It’s a reality that has caused the Republican party — and, really, the entire political world — to suffer from a permanent case of whiplash.
After nine days of getting it wrong, Trump, finally, managed to express the right sentiment Monday night about the racially motivated violence in Virginia. “When one part of America hurts, we all hurt,” he said
. “And when one citizen suffers an injustice, we all suffer together.” While he made no explicit mention of Charlottesville in that speech, it was clear that his goal was to put his controversial comments behind him.
To re-litigate Charlottesville in any way — including using it as an example of how the “very fake” media misconstrued what he said (we didn’t) — would be a huge mistake, effectively reopening a political debate that Trump has zero chance of winning. (As evidenced by the strongly negative views of how he has handled it thus far in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll
For those who say Trump wouldn’t do that, consider that less than 24 hours after delivering a well-received statement on Charlottesville last Monday, Trump held a disastrous press conference at Trump Tower
in which he asserted he was right about everything all along.
2. The Cleveland Browns
Prior to their preseason game against the New York Giants on Monday night, a large number of Browns players kneeled during the national anthem
. It was the largest group yet to do so and included the first white player to participate.
That silent protest is a continuation of what then San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began last season when he kneeled during the national anthem during a preseason game
— and, in so doing, sparked a massive national controversy about race and patriotism.
At a campaign rally in Kentucky (sound familiar?) in March, Trump attributed the fact that Kaepernick had not yet been signed by an NFL team to a fear of his wrath.
“It was reported that NFL owners don’t want to pick him up because they don’t want to get a nasty tweet from Donald Trump,” Trump said
. “Do you believe that? I just saw that. I just saw that.”
Given Trump’s both-sides-do-it response to the violence caused by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, a riff on the Browns — or Kaepernick — would be, um, inadvisable.
3. Louise Linton
Trump — ever loyal to those who are loyal to him — might be tempted to defend Linton. “She’s a great lady — and elegant too!,” or something like that.
Bad idea. No one likes the guy defending the rich and entitled from the average Joe (or Jane).
4. John McCain and Jeff Flake
No state’s senators have clashed more with Trump than the duo from Arizona — and vice versa. Just months into his 2016 campaign, Trump took a shot at McCain by insisting “I like people that weren’t captured” and then — stop me if you’ve heard this before — refusing to apologize
. McCain exacted his revenge on Trump two years later by casting the deciding vote against the Trump-backed legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act
Flake’s new book — “Conscience of a Conservative”
— runs down Trump and the Republican Party that accepted him as its nominee
. Trump has already spoken to three potential Republican primary challengers to Flake who is up for reelection in 2018. Five days ago, Trump tweeted this
: “Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!”
There’s no question that a few ad hominem attacks against Flake and/or McCain would be well received by the assembled masses there to hear Trump speak tonight. But, he needs to understand that simply giving people what they want for a cheap applause high can badly undermine his efforts to unify his party behind things like tax reform, the budget and the debt ceiling. Attacking Flake and McCain in their home state would be Trump cutting off his nose despite his face. Which, if past is prologue, means he’s uniquely capable of doing.
5. The eclipse photos
Look. We all know that Trump broke the one cardinal rule of eclipses
: NEVER look into the sky without protective glasses on. It’s fine. It happened. Now it’s over. And lots (and lots) of people didn’t see it at all!
By not mentioning Eclipse-gate, Trump can keep it that way. But, it may be hard for him to resist using the episode as yet more evidence of the media’s terrible and horrible biases against him.
“They said I looked into the sun without the glasses on!,” you can imagine Trump saying. “And I didn’t.”
Spoiler alert: He did.
6. Steve Bannon
Trump arrives in Arizona to a series of negative headlines for his speech Monday night via Breitbart, the conservative website that his former chief strategist Steve Bannon — fired last Friday
Trump cares deeply about his media coverage and watches Breitbart along with the Daily Caller and the Drudge Report very, very closely. And he won’t be happy — at all — about his former aide taking pot shots at him.
But, there’s zero to be gained by going after Bannon. Conservative media — led by Breitbart — have been an incredible ally for Trump, and will be again. Why alienate them over one day of bad headlines?
Plus, talking about staffing and process is the surest way to lose a crowd. “Did you see what a guy who used to work for me said?,” is not exactly the world’s greatest applause line.
7. The electoral map
As you may have heard, Trump won the electoral college when no one said he could. They said it was impossible to do. But he did it. And, yes, he won Arizona — by 3.5 points — in 2016.
As you may have also heard, the 2016 election was 287 days ago. Trump was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States 214 days ago.
Spending any time at all about how he won a historic victory makes it look like Trump is still living off past glories. Which believe me — a guy who once scored 30 points in a 6th grade basketball game — is not a good look.