Transcription can’t possibly do justice to a hilarious exchange yesterday between radio host Hugh Hewitt and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
“Are you familiar with General Soleimani?” asked Hewitt of Trump.
Trump responded by saying “yes,” though it was the most “no”-sounding “yes” that the Erik Wemple Blog remembers hearing. Listen to the very beginning of this audio:
After saying he was familiar with this fellow — Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the famous leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force — Trump indicated that perhaps he wasn’t: “Go ahead, give me a little, go ahead, tell me.”
Hewitt: “He runs the Quds Forces.”
Trump, in a classic: “Yes, OK, right.”
Hewitt: “Do you expect his behavior–”
Trump: “I think the Kurds, by the way, have been horribly mistreated by us.”
Hewitt: “No, not the Kurds — the Quds Forces, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Forces — the bad guys.”
Trump: “Yes, right.”
Hewitt: “Do you expect his behavior to change as a result –”
Trump: “Oh, I thought you said Kurds, Kurds.”
In subsequent dialogue, Trump showed that, like the insider politicians he claims to rebut, he can stick to talking points regardless of the question. Asked whether Soleimani would change his behavior in light of the Iran deal, Trump babbled about how the Iranians can do whatever they want. Then, about 80 seconds after he was first asked about Soleimani, Trump started to put forth a sketch of the guy: “Is he the gentleman that was going back and forth with Russia and meeting with Putin? I read something, and that seems to be also where he’s at. He’s going back and forth meeting with other countries, etc., etc.” Hewitt responded, “That’s the guy.”
Bold text added to pose a question: Just when did Trump read this? Did he or his staffers do an insta-Google search to gain a clue?
On the chatter went — a typical Trump event in that it shed insight not on the world around us but on what a jerk this candidate is. The two clashed over whether Hewitt, by asking him about Soleimani as well as other key names in international terrorism, was conducting the dreaded art of “gotcha.” “I don’t believe in gotcha questions. I’m not trying to quiz you on who the worst guy in the world is,” said Hewitt at one point.
Trump: “That is a gotcha question, though. . . . It sounds like gotcha, you’re asking me names . . . I think it’s somewhat ridiculous, but that’s okay, go ahead . . . when you start throwing around names of people and where they live and give me their address, I think it’s ridiculous.”
Here’s a non-gotcha question: When did gotcha questions get such a bad reputation? In an interview just last week, Sarah Palin joined with Trump to lament this style of question. “So you get hit with these ‘gotchas,’ like most conservatives do,” said Palin, who cited the time Trump was asked about his favorite Bible verse. Mark Leibovich of the New York Times correctly defines the category: “Whenever reporters, being reporters, ask something unwelcome, or surprising, or even just dumb — any kind of query that requires a politician to say something a politician would prefer not to say — that’s a ‘gotcha.'”
Hewitt’s questions, whatever their characterization, embarrassed Trump. So he did what he commonly does to media types who decline to flatter him. He stated his superiority:
“The day after the election, I’ll know more about it than you will ever know,” he said to Hewitt about international terrorists.
“I will know more about it than you know, and believe me, it won’t take me long,” said Trump about the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas.
“I will know far more than you know within 24 hours after I get the job,” said Trump about the entire topic area.
The art of the insult entered the picture this morning, as Trump called Hewitt a “third-rate radio announcer” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”