Nothing happened here. Even after factoring in the thuggery and the lies and the victim-blaming and the fact-denying, it was just another day on the campaign trail with Donald Trump, the man who would be president.
There’s film this time, though, which does make the discussion just a little different. Except that like the Zapruder film, it doesn’t resolve anything.
Security cameras at a Trump golf resort do prove Trumpian pre-film lying and post-film lying, and both, it seems, are more telling than, say, instances of Trumpian no-film lying (like, of the thousands of New Jersey Arab-Americans cheering 9/11 or of the Mexican immigrants raping and murdering their way through their adopted home).
In this one, the Jupiter, Florida police said the tape — in a different world, this would be Trump’s Last Tape — showed Trump’s thuggish campaign chairman grabbing a friendly reporter, Michelle Fields, who was trying to ask his candidate a question, roughly yanking her away and then walking off with the candidate as if nothing had happened.
You know what happened next – various stages of coverup and the now-traditional, you-believe-me-or-your-lyin’-eyes defense.
First, campaign manager Corey Lewandowski called Fields “delusional” and said he didn’t know her and never touched her. Trump suggested she must have made the whole thing up. The campaign called her an attention-seeker because, you know, she’s a woman, after all. (Note to Trump campaign: Trump’s unfavorables with women are now over 70 percent. And this may not help.)
Then came the grainy C-SPAN tape which seemed to back Fields, although not so much that her Trump-friendly employer, Breitbart, wouldn’t still feel comfortable throwing her under the bus. And then came the much clearer security tape. I’m sure many of you are watching the GIF right now. As Trump explained — this really happened — Trump’s resort had lots of tape because Trump is a rich man — he said this — and so naturally he had tape.
And the tape led to Lewandowski being booked for simple battery, which is both a misdemeanor and a charge that will likely go nowhere, except that it took Trump to startlingly new heights of mendacity. Once again, the cover up is bigger than the crime. Or is it the cover-up of the cover-up?
The tape backed Fields’ account. And, more to the point, it provided a new way for Trump to tell the story.
In this telling, Fields was actually there. She was questioning Trump. She didn’t make it up. But close attention to the tape shows she had a tape recorder in one hand and a suspicious-looking pen in the other. OK, it wasn’t suspicious looking, but stay with me. Trump said at one point that Fields “was grabbing me, and just so you understand, she was off base because she went through the Secret Service. She had a pen in her hand, which Secret Service is not liking because they don’t know what it is, whether it’s a little bomb.”
So, when Lewandowski grabbed her, it was to save the day, or at least to save Trump, who later said the pen might have been a knife, or maybe to save Fields from falling.
Actually, it was just a pen, and Lewandowski presumably never saw it. He just saw a reporter asking a question after a news conference had ended, didn’t like it and yanked her away, just as he’s seen on another tape, yanking a protester by the collar. (By the way, Fields did not grab Trump. The back of her hand brushed against him.)
It’s all of a piece, of course, with the violence at Trump’s rallies and Trump encouraging his supporters to take their shot and Trump saying he wished he could take one of his own, like in the old days when protesters knew what was what.
And here’s the thing — the critical thing — Trump supporters will buy the story. Because we live in an alternate Trump world where a man can make his entire campaign about Trumpian id while spewing various forms of bigotry, misogyny and all the rest. I mean, for a really telling tape, try Trump’s two-hour sit down on foreign policy with the New York Times editorial board, although I feel obligated to warn that there have been reports heads might explode.
I won’t try to explain Trump here. I’ve tried too many times and mostly failed. What I know is that the arrest — and the lying account — follows closely the who’s-got-a-hotter-wife debate with Ted Cruz and not long after the who’s-got-a-bigger-you-know debate with the late Marco Rubio. It’s enough to force a discouraged David Brooks to finally write that “In this way, Trump represents the spread of something brutal. He takes economic anxiety and turns it into sexual hostility. He effectively tells men: You may be struggling, but at least you’re better than women, Mexicans and Muslims.”
This will encourage the #neverTrumpers to redouble their efforts to stop Trump from winning a majority of delegates at the convention — causing a contested convention — even if it means throwing support to the loathsome Ted Cruz. Of course, robbing Trump of the nomination could lead to a GOP civil war, a third-party run by Trump, who is now officially back to not promising to support the GOP nominee, and confusion for Susan Sarandon and the other “Bernie or Busters” who wouldn’t know whom to not vote for.
Here’s what we do know: In the latest NBC/Your Monkey survey, Trump is at a record-high 48 percent. No lie. And for those – like me — who believe Trump would get thrashed in a general election, it’s worth noting that most of these same people — like me — thought he’d get thrashed in a primary.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr.