Now that Ben Carson has surged to a lead over Donald Trump in several Iowa polls, the Donald has begun to attack the retired neurosurgeon in earnest. As usual, Trump is getting lots of attention for his aggression, but the press is missing out on the best part.
Trump began with this crack at a campaign rally in Florida on Friday:
"We have a breaking story. Donald Trump has fallen to second place behind Ben Carson. We informed Ben, but he was sleeping."
Haha, yeah you never know when that guy is going to just up and take himself a nap. No racism here, Carson just happens to be black, and happens to be prone to sleeping when he ought to be working.
Just in case, though, Trump revisited the attack later in the speech, but let the crowd know that he had a permission slip from his black friend (who is "a great, great athlete"):
"Ben Carson is the one that's leading Iowa, supposedly, okay, and I said 'I gotta talk about him.' A friend of mine who happens to be a great, great athlete, he happens to be African-American. He calls himself black, he said 'I'm black!'
"I said 'I can't say that, it's not politically correct,' it's true. He said 'You are the greatest trash-talker that has ever lived,'
and I never thought... He says this to me! And he said 'I never thought I'd say it about a white guy!'
"Can you believe this? And I said 'I don't know if that's true or not,' because I refused to acknowledge...He said 'When you said low energy for Bush, you defined him so incredibly, it was over. He can have $125 million in the bank, Donald, it's over. It was just defined!'
"But I said but Ben Carson is super-low-energy, right? It's super. He's super low. Super low energy. We need tremendous energy!"
That was dazzling. In backstopping his stereotypical attack against Ben Carson, Trump took the crowd on a tour of the Racial Cliché Wax Museum, explaining that his black friend, who is a great athlete, can't believe that Trump is a better trash-talker than other black people.
Carson was asked to respond to Trump's attack, and proceeded to out-weird himself by describing the variety of weapons he once used to attack people:
"I will tell you in terms of energy, I'm not sure that there's anybody else running who's spend 18 or 20 hours intently operating on somebody."
"As a teenager. I would go after people with rocks and bricks and baseball bats and hammers and, of course, many people know the story when I was 14 and I tried to stab someone."
That's right, Ben Carson used to go after people with, at times, multiple hammers.
Trump wasn't done with Carson by a damn sight, though. On Saturday, he attacked Carson's religion, then when asked to apologize, was like "Fuck no!"
STEPHANOPOULOUS: With those comments about Ben Carson’s religion, Seventh Day Adventist, I don’t know about that -- what were you trying to say?
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I don’t. I know nothing about it really. I’m a Presbyterian and I had mentioned that, and I did say I don’t know about it. And in fact those are my exact words.
So I just really know about the Seventh Day Adventists. I just -- you know, and that’s what I said.
STEPHANOPOULOUS: But why raise it all? You know, some conservatives claim the Seventh Day Adventists are not Christian. Were you trying to send a dog whistle to them because Ben Carson is beating you among evangelicals in Iowa?
TRUMP: No, not at all. In fact, I think nationwide I’m beating Ben with the evangelicals.
But, no, not at all. I just don’t know about that particular religion.
STEPHANOPOULOUS: Back to my question. Why raise it?
TRUMP: Because I just said I don’t know about it. I said nothing about it. I would never say bad -- I’d never say bad about any religion. And as you know, in fact, I think you just had a quote on, I said exactly "I don’t know about it". So you know --
STEPHANOPOULOUS: Ben Carson --
TRUMP: That’s not an insult.
STEPHANOPOULOUS: Ben Carson has asked for an apology. Will you give it to him?
TRUMP: Well, I didn’t say anything bad about it. I just don’t know about it. I would certainly give an apology if I said something bad about it. But I didn’t. All I said was I don’t know about it.
STEPHANOPOULOUS: So you’re not going to apologize to Ben Carson.
This is all vintage Trump, but the difference this time will be a true test of Republican voters' appetite for Trump-style aggression against someone they really like. This is the first time Trump and Carson have really traded blows, so the effect this has on the polls will be extremely telling. Trump is pulling away in national polls, so Carson needs voters to take his side at this point.