Speaking at a rally in Redding, Calif., Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pointed out a man at the rally and said, "look at my African American." Trump then mentioned an African American supporter who punched a Trump protester dressed like a Ku Klux Klan member at an Arizona rally in March. (Reuters)
Opinion writer

Donald Trump needed validation.

At a rally Friday, Trump was discussing racial violence at his events and the perception that nonwhite people are against him, when he singled out a black man in the crowd.

“Look at my African American over here,” Trump said, pointing. “Look at him. Are you the greatest?”

The gesture — reminiscent of Trump eating a Cinco de Mayo taco bowl at Trump Tower and tweeting “I love Hispanics!” — was as respectful as if he had just instructed the crowd to “look at my Irish setter over here.” And it was as clumsy as if he had tried to validate his pro-Israel position by saying, “Look at my Jew over here,” or to neutralize his general intolerance by saying, “Say hello to my lesbian,” or, “Take a gander at my Chinese American.”

It turns out Trump’s African American, Gregory Cheadle, says he’s not a Trump supporter. He said he wasn’t offended by Trump taking possession of him, telling NPR it would have been worse if Trump followed “my African American” by saying, “What’s up, dawg?” or the N-word.

Republican lawmakers past and present reacted to Donald Trump's comments about Judge Gonzalo Curiel over the weekend, carefully distancing themselves from Trump's position. (Peter Stevenson/The Washington Post)

Small consolation.

A confluence of three factors has caused a sudden and sharp change in Trump’s fortunes. The media scrutiny has increased significantly since he secured the nomination, and journalists, rather than chasing his outrage du jour, are digging in to report more on Trump University, Trump’s stiffing of charities, his lies and his racism. Hillary Clinton has, finally, made the shift to attacking Trump vigorously over his instability. And Republicans are, belatedly, discovering that their presidential candidate wasn’t putting on a show during the GOP primaries: He’s an actual racist.

You know you’re in trouble when you’re being lectured on sensitivity by Newt Gingrich. The former House speaker, a frequent Trump defender, emailed The Post’s Dan Balz to say that Trump’s claim that a federal judge had a conflict of interest because the Indiana-born jurist is “Mexican” was “completely unacceptable.” (He softened his criticism of Trump on Monday.)

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) concurred that Trump’s attack on the judge and his claim that a Muslim on the bench also couldn’t judge him fairly was “absolutely unacceptable.” After an initial effort to rally around the nominee, Republicans are trying, awkwardly, to keep their distance. Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Bob Corker (R-Tenn), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, complained to George Stephanopoulos when asked a question about the border wall with Mexico: “I thought this interview was going to be more about the foreign-policy arena.” The host reminded Corker that the relationship with Mexico is foreign policy.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, just one day after endorsing Trump, said on a radio show that Trump’s remarks about the Hispanic judge were “out of left field.”

Sorry, Mr. Speaker, but that’s nonsense. The things Trump is doing now — disparaging the “Mexican” judge, disqualifying Muslim judges, calling somebody claiming Native American blood “Pocahontas” and singling out “my African American” — is very much in line with what he has been doing for the past year, and before.

More than six months ago, I began a column by proposing, “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.” His bigotry went back decades, to the Central Park jogger case, and came to include: his leadership of the “birther” movement suggesting President Obama was a foreign-born Muslim, his vulgar expressions for women, his talk of Mexico sending rapists into America, his call for mass deportation, his spats with Latino news outlets, his mocking Asian accent, his tacit acceptance of the claim that Muslims are a “problem” in America, his agreement that American Muslims should be forced to register themselves, his call to ban Muslim immigration, his false claim about American Muslims celebrating 9/11, his tweeting of statistics from white supremacists, his condoning of violence against black demonstrators and his mocking of a journalist with a physical disability.

Now that Trump has secured the nomination, Republican officeholders are shocked to discover that his racism continues?

A month ago, the Trump campaign chose prominent white nationalist William Johnson to be one of its delegates. The campaign blamed a “database error” and Johnson resigned, but the racist American Freedom Party claims it has “more delegates” on Trump’s list. Another Trump delegate was indicted recently on federal child-pornography and weapons charges, and Mother Jones magazine, which discovered Johnson’s selection, on Friday reported that another Trump delegate, David Riden, has said that U.S. leaders who abuse the Constitution should be “killed by American citizens with weapons.” And the Chicago Tribune reported that Illinois Trump delegate Lori Gayne uses the social-media handle “whitepride” and said: “I’m so angry I don’t even feel like I live in America. You can call me a racist.”

Republicans, look at your nominee over here. It’s a grotesque sight.

Twitter: @Milbank

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