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Uncomfortably numb



This morning Donald Trump went on the teevee and:

(a) Used an egregious racial slur to mock a current U.S. senator

(b) Told a big fat lie about the fact (warning: not actually a fact) that he doesn’t own any stock.

(c) Revealed that he doesn’t know the first thing about, well basically anything, but in this case monetary policy and the work of the Federal Reserve.

(d) Trotted out one of his minions to fulminate on CNN, the most trusted name in news, ™ against “this whole, you know, Trans-Pacific trade agreement with China.”


In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhand racist remark about a sitting US senator would be a big news story.

In a normal election cycle, a candidate making an offhanded lie about the state of his personal finances would be a big news story.

To be totally honest, even in a normal election cycle a candidate exhibiting total confusion about the mechanics and merits of monetary policy probably wouldn’t be that big of a news story but it would at least get some attention.

Seriously. Stop. Take a breath. Now imagine if Mitt Romney had run exactly Mitt Romney’s campaign but then suddenly in mid-September went on television and called Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas for no reason. It would have been huge.

This year, basically nothing. Trump being kinda racist is a dog-bites-man story. After all, just yesterday Donald Trump Jr. shared a white nationalist meme on Instagram. Trump lies all the time, so that’s not a big deal. In fact, he lies frequently about the essential core of his foreign policy, and his business dealings pose such obvious and flagrant conflicts of interest and ethics problems that lying about his stock holdings doesn’t seem like a big deal. And of course Trump doesn’t understand what he’s saying when it comes to monetary policy — monetary policy is complicated and obscure and Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about on any other issue either. . .

Speaking of which:

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is not a trade agreement with China. It includes 12 countries and none of them is China.

The long term effects of this sort of desensitizing of the body politic are probably analogous to the long-term effects of drinking a quart of gin every day and finding that you don’t ever feel particularly intoxicated any more:

The truly scary thing is that Trump is redefining the concept of a gaffe out of existence. It turns out that if you just boldly repeat something often enough, it goes away as a story. We’ve become numb, as a society, to what Trump is doing. In the process we’ve normalized casual racism, intense personal insults as an approach to politics, and completely decentered the idea that elected officials should grapple with difficult policy questions. Half the crazy things Trump says or does barely merit a mention on Twitter, much less the front-page coverage they would have merited in previous campaigns.

More than anything else, the numbness that Trump creates frightens me.

We have a learned a lot this year about what you can get away with in politics if you are brazen enough. The answer is that you can get away with a lot. Whatever happens in November, that revelation won’t go away.

. . . Warren Terra notes in comments that Toronto Star DC correspondent Daniel Dale has a much longer list, and points out that even combining the two lists may well not be comprehensive, since each omits items from the other:

• Called Sen. Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas”
• Claimed with no evidence that Fed Chair Janet Yellen is manipulating monetary policy to help Obama, said she “should be ashamed of herself”
• Said the Fed, the FBI, and the Department of Justice are “obviously” no longer independent
• Alleged with no evidence that the Presidential debates will be “rigged” and said there should be no moderator
• Falsely claimed his schedule had been busier than Clinton’s: “There’s not a contest”
• Claimed with no evidence that Iranian sailors are making “crude gestures” at American sailors
• Claimed with no evidence that British people “call me Mr. Brexit”
• Said, “I’m the king of illegal immigration. I will stop it!”
• Falsely claimed Clinton wants “open borders”
• Said he would turn Air Force One around and fly home if top officials from a foreign country weren’t at the airport to greet him
• Said of North Korea: “We should get China to fix that problem”
• Falsely claimed he is leading in the polls
• Falsely claimed he has visited “numerous” black communities other than Philadelphia and Detroit

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