Donald Trump Monday decried protests against police violence as “race riots.”
“Now, somebody said, ‘Don’t call them race riots,’” he told the crowd in Colorado, in painting an image of a racially divided nation under President Barack Obama. “But that’s what they are, they’re race riots.”
In a typical election year, this might have merited a whole news cycle on its own. But this is only the latest in a week of disastrous news coverage for the Republican nominee.
ThinkProgress editor in chief Judd Legum called it “one of the worst weeks in political history.”
Mo Elleithee, a Democratic strategist and head of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, told the Washington Post that “political operatives and strategists are going to study this week for generations as the textbook case of self-sabotage.”
Trump’s comments on “race riots” come after a week in which the candidate attempted to spur more controversies over Bill Clinton’s infidelities, started yet another online feud, this time with a former Miss Universe, and seemingly spun out of control on the campaign stage while delivering a straightforward statement responding to a bad story, spiraling into angry and near-incoherent tirades about Hillary Clinton.
This week has also seen some of the most damning reports about Trump’s financial records and personal dealings to date, with reports that his personal charitable foundation spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle personal legal disputes and more evidence that his tax returns could hold a massive bombshell.
It’s unclear whether the negativity has stuck to Trump — the polls have stayed relatively consistent, with Clinton in a slight lead. But this isn’t the first time I have written about a Trump meltdown, and it likely won’t be the last — a clear representation of his temperament and mode of operation.
TL;DR: Trump had a crazy week
- The Monday of the first presidential debate, the Washington Post published a damning report about Trump’s personal charitable foundation, finding that while the foundation may be many things, charitable it is not. According to the report, Trump redirected $2.3 million otherwise owed to him to his tax-exempt organization.
- Trump then soundly lost the first presidential debate against Hillary Clinton, during which he interrupted Clinton repeatedly, continued to champion blatant untruths, argued with moderator Lester Holt over the constitutionality of stop-and-frisk policing, and comically failed to respond to Clinton’s attacks.
- Most notably, when Clinton shared an anecdote about Alicia Machado — a former Miss Universe whom Trump had once called “Miss Piggy” for gaining weight, and “Miss Housekeeping” for being Latina — Trump was seemingly unable to find a retort, responding only with, “Where did you find this?” before pivoting to defend, completely unprompted, his past less-than-flattering comments on Rosie O’Donnell.
- Trump left the debate only to start a week-long, ill-advised feud with Machado, whom he attempted to smear in a 3:20 am Twitter rant, calling her “disgusting” and alleging she was once involved in a sex tape — which doesn’t exist.
- Since then, Trump’s past appearances have come back to haunt him, including a brief (fully clothed) appearance in the beginning of a Playboy pornographic film.
- And there was an interview with Howard Stern during which Trump bragged he promised his then 17-year-old daughter Ivanka he wouldn’t hit on anyone younger than her, another Stern interview in which he said he’d found then-12-year-old Paris Hilton attractive, and an Associated Press report that detailed how Trump used to sexually harass female contestants on his reality TV show The Apprentice.
- During this same week, reports came out that Trump’s company, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, knowingly broke the trade embargo with Cuba in 1998, paying the expenses of a group of consultants sent to Cuba to scout new business opportunities. If discovered at the time, this could have landed Trump in prison for 10 years, according to the New Yorker. (The US policy toward Cuba has changed dramatically since 1998, with the Obama administration spearheading an effort to normalize economic relations there.)
- An explosive report published in the New York Times revealed Trump’s partial tax records from 1995, in which the real estate mogul declared a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns. The Times said it was “a tax deduction so substantial it could have allowed him to legally avoid paying any federal income taxes for up to 18 years.”
- Trump was seemingly so angered by the New York Times report that he was unable to stay on script at a Pennsylvania rally Sunday, where he was supposed to deliver “a nine-sentence critique of comments Hillary Clinton made months ago about many of the millennials supporting her primary rival, Bernie Sanders,” according to the Washington Post. Instead, Trump took “nearly 25 minutes to read the brief statement because he kept going off on one angry tangent after another — ignoring his teleprompters and accusing Clinton of not being ‘loyal’ to her husband, imitating her buckling at a memorial service last month, suggesting that she is ‘crazy’ and saying she should be in prison,” the Post reported.
- Then on Monday, New York’s attorney general issued the Trump Foundation a cease-and-desist letter, ordering the organization to stop fundraising in the state of New York, after discovering that the Trump Foundation did not have the proper certification to solicit money in the state.
- It was all capped off with another Trump rally in which Trump praised his knowledge of the tax code and insisted that protests against police violence were “race riots.”
In short, it was quite a week.
Meanwhile here's Trump mocking Clinton at a rally tonight in PA. pic.twitter.com/JNrKOqORVR— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) October 2, 2016
This isn’t the first time I’ve written this story. That says something.
This past week has begun to feel similar to the week after the Republican National Convention, when Trump revived his bizarre accusation that Ted Cruz’s father might’ve been involved in killing JFK, suggested offhand that the US shouldn’t honor its NATO commitments, and began the also ill-advised attack against Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the bereaved parents of Army Captain Humayun Khan.
To close watchers of the election, that meltdown was at least somewhat surprising. After all, in the weeks leading up to the GOP convention, it seemed like Trump’s campaign was going to rein him in. And for a while, so was the expectation leading up to the first presidential debate: It was Trump’s chance to prove he could reach the very low bar of seeming presidential. Trump hasn’t had a press conference in nearly two weeks, after all.
But just as that didn’t last the last time, it didn’t last this time.
And as Vox’s Ezra Klein explained in April, Trump has too long a history of being Trump to ever make a concrete shift toward being presidential:
Donald Trump has been powering a global brand by doing and saying outrageous things for decades now. He has built up an immunity to outrage and backlash. This personal fortitude is why Trump was able to take his wealth and turn it into personal, persistent celebrity. This deep — and continually rewarded — belief that flamboyance pays off is why Trump says what other presidential candidates won't and does what other presidential candidates can't. It's why he can retweet white supremacists and play insult comic on the stump and encourage violence at his rallies and shrug off the brickbats of the Republican, Democratic, media, and cultural establishments.
Most human beings could not stand the assault on their reputation, the abandonment by friends and business partners, the opprobrium of the media. But Trump can, because Trump has been this person, existing amidst constant controversy and ignoring the side eyes of the elites who think him gauche, for decades now.
Remember that moment in the first presidential debate when Trump gave an angered speech about how good his temperament is. Yeah. That’s what we’re talking about.