Modern political dissembling may have been perfected by Richard Nixon. A really sweet example is his first Watergate speech, where he’s explaining to the country why Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Kleindeinst, and Dean have resigned, and where he takes personal responsibility for the whole affair. In it, he says:
“For the fact that alleged improper actions took place within the White House or within my campaign organization, the easiest course would be for me to blame those to whom I delegated the responsibility to run the campaign. But that would be a cowardly thing to do.
I will not place the blame on subordinates—on people whose zeal exceeded their judgment and who may have done wrong in a cause they deeply believed to be right.
In any organization, the man at the top must bear the responsibility. That responsibility, therefore, belongs here, in this office. I accept it. And I pledge to you tonight, from this office, that I will do everything in my power to ensure that the guilty are brought to justice and that such abuses are purged from our political processes in the years to come, long after I have left this office.”
Wait, what? You think blaming subordinates would be cowardly. The responsibility is yours. And you therefore pledge to find out which subordinates are responsible. Nice! That man knew how to dissemble. He was the best.
It’s a little hard to compare Trump to Nixon is this area, because Trump isn’t really dissembling. When he says, without irony, “No one respects women more than me”, he actually believes it, so it’s probably not technically a lie. Trump might even believe he’s going to build a border wall and Mexico will pay for it. With this guy, who knows?
In any case, we’re learning that you have to let Trump be Trump – you can’t expect too much in the way of accountability. His surrogates are another matter, though. At some point someone has to explain the excesses, and this is where some heavy duty dissembling is going to be needed.
At a campaign event this week, a gentleman wearing a “Hillary for Prison” T-shirt, spotted members of the media and yelled at them “We know who you are! You’re the enemy!” and repeatedly chanted “Jew-S-A”. Get it? Not “U-S-A”, but “Jew-S-A”. So clever.
No one is really surprised by this kind of thing in Trump-world. Just google “leugenpresse” for a little more on this.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said the campaign “strongly condemns this kind of rhetoric and behavior”. See, she figured saying “strongly condemns” is a lot more convincing than just saying “condemns”, so, you know, let’s go with that.
So, what can we look forward to here – what form will the strong condemnation take? Kicking the next Nazi wannabe out of a Trump event? Trump asking the crowd to dial it down? Reminding everyone that his daughter is married to a Jew, converted herself, and is raising their children as Jews? No, that won’t work – everyone knows Jewishness is in your blood, and you get it from your mother.
Well, I’ll end the suspense and tell you what to expect in the way of anyone taking responsibility here. Nothing. Movin’ on. A surrogate dissembling for two seconds is all they have for you. Now, it’s back to the dog whistles and incitement.
We certainly can’t hold Trump responsible for the actions of others. Somewhere, Nixon is smiling.