For a few fleeting moments Friday on The Tonight Show, Donald Trump appeared to demonstrate a trait rarely seen in his astonishing presidential campaign: self-awareness.
After beginning the interview with an appropriate tribute to the September 11 anniversary, Jimmy Fallon asked the Republican frontrunner a question on the minds of most of the still-sizable-but-incredibly-shrinking percentage of Americans who haven’t hopped aboard the Trump bandwagon. “When did this happen?” How did the punchline candidate of 2016 somehow morph into, gasp, a legitimate contender for the presidency of the United States?
After a couple seconds, Trump launched into his stump speech, talking about people in the U.S. who are "tired of being ripped off” and how the Obama administration was negotiating bad deals on trade and with Iran, and how institutions like the Veterans Administration were failing miserably. Then he made a joke in reference to parliamentary democracies in which leaders can simply call an election at a moment’s notice. “Well I’m demanding that the election be held this week!” Trump quipped.
The crowd laughed, but the joke (which Trump has made before) suggested that like so many in the political class, he doesn't necessarily believe his surge in the polls will endure. At another point, Trump briefly squirmed when Fallon asked him whether he had, “ever in his life,” apologized. “That was not supposed to be one of the questions,” he replied, buying time so he could come up with a Trumpier retort. (He settled on: “I fully think apologizing’s a great thing. But you have to be wrong...I will absolutely apologize sometime hopefully in the distant future if I’m ever wrong.”)