Two weeks ago, Donald Trump escalated his racist attacks against a Latino federal judge, sparking a national controversy and causing widespread Republican heartburn. As the race for the Democratic presidential nomination wrapped up, this is how the presumptive Republican nominee wanted to launch the general-election phase.
But take a moment to consider what we’ve seen from the GOP candidate since his offensive against U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel. At times, it’s been dizzying: Trump went after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in a rather racially charged way; Trump adopted a self-congratulatory posture about the deadliest mass shooting in American history; Trump said President Obama should resign because he won’t use the anti-Muslim phrasing Republicans like to hear; Trump suggested the president might be a terrorist sympathizer; Trump stripped the Washington Post of its press credentials; and Trump delivered a nauseating and brazenly dishonest speech demanding a ban on Muslims entering the country and targeting American Muslims’ loyalties.
And really, that’s just a sampling – from the last five days.
Yesterday, after President Obama made Trump’s rhetoric look ridiculous, the Republican candidate responded in the most Trump-like fashion possible, telling the Associated Press:
“President Obama claims to know our enemy, and yet he continues to prioritize our enemy over our allies, and for that matter, the American people.“When I am President, it will always be America First.”
The Atlantic’s James Fallows noted soon after, “Saying that the Commander in Chief has prioritized the enemy’s interests is an accusation of treason…. I am not aware of any previous case, whatsoever, of a national-ticket candidate publicly accusing a president or presidential nominee of a capital offense.”
I can appreciate why it’s easy to grow inured by the avalanche of offensive nonsense coming from the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee. In fact, I often find it difficult to keep up with, and some garbage – developments that would be the basis for real controversies in a normal year with a normal candidate – falls through the cracks.
For all I know, this may be intentional. Maybe Trump and his team have decided if the GOP candidate uses a firehose to spew nonsense, the sheer volume will become overwhelming, making it easier for him to get away with antics that might otherwise doom a traditional White House contender.
But there’s value in remaining as focused as possible. For a major-party nominee to argue that a sitting, war-time president sides with America’s enemies over the American people is bonkers, but it’s a staple of Donald Trump’s general-election messaging. The fact that it’s no longer surprising doesn’t negate its significance.