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First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

The Daily Trump: Filling a Time Capsule
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People will look back on this era in our history to see what was known about Donald Trump while Americans were deciding whether to choose him as president. Here’s a running chronicle from James Fallows on the evidence available to voters as they make their choice, and of how Trump has broken the norms that applied to previous major-party candidates. (For a Fallows-led, ongoing reader discussion on Trump’s rise to the presidency, see “Trump Nation.”)

Show 129 Newer Notes

Trump Time Capsule #26: Egypt Air 804

Donald Trump saying immediately after the EgyptAir crash that anyone who doubted it was due to terrorism was “100% wrong.” (YouTube)

It’s been a month since an EgyptAir flight crashed into the Mediterranean, en route from Paris to Cairo. This past weekend investigators said they had found the plane’s flight recorders (“black boxes”) but that the devices were badly damaged. Therefore it would take a long time to recover information and begin to interpret it.

No one really knows what happened to that plane—attack? mechanical defect? something else?—and, with the cautionary example of still-missing Malaysia Air 370 in mind, it could be months or years before anyone does.

Thus it’s worth remembering that one month ago today, 12 hours after first news of the crash, Donald Trump said this about it in a speech in New Jersey:

What just happened? A plane got blown out of the sky. And if anybody thinks it wasn’t blown out of the sky, you’re 100% wrong, folks, OK? You’re 100% wrong.

***

Four years ago, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were in a tight ad-spending race in the potential swing states. This year, only one side is competing in that race. From NBC News.

Time Capsule #25: June 19, 2016. Doing a good job.

Last week Donald Trump explained why it didn’t matter to him or his supporters that he has offered no specifics on how he would achieve his impossible-sounding goals, from making Mexico pay for The Wall to winning so much we get tired of winning.

“My voters don’t care and the public doesn’t care,” Trump said. “They know you’re going to do a good job once you’re there.”

That is, faith in Trump’s powers to resolve all knotty problems through great deals surmounts the boring details of how politics, budgets, and diplomacy actually work. A similar faith in Trump’s ability to laugh his way past usual realities underlies his general-election prospects. Sure, you might think he faces obstacles with blacks, Latinos, women, and other groups the RNC thought it needed in order to take the presidency—in addition to his own lack of knowledge and experience, and his temperamental instability. But look how he keeps winning!

For more than a month now Trump has been in the position of presumptive nominee; items #1-#24 in this series illustrate what kind of “good job”  he has done in that role. Today comes a fascinating new piece of tangible evidence: how he is handling the strategic economics of a modern national campaign.

Doing a good job as a candidate means, among other things, being aware of the huge financial obligations of today’s politicking: How you raise money, how you carefully husband it, how you spend it when and where it is most useful and save it everywhere else.

The chart above, from Mark Murray of NBC, is one indicator of how things are going. Four years ago, an incumbent president and his well-funded challenger were in a tight advertising race in what both sides had identified as possible swing states.

This year, all the ad-spending in those swing states has been by Hillary Clinton and her allies. Trump’s forces have not put up anything. Either he doesn’t have enough money, or he hasn’t understood how and when and where to spend it, or he has no ads prepared, or something else. He has also apparently ignored the professional-politicians’ lesson of the past few cycles, which is that opposition advertising in May and June, when a nominee has emerged but before he or she has been officially chosen at the convention, can powerfully brand a candidate in a way very hard to shake once the “real” campaigning begins in the fall.

To get all the provisos out of the way: Of course skill in running a campaign is not the same as skill at being president. Of course money is the ruination of modern politics. Of course ads can be an insult to the collective intelligence. Of course [name a hundred other points]. But you can’t be a good president if you don’t get elected. And in this, the first sample of how Trump might handle the complex management challenges that go with political leadership, early results look bad for him. He said: Don’t sweat all the details, I’ll do a great job. In fact he’s doing a terrible job.

***

The previous entry noted that Time Capsules would shift to a slower schedule, documenting less of the daily chaos and highlighting the more remarkable developments. The difference that Mark Murray has documented is remarkable.

The candidate waves goodbye for the moment, and so does one of his chroniclers. (Rick Wilking / Reuters)

The pace of uninformed, embarrassing, and objectively disqualifying statements from Donald Trump is picking up. The most recent tiny example that would be huge for anyone else: last night in Dallas, Trump spoke to a crowd at Gilley’s, a country-music bar and dance hall so famous that there was a whole movie about it back in the 1980s. That was Urban Cowboy, with John Travolta and Debra Winger, set in the original Gilley’s, near Houston. That site is now closed, but there’s a new Gilley’s in Dallas. The movie was based on an Aaron Latham story in Esquire about Gilley’s and the oil-boom culture of that era.

Debra Winger on the mechanical bull in Urban Cowboy. Or, as the presumptive GOP nominee put it, on “the horse.” (Here’s a clip of the scene on YouTube.)

One of the things that made Gilley’s famous was its “mechanical bull” that daring riders, male and female, would try to stay aboard as it bucked and reared. It was such a central part of the Gilley’s saga that a dramatic climax of the Urban Cowboy was Winger doing an ostentatiously sexy ride aboard the bull while Travolta looked on and steamed. That was a long time ago, but it was during Trump’s conscious lifetime, and if he had ever heard of Gilley’s, he had heard of the bull.

Thus the oddity of Trump telling the crowd at Gilley’s that he was excited to ride “that horse.” As Mac McCann writes today in the Dallas Morning News:

Trump is laugh-out-loud funny. Referring to Gilley’s mechanical bull, Trump suggested he ride “that horse,” but added, “The problem is, even if I make it, they’ll say I fell off the horse and it was terrible.”…  He asked the crowd, “Do we have fun at Trump rallies?” And the crowd erupted in the affirmative.

It was fun. It wasn’t politics.

The whole column is worth reading, but just to stick with the “horse”: Of course it doesn’t matter at all. But similar tiny notes of being out of touch with pop culture became big problems for other candidates. One example was incumbent President George H.W. Bush apparently not knowing what a scanner was when he visited a grocery store. Another was presidential candidate John Kerry being ridiculed for something he apparently never even said: “Who among us doesn’t like Nascar?”

Suppose Kerry — or Dan Quayle or Al Gore or either of the Bushes — had made the bull/horse mixup? The mocking op-ed columns practically write themselves, with a different angle appropriate for each politician. (Gore and Kerry: out of touch elitists. The elder Bush: fake Texan? The younger one: “Rarely is the question asked, Is our children learning?” Quayle: potatoe. Etc). But with Trump, it’s just the 19th-oddest event of a normal campaign day.

***

Because Trump’s outlier status is becoming better established, I’m going to slow the pace of documenting the examples, even as the examples start piling up faster. His special status is beginning to sink in. I recommend two columns today on this point. One is by Daniel Drezner in the Washington Post, looking back on why he so badly underestimated Trump’s chances. (I’ve gone through the same exercise, but Drezner reckons with the man we’re seeing in the general election campaign.)

George W. Bush with American Muslim leaders in Washington, less than one week after the 9/11 attacks. He celebrated Muslim inclusion in the national family, rather than warning that it was impossible. (Doug Mills / AP)

Executive summary: what’s most wrong with Donald Trump’s latest statement about Muslim immigrants is not its bias. What most wrong is its stupidity.

  • A real president, or real presidential candidate, would be informed enough to know that Muslim immigrants to the U.S. have been notable for their assimilation, not the reverse.
  • A real president would be wise enough to recognize that the major threat to that ongoing process would be making Muslim Americans feel that they are on thin ice, unwelcome, and under suspicion. This is why George W. Bush began his very honorable (and strategically important) outreach to Muslim Americans soon after the 9/11 attacks.

But this year’s presumptive Republican nominee is not informed enough to recognize the first point, nor wise enough to grasp the second.

Now the details.

***

Time Capsule #24, June 14, 2016. There’s no real assimilation.

Yesterday, in a Fox News discussion with Sean Hannity, who straddled the roles of campaign spokesman and interviewer, Donald Trump said that a ban on Muslim immigrants was justified, because Muslims didn’t assimilate:

Hannity: If you grow up under Sharia law, and as a man, you think you have the right to tell a woman how to dress, whether she can drive a car, whether she can go to school, or whether she can go to work … if you grow up there, you want to come to America, how do we vet somebody’s heart and ascertain if they're coming here for freedom or if they want to proselytize, indoctrinate, and bring the theocracy with them?

Trump: Assimilation has been very hard. It’s almost, I won’t say nonexistent, but it gets to be pretty close. And I’m talking about second and third generation — for some reason there’s no real assimilation.

Hannity: Right.

Set aside the “essentialism” of Trump’s suggestion that the most important thing about some second- and third- generation immigrants is their ethnic or religious background. Just as a matter of being in touch with reality, to make the claim is to reveal that you have spent no time asking or learning about this issue, as opposed to dreaming up agitprop.

From a world perspective, the striking trait about Muslim immigrants to the United States has for a long time been how much better they have assimilated than their counterparts in most other nations, notably including all of Europe. In the years after the 9/11 attacks, one terrorism expert after another pointed out the big American advantage over France, Germany, Holland, the U.K., and other countries in this regard. Second- and third-generation Muslim Americans mainly thought of themselves as American, in common with other U.S. immigrant groups and in contrast to many new immigrants in Western Europe.

Extensive surveys taken more than a decade after the 9/11 attacks showed that Muslim Americans had more in common with other U.S. immigrant groups than with any extremists overseas. (For instance, this 2011 Pew study: “Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism.”) I know first-hand from interviews with counter-terrorism officials in the years after 9/11 that they viewed the continuing integration of Muslims as a huge U.S. advantage. The corresponding danger would be a shift in U.S. attitudes that made Muslim immigrants feel they could not be accepted.

Another illustration of Muslim-American assimilation, from a Gallup poll in 2010:

Gallup poll

***

Where might a shift to an estranged and “other” status for Muslim Americans arise from? And why might Trump be taking the tone? The data displayed in the chart below are a few years old but may suggest a clue. The Republican base that Trump has been appealing to differs from the rest of the country in having a strong anti-Muslim outlook:

Gallup

A real president or presidential candidate would know enough about reality to understand that assimilation was progressing.

A real president would realize that the greatest danger was saying or doing things that would make this group of Americans feel suspect or unwelcome.

Donald Trump Tweeting that “he’s right” in accusations that the Obama administration is aiding and abetting the enemy.

I’ve got to make these shorter and more telegraphic, to have any hope of keeping up.

  • Twice in the past three days, Donald Trump has “wondered” and said “lots of people are asking” whether the current U.S. president is actually “prioritizing our enemy” rather than defending the United States.
  • This morning Trump more clearly said that the Obama’s administration had been deliberately assisting the enemy ISIS force. This was via his preferred communications of the Tweet he offered a Breitbart article, which he said showed “he’s right.”

The Breitbart article is based on a memo that was widely discredited by people with knowledge of ISIS and Syria when it appeared last year. See this and this and this.

Trump’s assertions were of a piece with his “birther” crusade during Obama’s first term, and his recent lunatic suggestion that Ted Cruz’s father might have been in cahoots with Lee Harvey Oswald. In all these cases, his approach is to say “there are a lot of questions” and “people are thinking” and “a lot of people want to know,” and use that as support for his wholly unsubstantiated claims.

A presumptive major-party nominee is accusing an incumbent president of aiding and abetting the nation’s enemies. That is, of treason. And when challenged, he says he’s right. A lot of the job of being president involves assessing evidence and deciding what to believe. Donald Trump continues to show us how he approaches that task.

And the Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader are still standing behind this man.

We’re pretty sure President #1 was not working for the enemy. But what about #44? (Wikipedia)

Time Capsule #22, June 14, 2016 (Flag Day). Prioritizing our enemy.

I lay out the details and sequence after the jump, but here’s the simple summary of Donald Trump’s latest excursion beyond historical and political norms:

  • Yesterday morning, Trump suggested on Fox news that the incumbent U.S. president might be a traitor or a double agent. That was because, in Trump’s view, Barack Obama was either too dumb to recognize the threat from terrorists — or in fact was all too aware, and had wittingly allowed attacks to go on.
  • Today Trump made, if anything, a more direct attack, telling the Associated Press that President Obama “continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people."

Saying that the Commander in Chief has prioritized the enemy’s interests is an accusation of treason (as David Graham explains). I am not aware of any previous case, whatsoever, of a national-ticket candidate publicly accusing a president or presidential nominee of a capital offense. 

In the heat of campaigns, partisans and polemicists and ordinary citizens have accused national leaders of disloyalty and treason, among other failings. A popular anti-liberal book that helped propel Barry Goldwater’s rise in the early ‘60s was even called None Dare Call It TreasonBut Goldwater left that to the polemicists. He did not himself publicly call John Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson traitors. 

This is apart from the spectacle of a man who has called for disbanding NATO, and for removing U.S. military guarantees to South Korea and Japan, worrying about the interests of “allies.”

People who support Trump are implicitly endorsing such views.

Details below.

President John F. Kennedy at a press conference, around the time he was getting annoyed by coverage from the NY Herald Tribune.  (WIkipedia)

Nothing like this has happened before in modern times.

Trump Time Capsule #21, June 13, 2016. Pull Their Credentials.

- When John F. Kennedy grew unhappy with coverage by the conservative New York Herald Tribune, he cancelled the White House subscription to the paper.  

- When Richard Nixon grew unhappy with coverage by the Woodward-and-Bernstein era Washington Post, which was in the process of helping drive him from office, he talked privately about how to hurt the Post economically in the long run. But he did not propose removing their press credentials.

- When Donald Trump grew unhappy today about an objectively accurate story in the Washington Post — the story made the same point as David Graham’s story today on our site, and mine: namely, that Trump was calling President Obama a traitor — he pulled the Post’s press credentials and banned it from further campaign coverage. As he has done for many other publications.

Nothing like this has happened before. 

***

All politicians go through stages of greater and lesser annoyance with the press, and nearly all are more- and less-cooperative with outlets they think will treat them well or poorly. All try to conceal certain things and manage their public image. All play favorites. But modern candidates and presidents have assumed that they had to put up with the press as part of the basic bargain of public life, much as people producing plays or movies, or publishing books, put up with the annoyance of sometimes-hostile reviews, as part of the basic bargain of performing in public. Trump’s idea of the basic bargain of seeking great power is different.

I made the mistake of watching, live, Donald Trump’s phone-in interview with a highly deferential Fox and Friends crew early this morning. If you have the stomach, you can watch it below. 

This was the source of the quote “It’s war, it’s absolute war!” with which Trump opens the discussion, and his repeated suggestions (as David Graham has closely analyzed) that President Obama may in fact be a double agent who is fostering the terrorists.   

Time Capsule #20, June 13, 2016, Something’s going on.

Sample quotes:

"We're led by a man who is very -- look, we're led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he's got something else in mind. And the something else in mind, you know, people can't believe it."...

"People cannot believe, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and he can't even mention the words 'radical Islamic terrorism.' There's something going on. It's inconceivable. There's something going on."...

"He doesn't get it or he gets it better than anybody understands. It's one or the other, and either one is unacceptable."

I am not aware of any modern precedent of a major-party nominee publicly accusing an opponent, let alone a sitting president, of treason. Sure, each side has harbored dark fantasies about the other — and, sure, the rhetoric of the early 1800s and the Civil War era was very dire. But in the conscious lifetimes of today’s adult Americans, no major-party nominee has, before today, publicly suggested that his opponent might actively be a traitor.

You could see this as a linear extension of Trump’s “other-ing” of Obama, through his earlier insane birth-certificate crusade. But the step he has now taken should be noted. He is suggesting that a serving president is not just possibly foreign-born but also perhaps a foreign agent. This is the man Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, John McCain, Bob Dole, and the rest of the Republican “establishment” say deserves their support.

***

In fairness, Obama is not the only sitting president against whom Trump has made charges verging on treason. Four months ago, in a Republican debate in South Carolina, Trump said that George W. Bush had deliberately lied the country into its disastrous war in Iraq:

“They lied. They said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were none, and they knew there were none.”  

Also please read Molly Ball’s report on the so-far doomed task of creating a “nice” and “presidential” Trump; Glenn Thrush on Trump’s overall response to the slaughter in Orlando; and Katy Tur on Trump’s now-established pattern of responding to any bad news with “I was right!” comments and Tweets.

No one like this has ever before gotten this far in our democratic system.

Afghan refugees from the Soviet invasion in the early 1980s, when President Reagan was welcoming them to the United States. (AP)

Without comment, the online responses of the presumptive Republican nominee, to the horrific mass gun-slaughter of at least 50 people in Orlando late last night. 

1) “Appreciate the congrats.” This was very soon after the news came in:

@realDonaldTrump on Twitter

2) “I called it and asked for the ban.” And as the killer’s identity and background became known:

From Trump’s Twitter feed

***

OK, I do have comments: First, on the immediate “it’s about me” reactions of “I called it” and “appreciate the congrats,” in response to a disaster, consider some of the personality traits discussed here. Obviously I am not proposing a medical diagnosis. I am suggesting that the personality and temperament of a president matters, and we have evidence about this man’s.

Second, on “I called for a ban”: based on current information, the man who shot down 50 others was born in New York, of immigrant Afghan parents. So Trump’s reference to “the ban” [on Muslim immigrants] presumably means either that he is imagining a religion-based expulsion of natural-born U.S. citizens like the killer  — or that he is saying, many decades later, that the killer’s parents should never have been let in.

I don’t know exact details of the killer’s family. But the overwhelming majority of Afghan arrivals of their era would have been fleeing the Soviet invasion of their country, and they were warmly welcomed by none other than Ronald Reagan. Here is what he said in a White House proclamation in 1982:

Today, we recognize a nation of unsung heroes whose courageous struggle is one of the epics of our time. The Afghan people have matched their heroism against the most terrifying weapons of modern warfare in the Soviet arsenal…. 

Their heroic struggle has carried a terrible cost. Many thousands of Afghans, often innocent civilians, women and children, have been killed and maimed. Entire villages and regions have been destroyed and depopulated. Some 3 million people have been driven into exile—that's one out of every five Afghans. The same proportion of Americans would produce a staggering 50 million refugees.

We cannot and will not turn our backs on this struggle. 

As president, Ronald Reagan welcomed Muslim refugees from Afghanistan. (Of course he also sowed the seeds of later problems by supporting the anti-Soviet efforts of groups that became the Taliban. But that is a different story. ) As presidential candidate, Donald Trump, to take him at his word, would have kept those refugees out, because of their religion  — or would later have looked for their children to expel them.

Again the point is to record what is known and on-the-record about Trump, as the Republican party prepares to nominate him.

***

And by contrast, here is the way our current president spoke just days ago about his thwarted efforts to keep people already on the terrorist watch list from buying guns.

Pocahontas (D-Ma.)                                                           Wikimedia

I’ve been off-duty on other fronts for a couple of days — largely on the far-more-encouraging Maker Movement / startup-revival front — and barely know where to re-start the time-capsule chronicle.

Probably the most important marker to lay down involves the respective positions of the “Resistance” and the “Vichy Republican” camps. Of course of course of course I am not likening Donald Trump to the historically unique Hitler. I am, though, saying that Resistance and Vichy are useful shorthands for the camps that are fighting the takeover of their territory, versus those who have acquiesced, so as to keep the peace, in the face of a conquering force they claim to find objectionable —and which no doubt they’ll criticize once someone else has dealt with it.

Time Capsule #18, June 11, 2016, “a Mitch McConnell kind of candidate”

Items like the following are part of the public record of Donald Trump as of mid-June, 2016:

  • Trump claimed today that he is “the least racist person there is,” and used fight-promoter Don King’s endorsement of him as evidence for that. In fact, King denied endorsing Trump (and continued analyses suggested that racial resentment, rather than economic dislocation, was the most prominent shared theme among Trump’s supporters).
  • A Republican National Committee official said that Trump’s criticism of federal judge Gonzalo Curiel did not involve racial or ethnic bias because “it wasn't addressing the judge's heritage.” In fact, what Trump said was that the judge couldn’t be fair to him, explicitly because “he's of Mexican heritage and he's very proud of it. As I am of where I come from."
  • Trump hasn’t given details on how he’s going to accomplish any of his goals, from building the wall to ending the deficit to shaping up the Europeans and Chinese, and he says no details are necessary. As quoted by Zeke Miller in an absorbing piece in Time, “‘My voters don’t care and the public doesn’t care,’ Trump says. ‘They know you’re going to do a good job once you’re there…. His theory of the race echoes advice given to salesman for Trump University... ‘You don’t sell products, benefits or solutions,” the school’s training manual read. ‘You sell feelings.’ ”

    Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has built his image on being a policy guy, and who said that Trump’s comments about the judge were racist, is still standing by him.
  • Trump has taken to calling Senator Elizabeth Warren, in public, “Pocahontas,” for back-story reasons that Garance Franke-Ruta explained in 2012.  Eons ago, when Spiro Agnew was campaigning for the vice-presidency as Richard Nixon’s running mate, he got in trouble for calling Gene Oishi, a young reporter for the Baltimore Sun who had grown up in a World War II internment camp, the fat Jap.” It was in front of a handful of reporters aboard a campaign plane rather than in a speech or at a press conference, but it was seen as a very big deal, even mentioned in Agnew’s obituaries nearly 30 years later. (One-time Nixon speechwriter William Safire later tried to explain it away as jocularity, but Oishi’s family was having none of it.)

    Since that time, I’m not aware of any other national-political figure who has routinely used an ethnically based nickname for an opponent, as Trump is now doing with “Pocahontas.”

  ***

Republican Senator Mark Kirk, in a difficult race for re-election to the seat Barack Obama once held in Illinois, announcing today that he was withdrawing his support for Trump.

#17, June 7, 2016. ‘30 Ways Trump is Committing Political Suicide’

As I was about to push “publish” on this item, news arrived of a significant official defection from Team Trump. Republican Senator Mark Kirk, in a very difficult race for re-election in Illinois, withdrew his endorsement of Trump and said he “cannot and will not” support him. His rationale could have been taken straight from Hillary Clinton’s speech last week. Ie, that Trump was temperamentally unsuited to control the nuclear arsenal and unfit for the job. Hmmm.

Meanwhile: the title of this item is taken from a column in The Hill today by John LeBoutillier, a former Republican congressman. LeBoutillier was famous in the early Reagan era as the youngest person elected to Congress in the Reagan wave of 1980 — he was 27 then. He lost after one term, via re-districting, but he stayed active as a commentator, broadcaster, and writer. He was an early version of the “thoughtful young reform Republican” — a type that reached its most genuine and admirable form with Jack Kemp, and that Paul Ryan obviously has been aiming for. 

Today LeBoutillier offers a kind of time capsule of his own, with a list of the things Donald Trump is doing that no viable candidate could or would do. It’s worth reading in full, but it builds to this:

20. Trump does not talk to anyone; nor does he listen.

21. Instead, he watches TV and then criticizes anyone who dares to critique him.

22. The case of Judge Gonzalo Curiel, the judge handling the Trump University case, has thrown all these other GOP candidates into a sense of panic. […]

25. You will start to read leaks of Republicans musing that “we are committing political suicide if we keep going down this road.” … [And “pledged” delegates might look for ways to bail out.]

29. It is also possible that he will figure out that things are not working, and will self-correct; if so, he will indeed be officially nominated on July 21.

30. With six weeks to go until the GOP convention in Cleveland, it is up to Donald Trump: He must either pull himself together and lead the Republican Party in a responsible manner, or else be prepared to have a major mutiny on his hands.  

Again this is offered as real-time evidence of how, when, and why the GOP is processing emerging knowledge of the man it has been preparing to support. At the moment, this looks bad for Trump. So if he does manage to come, items like this will be markers of how big a hole he managed to get out of.

***

After the jump, a pop-culture version of the “ways he is committing suicide” analysis, from Seth Meyers.

Those were the days! At the debate at the Reagan library last September, with Donald Trump in his accustomed leader’s position in the middle and Lindsey Graham at the far left in this view. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

No one can be sure of anything in this campaign, and as of now Donald Trump has enough pledged delegates to be declared the GOP nominee in Cleveland six weeks from now.

But if something else somehow happens, people might look back to this date, June 6, 2016, as a moment when things began to look different. By which I mean:

  • The stories this morning, on MSNBC and in the NYT, as noted in #15, about the absence of anything resembling a Trump campaign organization.
  • The report early this afternoon in Bloomberg, about a chaotic call between Trump and some surrogates, in which Trump urged them to go even harder in defending him on the “Mexican judge” front. Important note: the lawsuit the judge is presiding over, on Trump University, has nothing to do with his presidential campaign. In normal circumstances candidates would try to contain or ignore it.
       Instead Trump told the likes of former Senator Scott Brown and former governor Jan Brewer, “to attack journalists who ask questions about the lawsuit and his comments about the judge,” according to the story. “The people asking the questions—those are the racists. I would go at 'em.” Completely apart from the details in the story, a bellwether fact is that some participants felt they could instantly go to the press about it. 
  • A hundred hours, more than four days, have passed since Hillary Clinton’s evisceration of Trump as unfit for the job. Not even one prominent Republican officer holder has come forward to defend the judgment, temperament, or readiness for the job of their party’s presumptive nominee.
    Nothing like this has ever happened before. 
  • A prominent Republican spoke up against Trump. Senator Lindsey Graham, who of course had run unsuccessfully against Trump and then had ambiguously suggested he’d finally support the party’s nominee, flat-out called for other Republicans to un-endorse Trump, because of the “Mexican judge” controversy. According to the NYT:

Senator Lindsey Graham… urged Republicans who have backed Mr. Trump to rescind their endorsements, citing the remarks about Judge Curiel and Mr. Trump’s expression of doubt on Sunday that a Muslim judge could remain neutral in the same lawsuit… 

“This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” Mr. Graham said. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” he added. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

***

What does this all mean? It’s impossible to know until it’s over. But if this proves to have been a turning point, I can say that it felt like such a thing in real time.