelical-preferred King James translation, the minute he saw Halperin quiz Trump, but any mediocre Christian will tell you that even if you think you've got mad faithin' skills, you don't bring them up as an example of your humility. It was a bonehead move, because everyone else in the world was already attacking Trump's faith for him.
If you're the mainstream media, the most important lesson you need to learn is that Trump is now attacking his fellow members in the Holy GOP Trinity of White Male Resentment, the "good ones" candidates who most directly represent opposition to the uppity likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. When Trump is rewarded with a polling bump, they should all lose this dopey idea that their success is due to angst at Washington, or "authenticity," or anything other than white resentment.