Trump Time Capsule #131: Three Markers

No, William Weld didn't become president. This appearance at the White House, in 1997, was after Bill Clinton nominated him as Ambassador to Mexico--and Senator Jesse Helms, like Weld a Republican, stonewalled until Weld withdrew. Now Weld is back in national politics and making an interesting move. (Reuters)
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

On the state of the race, with two days until the next Clinton-Trump debate and 31 days until the election:

1) Former Republican Senators and Representatives Oppose Trump. Over the weeks we’ve noted the announcements from Republican military and foreign-policy experts, reliably Republican editorial pages, business leaders, economists, and one of the two living Republican ex-presidents, that they can’t and won’t support Donald Trump.

Now 30 Republicans who had served in the U.S. Senate or House released an open letter to the same effect. You can read the letter and the list of names here.

I’m not aware of anything like this happening previously in elections of the modern era.

2) Weld Wavers. Bill Weld is the former Republican governor of Massachusetts and the current Libertarian party vice-presidential nominee. He can’t be enjoying the serial self-embarrassments by his running mate, Republican former governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson. A story in the Boston Globe (following this very nice Atlantic profile by Molly Ball) says that Weld is deciding to spend the next 31 days doing something different from the standard third-party argument that Both Major Parties Are Flawed. Instead he’ll be saying, Donald Trump Must Be Stopped, which in the real world means support for Hillary Clinton.

To see how unusual this is, contrast it with Jill Stein’s tone this year; or Ralph Nader’s in his many runs, especially 2000; or George Wallace in 1968, when his trademarked phrase was that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference” between the two major parties.

3) He said, He said. CNN has put up a very tough, let’s-cut-the-BS video, which contrasts clips of Mike Pence staunchly denying that Donald Trump had ever made certain outrageous comments, with clips of Trump saying exactly those outrageous things.

Every campaign has its half-truths or worse, as does every candidate. Fact-checkers will never lack for business. But I’m not aware of anything comparable to the Trump (and in this case Pence) pattern of blithely saying so many things, so often, that they know can be so easily disproved. It takes us back to Trump’s old claim that the NFL had sent him a letter complaining about debate scheduling, and the NFL immediately saying: No we didn’t! It’s something different, in its volume and brazenness, than “political lies” as we have known them before.

I’m trying to note, in real time, the people who are standing up against Trump. It will be worth remembering the many figures who have enabled him.


Bonus #4) Photos. Hillary Clinton appears in ads with nearly everyone who has held office or been popular in the Democratic firmament. Barack Obama. Michelle Obama. John Kerry. Elizabeth Warren. Bernie Sanders! Of course her husband. Purportedly soon Al Gore. Any Democratic senator or governor in any state she is visiting.

As best I can tell, only two “national level” in-office GOP politicians other than Mike Pence appear in photos with Trump. One, of course, is the sad Gov. Chris Christie. The other is the true believer Sen. Jeff Sessions. And let’s not forget Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

But while I have been trying to shame the likes of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz (!), John McCain, and now Jon Huntsman for endorsing Trump, it’s remarkable that you just don’t find them in the same camera frame with him.

If anyone has found actual photos of Donald Trump with in-office politicians, including supporters like Ryan, please let me know!