Thursday, July 18, 2019

Great Question

I was wrong. I was wrong when I thought Chris Cuomo on Tuesday evening had posed a stupid, hypothetical question.

The CNN anchor/host/personality and lawyer asked Kansas Republican Kris Kobach

What do you want me to do when he makes a racist comment? I call him a demagogue because I don't want to get into the business of what he thinks he is, because in our political culture if he says, "I'm not a racist," then it gives guys like you cover to defend him.

But let me ask you, what would you do if the President said, "I am a racist. That's why I said it," what would you do?

However, it was not a stupid question. The obvious answer for a GOP senatorial candidate was "I normally don't answer a hypothetical question. Yet this one is easy. President Trump is not a racist, so he would never lie and say that he is, and I would thoroughly reject him if he did." That would have seemed definitive, and that would have ended that.

However, Kobach said that he would not defend Trump. Cuomo responded "would you still support him as President?" after which, this:

KOBACH: I don't know.
CUOMO: You have to think about it?
KOBACH: That would be a really tough question.
CUOMO: You have to think about whether or not you would support a racist?
KOBACH: If he said - if he said - if he said - if he says it--
CUOMO: Really?
KOBACH: I'd have to know who is running against him.

That's bad, although Kobach may have unjustifiably felt blindsided.. Maybe it was just him.

No, it wasn't only only him because the next night, Cuomo entertained Kayleigh McEnany (segment beginning at 14:04 of the video below), National Press Secretary for the 2020 Trump campaign and told her

I've decided to call this The Kobach test, instead of the litmus test.

Kayleigh, if the President said, the reason I'm saying these things is because I'm a racist. I know he hasn't said that. I know he doesn't believe that. Hypothetically, if he said that, would it change your support for him?

After McEnany claimed Democrats "are trying to paint the President as a racist" since June 2015 and "it's a ridiculous assertion," there followed (video below)

MCENANY: I'm not going to play these games where--
CUOMO: I don't support racism."
MCENANY: Because I won't - I - I won't - I won't allow you attach - to attach a label to the President, even hypothetically that is patently false and untrue. This is a man who's praised by--

She never answered the question, one she very likely had learned had been asked the previous night. Instead, she invoked Jews, blacks, and Trump's Palm Beach club. Really.

Two Republicans in two nights were thrown a hanging curve, practically begged to say that they would not support the President if he declared himself the racist he is not. But they took a pass.

That says something about them. However, given that it was not one individual but two and the second was tipped off at a question they were likely to face, the refusal to concede that Trump would be unworthy of their support is revelatory also of the President.

Cuomo's question was brilliant, an example of extraordinary broadcast journalism because he exposed two prominent Republicans as fine with racism in the country's President. It would have been easy to say they would not support him if they were confident they'd never face that challenge.

But they're not. They're not because they can see where this is headed. Trump is pushing the envelope, testing the limits, trying to find the point at which the only people who can deny the truth are the 25%? 20%? 15%? who would still support him if there were video of him shooting someone on Fifth Avenue.

We're nowhere near that point yet. It is as if we are lobsters, which in the traditional (possibly inaccurate) understanding are boiled to death so slowly they don't know what has hit them. By the time Trump owns up to being possibly "racist," the hostility and bigotry may be so commonplace that we have adjusted our attitudes and expectations accordingly. That may be more than a year away. Yet, as Kobach and McEnany understand, that day of reckoning- or acceptance- is not beyond the horizon.

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