After the gatekeepin's done: Kevin Drum says that Candidate Trump gave last night's worst answer. It came when Hugh Hewitt popped a question concerning our aging "nuclear triad."
Hewitt's a conservative talk show host. Keep that in mind for later.
Like Drum, we'll provide Trump's answer in full. We'd like to add a couple of points to the standard derision:
HEWITT (12/15/15): Dr. Carson just referenced the single most important job of the president, the command, the control and the care of our nuclear forces. And he mentioned the triad. The B-52s are older than I am. The missiles are old. The submarines are aging out.Trump didn't have much to say about the nuclear triad. His answer reads like a third-grader's essay on "what I did on my summer vacation concerning the nuclear triad."
It's an executive order. It's a commander-in-chief decision. What's your priority among our nuclear triad?
TRUMP: Well, first of all, I think we need somebody absolutely that we can trust, who is totally responsible, who really knows what he or she is doing. That is so powerful and so important. And one of the things that I'm frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you're going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly. And it was very important.
But we have to be extremely vigilant and extremely careful when it comes to nuclear. Nuclear changes the whole ball game. Frankly, I would have said get out of Syria; get out—if we didn't have the power of weaponry today. The power is so massive that we can't just leave areas that 50 years ago or 75 years ago we wouldn't care. It was hand-to-hand combat.
The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable, this is what he's saying. The biggest problem we have is nuclear—nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon
That's, in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.
HEWITT: Of the three legs of the triad, though, do you have a priority? I want to go to Senator Rubio after that and ask him.
TRUMP: I think—I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.
"I seriously want to hear anyone on the right side of the aisle defend Trump as a potential commander-in-chief after hearing this," Drum said, after providing that answer by Trump.
Let's add a couple of points. Let's start with this year's transformation in the role of accurate statement:
Trump had nothing to say about Hewitt's question. For that reason, he quickly recited a giant howler which has been floating around, with few objections from the press, since the first GOP debate:
"One of the things that I'm frankly most proud of is that in 2003, 2004, I was totally against going into Iraq because you're going to destabilize the Middle East. I called it. I called it very strongly."
Back in September, at the second GOP debate, Trump made a lengthy presentation on this theme. It seems obvious that his claim is false. To this day, he doesn't even seem real clear concerning the year the Iraq war started.
(He keeps saying he was "totally against going into Iraq" in 2004. That's fine, except the war began in March 2003. In August, at the first debate, he offered a shorter speech about his opposition. "In July of 2004, I came out strongly against the war with Iraq," he flawlessly said at that time.)
Trump made a giant, absurd presentation on this theme at that long-ago second debate. He claimed he could produce dozens of news reports about his opposition to the war.
No such reports have ever appeared or have ever been found.
Three months later, the candidate still feels no compunction about repeating this apparently bogus claim. His absurd statements simply continue.
During this, The Year of the Trump, routine dissembling of this type has been completely normalized. The press corps has completely accepted this practice. Even at a major event like a debate, giant howlers by a front-runner can go completely unremarked and unnoticed. Ludicrous invention is now the normal state of affairs.
Earlier, Drum authored a capsule account of each candidate's performance last night. This was his capsule on Trump's performance. We highlight a very key point:
DRUM (12/15/15): Donald Trump took a step backward to his persona from the first debate: lots of mugging for the camera and no apparent policy knowledge at all. He doubled down on killing the families of terrorists; he answered three or four different questions by saying he opposed the invasion of Iraq; and then produced one of the night's most fatuous lines: "I think for me, nuclear, the power, the devastation, is very important to me." That's his position on the nuclear triad? It's hard to believe this isn't going to hurt him in the polls, but this is not a normal world we live in these days.In fairness to Trump, we can't find the three or four places where he supposedly said he opposed Iraq. Still:
"This is not a normal world we live in these days?" That is a very key point.
We live in a world in which the journalistic and political gatekeepers are completely gone. Last night, near the end of the evening, Hewitt asked Trump, once again, if he would pledge to support the Republican nominee.
When Trump said yes, the audience applauded. Incredibly, though, so did Hewitt! Old standards are totally gone.
Under the old procedures, journalistic and political gatekeepers restricted the ideas we could hear and the candidates we could consider. We weren't allowed to hear crazy ideas. Crazy people weren't allowed to become candidates. Also, people who knew nothing at all weren't allowed to be candidates.
By now, all those restrictions are gone. Anyone can be a candidate. They can say whatever they want. The moderators get to applaud.
(Crazy people even get to be doctors. We base that on the recent letter from Trump's alleged physician, who he apparently hired away from Kim Jong-Un.)
Under these transformed procedures, we can choose whatever candidate we want. We can choose to support any proposal and accept any factual claim. Under the old arrangements, we simply wouldn't have been exposed to many of those ideas and claims. Today, tout est permis. That's French for "way too much is permitted."
Now that all the restrictions are gone, we're learning something intriguing. Many voters are open to candidates who say and do unusual-seeming things. Many voters are open to candidates who seem to lack any serious knowledge about a wide range of affairs.
As liberals, we can see the craziness unleashed by these new arrangements when it seems to appear on The Other Side. It's harder for us to see the way our own tribe is slipping and sliding.
It's easy for us to spot their biases. It's hard for us to see ours.
Last night, Hewitt applauded Trump's answer! Truly, all the rules are gone. Everything is now allowed.
Did you know that Justice Scalia is in favor of separate but equal?