How's that "pivot to the general election" going? For presumptive GOP nominee and Dunning-Kruger love child Donald Trump, not very well.
Amid multiple reports of campaign incompetence and the constant blowback from his racist attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, Trump's alienation of the party he hopes to lead has reached something of a tipping point. Tuesday, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) became the first major Republican figure to retract his endorsement. Talk of a contested convention -- which: how exactly? -- has resumed. And now, as Yahoo News' Olivier Knox reports, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn) has issued something of an ultimatum:
Donald Trump has two to three weeks to fix his campaign or risk losing enough Republican support that it would doom his run for the presidency, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker told Yahoo News on Tuesday.
“He’s obviously stepped in it. He’s made statements that are inappropriate,” Corker, a Republican from Tennessee, said in a telephone interview. The senator was referring to Trump’s widely condemned declaration that a Mexican-American judge is unfit to preside over a Trump University lawsuit because of the judge’s heritage.
Corker went on to say that Trump had entered a "defining period" in which he absolutely must "pivot" to becoming an acceptable "general election candidate." And if you've never heard of this defining period before, well, that's because no major party's candidate has really ever faffed up the post-primary period quite like Trump has.
Of course, no major party candidate comported himself with such reckless disregard for societal norms during the primary process either, so it's hard to see Corker's three-weeks-to-fix-this-or-GTFO deadline as anything other than late in coming. But as the New Republic's Jeet Heer theorizes, Trump's disparagement of Curiel seems to have been, at last, the proverbial bridge too far:
What makes the Curiel case so special that Republicans are acting as if Trump has finally crossed the line? The most likely explanation is that Curiel is a member of the governing elite, like Gingrich and Ryan, and in his capacity as a judge is part of the supposedly apolitical ruling class. Joseph McCarthy followed a similar trajectory: He destroyed the lives of countless Americans with his demagogic anti-communism, but only received bipartisan pushback when he went after the Army in 1954.
As Talking Points Memo editor Josh Marshall shrewdly noted on Twitter, Curiel is a specific individual with a biography, whereas the objects of Trump’s other attacks were mainly hypotheticals. Trump was promising to bar Muslims and deport undocumented immigrants, but the very fact that these measures would encompass millions of faceless people makes them hard to think about except in abstract terms.
Heer goes on to note that what made Trump's attacks on people like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and others more acceptable is that those could always be chalked up to "politics ain't beanbag." Those insults came at a time when Trump was, as they say, "in the arena," competing against his fellow candidates and the GOP establishment writ large to win the primary.
Now, Corker believes that Trump has basically got to snap to it and get domesticated in a hurry, telling Knox: "He’s got a period of time here that is incredibly important to his campaign to demonstrate that he has the ability to become a general election candidate, to move away from personality issues and move more towards substantive policy issues.”
The question is, can this be fixed, and who can possibly fix it?
No, no, come on now, let's leave Jeb alone.
It would appear that Trump is aware that he is really cocking this up quite badly. As of this writing, Trump has not tweeted all day, which has to be killing him inside. What he has done, is put out a statement on the Judge Curiel controversy, in which he attempts a gymnastic act of pretend-contrition, blending the passive voice with further carping that he's been treated unfairly in the Trump University case. (Which he hasn't, by the way.)
Basically, Trump is of the opinion that everyone who heard him take numerous shots at Curiel, in which he broadly suggested that his "Mexican heritage" made it impossible for him to justly preside over the ongoing fraud case against Trump University, did not hear him correctly, and he's really sorry that everyone got it wrong.
It is unfortunate that my comments have been misconstrued as a categorical attack against people of Mexican heritage. I am friends with and employ thousands of people of Mexican and Hispanic descent. The American justice system relies on fair and impartial judges. All judges should be held to that standard. I do not feel that one’s heritage makes them incapable of being impartial, but, based on the rulings that I have received in the Trump University civil case, I feel justified in questioning whether I am receiving a fair trial.
What follows from there are numerous paragraphs of whinging and prevarication and another shot at Mexico, leaving one to wonder what he is, in fact, attempting to walk back.
Another hasty "fix" seems to have been implemented for Trump's speech Tuesday night:
Ahh, teleprompters: your one-step solution to ridding yourself of white supremacy.
Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort -- who found in The Donald a candidate who combined his affection for foreign autocrats with his desire for a shorter commute -- told The Huffington Post's Howard Fineman that Trump is in the middle of an important period, during which he'll have to prove to the American people that he can "fill the chair." In this way, Manafort and Corker can be said to have aligned opinions on the matter. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Trump is, thus far, "filling the chair" in the style of an unhousebroken dog.
But he's got three weeks to fix this. Stay tuned!
Editor's note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims -- 1.6 billion members of an entire religion -- from entering the U.S.
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.