That is what a responsible man would say.
You encouraged his paranoid delusions!
Later, you defended yourself, saying, “Am I morally obligated to defend the president every time somebody says something bad or controversial about him? I don't think so!”
You’re not generally obliged to defend President Obama. Your obligation, rather, is to refute rather than encourage bigotry or paranoia directed against ethnic minority groups on occasions when they’re voiced right in front of your face with millions watching.
That is the bare minimum required of a statesman. A belated, pro-forma “I love the Muslims” doesn’t cut it.
“This is the first time in my life,” you continued, “that I have caused controversy by NOT saying something.” That is because you’ve always been a publicity hound real-estate developer and blowhard reality-television star. When you were operating in the same cultural space as The Real Housewives of Orange County and Jersey Shore, there wasn’t any danger of your stirring up the worst kind of social conflict.
Now you’re heading a mass political movement as a charismatic populist.
The fact that you don’t seem to grasp that anything else changed as a result, that you are aggressively clueless about the burdens of the job that you’re seeking, discredits you.
Now, a lot of the things that discredit you are no worse than what discredits most politicians. But this one thing is different. When you gain politically by demonizing ethnic groups, or by pandering to those who do, you go from arguably likable eccentric to villain. You go from having kids who think “my dad’s a bit embarrassing, but he means well” to kids who’ll feel ashamed of what you stirred up for years after you leave politics. Those are the best case scenarios. The worst-case scenario is remote, but horrific: that’s where you’re the careless fool who ends the legacy of mostly responsible behavior on this issue, loses control of the forces you’re enabling, and watches in horror as your actions harm a lot of innocents.
Is that going to happen?
Probably not, but the fact that you seem willing to risk it for a few points of support in a political campaign makes you execrable in a way that many politicians aren’t.
And that is saying something.
You surround yourself with some sensible people outside politics. Ask George H. Ross and Carolyn Kepcher what they think of your conduct with regard to this issue.
Ask your daughter, Ivanka. Consult a few risk-managers.
And when they admonish you, change your behavior, if only so that your associates and family members don’t have to be ashamed of it. Doing so doesn’t require you to be dishonest, or politically correct, or to adopt any policy position anathema to you—it just requires you to refute a few poisonous, demonstrably false delusions. “It's something I don't want to talk about,” you told George Stephanopolous over the weekend. “I want to talk about the vets and the military. I want to talk about jobs.” You don’t seem to understand that responsible presidents sometimes talk about things they’d rather not discuss, for the sake of the country.
You seem to lack that capacity. Why? Absent a change in behavior, your staffers (yes, I’m talking to you!) should consider whether their consciences compel them to resign.
No one should work to elevate a man who can’t clear this lowest of bars.