Littwin: This election will be a referendum on Trump

For those keeping score at home, we are back to the Donald-Trump-is-doomed phase of the game.

It should be familiar to all of us by now. Trump says something so offensive — or several things so offensive — that he reveals himself, at last, as the dangerous demagogue/carnival barker that he surely is. Republican leaders either condemn him while still vowing their support (see: Ryan, Paul) or they slink away unheard and unseen (see: Gardner, Cory).

And in each case, just when you think that Trump’s campaign must implode, it doesn’t. Somehow, instead, he has marched triumphantly past 16 Republican challengers, and without benefit of anyone whispering sic transit gloria mundi into his ear, although Chris Christie does apparently whisper his offer to get the boss a Big Mac.

But this time is different, because it has to be. Because a general election is different from a primary. Because GOP donors are backing away from him. Because top Republicans won’t work for him. Because, come on. This is Donald Trump running for president.

And look at the polls. A Washington Post/ABC News poll says 7 in 10 Americans view the Donald negatively and 56 percent view him strongly negatively. He had pulled even in the polls with Hillary Clinton — whose negatives are very high, but not nearly that high — a few weeks ago but now trails her, according to the Real Clear Politics poll of polls, by around 5 percentage points.

As one who once predicted Trump would drop out before the first vote was cast in Iowa, I want to believe that this really is the end. But, as Paul Ryan once said, I’m not there yet. After all, we’ve been here before.

I mean, when John McCain, the intermittently noble and ignoble Arizona senator who is desperate again to get re-elected, says Obama is “directly responsible” for the Orlando attack, you see McCain and yet you hear Donald Trump. And even though McCain said he “misspoke” after the reaction to his comment was at least 56 percent strongly negative, he basically revised his statement to say Obama was indirectly responsible. Trump may be losing, but he’s still winning.

This past week tells us everything. When everyone should be focused on the victims and on why they were killed, we are still talking about Donald Trump, who turns every story into one about him.

It has been, of course, a time of unspeakable tragedy. It is a time in which normal people do sadly normal things in abnormal times — they mourn the dead in Orlando, they comfort the living, they search desperately for answers. They remind us that gay Americans, even in this time of advance in gay rights, are still being routinely targeted. They remind us of the dangers of a sick mind hardened by internet strains of a sick ideology who still has access to lethal weapons.

And then there’s Donald Trump. Coming off one of the low points of his low-point-ridden campaign, in which he had questioned the fairness of an Indiana-born “Mexican” judge, Trump went full McCarthy. He doubled down on his Muslim-ban approach to radical Islam, which is to keep them all out, even though Omar Mateen was born, like Trump, in Queens. He casually conflates refugees with terrorists and says, apocalyptically, that if Muslims keep coming, “everything will be gone.” Meanwhile, he blames American Muslims for shielding terrorists in their community. “They know what’s going on,” he says, without any evidence whatsoever. And he tops it all off by giving his later birther-offshoot, saying that Obama is the Manchurian Muslim who is either sympathetic to or in league with the terrorists. In other words, the one-time birther-in-chief now accuses Obama of treason.

“He doesn’t get it,” Trump says, “or he gets it better than anyone understands.” Yes, he says that. He says “something is going on,” and he’s right. Trump is the would-be leader who thinks empathy is a sucker’s game.

It’s fear-mongering at a historic level. You’ve seen and heard this stuff before, from back-bench Republicans, on Fox News or talk radio, on the conspiracy-infected internet fringes, but Trump has become Trump by saying these things aloud, with the presumption being that this is what Americans actually believe and were just waiting to hear from a leader with the nerve to speak the words.

And the presumption worked, to the point that he is now the presumptive Republican nominee. (Those who think Republicans are going to somehow still dump him in Cleveland are living in a dream world. Does anyone really believe Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan are about to lead a revolution? They know the party regulars who voted for Trump would destroy them and the party if they tried — although you could argue that doing nothing may amount to the same thing.)

The conventional wisdom is that Trumpism is a violent strain of the Republican Party that its leaders have let loose. But the question now is whether Trumpism will spread. He won’t pivot. He won’t change. He’ll play the fear card until he’s used every card in the deck, and then he’ll just reshuffle. Fear has always sold well, and there’s never been a media platform so conducive to making the sale. In fact, this campaign is nothing so much as a cheap Hollywood thriller in which the world veers toward apocalypse, except that there’s no obvious hero to save the day.

Obama would play the part, but he is, of course, a lame duck.  George W. Bush, who has said he’s befuddled by Trump, has returned to work for vulnerable down-ticket Republicans, who fear Trump will take them all down. Gary Johnson is the third-party candidate a few libertarian-style Republicans (and Democrats) will support. George Will would lead the intellectual right and says that conservatives need to ensure that Trump loses all 50 states in order to save the movement. Elizabeth Warren is running a scorched-earth campaign against Trump, matching him taunt for taunt on Twitter. And Hillary Clinton is, of course, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who knows that her path to victory is to make this election a referendum on Trump.

It will be a referendum on Trump. He’ll make sure of that. At this point, predicting anything else means you haven’t been paying attention.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons, Flickr


  1. I think trump really, really, really does not want to be President. I think he sees himself shackled to the desk in the White House, only to have endless boring meetings with diplomats and staff. And most importantly, he will not have the eyes of the press on him. I think he makes outrageous statements because he is much smarter than the media, and is able to focus their attention on himself. His ego is being fed constantly and he’s feeding off of this. Even his statement about Orlando, was about himself, not the forty nine victims. This is an egomaniac that has some power over the press. Trump has promised that if he loses the race we will never hear from him again….I hope he keeps his promise.

  2. Five days removed from the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States and Mr. Littwin has decided he wants to change the subject. Five days after Omar Mateen call a 911 operator to pledge his allegiance to ISIS and then killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at an Orlando, Florida gay nightclub and Mr. Littwin would rather talk about something else. After devoting only one column to the victims and the reasons behind the Orlando mass shooting (in between, of course, anti-Trump rants) Mr. Littwin wants to move on.

    But, of course, Mr. Littwin has a reason. In a stunning display of sophistry and deflection Mr. Littwin offers this:

    “This past week tells us everything. When everyone should be focused on the victims and on why they were killed, we are still talking about Donald Trump, who turns every story into one about him.”

    You can’t make this stuff up!

    In other words, Mr. Littwin would really, really, really, really like to focus “on the victims and on why they were killed” but instead is powerless to write about anything except the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

    And why? Well, because (with a sincere apology to Flip Wilson) the Donald made him do it! That’s right, Mr. Littwin is claiming to be a helpless “victim” of Donald Trump who magically controls what Mr. Littwin writes.

    Mr. Littwin’s claim of victimization is the height of deceit. He writes about Mr. Trump because it’s better than facing the narrative destroying involvement of ISIS and Islam in this horrendous tragedy.

    In this column Mr. Littwin mentions Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others a mere five days ago, only once and totally fails to mention either ISIS, the terrorist organization that inspired or directed Mateen’s actions (as if that really makes a difference), or Islam. But he does manage to mention Mr. Trump twenty-four (24) times. He just can’t control himself.

    If Mr. Littwin is serious about focusing “on the victims and on why they were killed” Omar Mateen, the man who called 911 to claim his allegiance to ISIS, would be a good place to start. From there follow the trail to ISIS and then a short jump to Islam. But he claims to be helpless to do so because of Mr. Trump. But his case against Mr. Trump is not very compelling and his refusal to face the facts makes it even less so.

    Contrast Mr. Littwin’s coverage of the events in Orlando with an attack that took the lives of three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs last November. Mr. Littwin wrote three (3) columns about those killing in five days and two of those columns were written on consecutive days.

    The day after the killings in Colorado Springs Mr. Littwin wrote a column titled : “On Republican rhetoric and the Planned Parenthood shooting”. Less than 24 hours after this terrible shooting and absent any proof Mr. Littwin was already suggesting that admitted killer Robert Dear was motivated by Republican rhetoric! The very next day he wrote another column with the very same theme: Republican rhetoric was responsible for the deaths of three people. No proof, just innuendo. It was not until the third column on this tragedy that Mr. Littwin admitted Mr. Dear may have been affected by mental health problems.

    He has not written about those three deaths since.

    In his “coverage” of Colorado Springs Mr. Littwin demonstrated his willingness to go to any lengths to connect Republicans to any tragedy even in the face of contradictory proof.

    In Orlando, Mr. Littwin appears to be unwilling or unable to connect the dots that link Omar Mateen to ISIS to Islam, not because those dots don’t exist but because he prefers to ignore them. Much like he has ignored Laquan McDonald.

    In Mr. Littwin’s last column he noted “That gays were targeted, that ISIS has its own terrible record of homophobic atrocities….”. But that is the total extent to which Mr. Littwin has ever condemned ISIS for any of those “homophobic atrocities”. He has yet to describe any of those ISIS atrocities like throwing a suspected homosexual off a buildings and then stoning him to death when the fall failed to kill him.

    Mr. Littwin’s focus should center on the established link between Omar Mateen and ISIS but instead is on Donald Trump despite the fact that Mr. Trump did not inspire, direct, condone or celebrate the horrific killings in Orlando. That intentionally misdirected focus strongly suggests that Mr. Littwin is driven by politics not facts.

    Mr. Littwin’s claim of being helpless to write about anything but Donald Trump is preposterous and only serves to highlight that he is little more than a political hack.


    In berating GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson for suggesting a loyalty test for Muslims seeking high office, CNN host Jake Tapper maintained that he doesn’t know a single observant Muslim-American who wants to Islamize America.

    “I just don’t know any Muslim-Americans — and I know plenty — who feel that way, even if they are observant Muslims,” he scowled.

    Tapper doesn’t get out much. If he did, chances are he’d run into some of the 51% of Muslims living in the U.S. who just this June told Polling Co. they preferred having “the choice of being governed according to Shariah,” or Islamic law. Or the 60% of Muslim-Americans under 30 who told Pew Research they’re more loyal to Islam than America.

    Maybe they’re all heretics, so let’s see what the enlightened Muslims think.
    If Tapper did a little independent research he’d quickly find that America’s most respected Islamic leaders and scholars also want theocracy, not democracy, and even advocate trading the Constitution for the Quran.

    These aren’t fringe players. These are the top officials representing the Muslim establishment in America today.-

    In light of the massacre of dozens of people at a gay club in Orlando, it’s worth re-visiting the comments of Islamic speaker Fahad Qureshi, who admitted that the desire to see homosexuals killed was a belief held by so-called “moderate” Muslims. –

    “’Cause I don’t have no use
    For what you loosely call the truth” – Tina Turner

    Greenlight a Vet
    Folds of Honor
    Special Operations Warriors Foundation
    Veterans Day – November 11, 2016

  3. Somehow I KNEW that the only reply here would be from Don Lopez. And I was right. And I LOVE it when people complain about even the TOPIC that someone writes about. Litwin shouldn’t write about Trump? Really? How about if Mr Lopez gets a job writing somewhere so he can write about what he demands be written about? Then he will be happy, I guess, because he never seems to be any of the rest of the time.

    The fact is, Trump IS the main topic of conversation, and not every article can be about something else. And Trump keeps MAKING himself the point of every topic. It’s who he is. And as a result of the media all being up for ratings and profit, he is the topic, period. Should the topic be something OTHER than him? I sure think it should be, but I’m not the one making profit off of him. But as long as news is a money making thing instead of a public service, it’s what we’re stuck with.

  4. Mr. MORrisON,

    Happy Fathers Day!

    I didn’t say Mr. Littwin shouldn’t write about Donald Trump and if you actually read my comment (or had someone read it to you) you would know that.

    I said he should be writing about the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States which killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida last Sunday. And I said the reason he wasn’t writing about it was purely political and that he was afraid to connect the super-sized dots that link Omar Mateen (the killer) and ISIS (who he pledged allegiance to) and radical Islam. In other words, he is intentionally ignoring those dots and the story they would tell because they don’t fit his narrative.

    But what makes this column even more egregious is his preposterous and patently ridiculous excuse:

    “This past week tells us everything. When everyone should be focused on the victims and on why they were killed, we are still talking about Donald Trump, who turns every story into one about him.”

    Translation: Mr. Littwin really wants to write about “the victims and on why they were killed” but he can’t because of Donald Trump. He’s not saying Donald Trump is a bigger story, he’s saying even though much bigger stories are happening he is incapable of ignoring Mr. Trump. We know that’s not true, look how long he’s managed to ignore Laquan McDonald.

    But if you’re buying Mr. Littwin’s line of reasoning then you need to double the dosage of whatever you’re taking.

    Mr. Littwin wrote three (3) columns in five (5) days when three people were killed at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Three (3) columns in five (5) days but can only devote one (1) to the deaths of 49 people in the deadliest mass shooting in the history of the United States.

    It’s been said you can’t put a price on a human life but Mr. Littiwn has managed to put a price on 49 lives: Politics.

    He should be ashamed.

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