On Thursday night, Donald Trump told the Wall Street Journal that the Mexican heritage of the judge overseeing a lawsuit against Trump University was an “absolute conflict” because of the real estate mogul’s proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico.
On Sunday, Trump doubled down on those comments, insisting to John Dickerson of CBS that the judge, Gonzalo Curiel, was treating him in “a hostile manner.” The presumptive Republican presidential nominee added cryptically: “There’s something going on.”
(Side note: It’s not just people of Mexican heritage. Trump, who earlier in his campaign called for instituting a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, told Dickerson that he might have issues with a Muslim judge, too.)
Where to start? That trying to disqualify judges based on heritage — Curiel was born in Indiana to parents of Mexican descent — would effectively disqualify scores of jurists across the country from the bench? Or that the idea of considering ethnicity, religion or some other characteristic when discussing how a federal judge does his job is anathema to the foundational principles of our judicial system?
At this point, conversations about Trump’s ability and willingness to offend are almost pointless. Ditto debates about whether and how Trump’s comments will affect his standing in the 2016 race. He does and says things that not only would be poison for any other politician of either party but also play dangerously with racial and ethnic politics. Yet, to date, he has prospered.
What is important is that we can now dismiss the notion that Trump will adjust his rhetoric or his positions on issues to accommodate the general electorate. That idea is totally and completely false. There is no Trump 2.0, no reinvention of Trump as more inclusive or less combative waiting just on the horizon. This is it.
Trump has said as much.
“You think I’m going to change?” he asked rhetorically during a combative news conference Tuesday at Trump Tower. “I’m not changing.”
He has said some version of “Trump gonna Trump” for weeks, even while occasionally promising to maybe be a little bit nicer and amid promises from chief campaign strategist Paul Manafort that the “new” Trump was coming soon.
A placid debate here. A nice comment about a former rival there. Republicans desperate for some sign that they had not picked the least-predictable nominee in modern history have tried to interpret it all as evidence that Trump could and would be managed. That he “got” it and knew he could not keep acting the way he acted to win the Republican primary contest.
But then, inevitably, comes a comment like the one about Curiel. Or Trump’s shot at New Mexico’s popular Republican governor, Susana Martinez, whom he accused of doing a bad job. Or whatever offensive thing he will say this week.
The reality is this: Trump can’t escape — and doesn’t seem to want to escape — from being exactly and unapologetically who he is.
Think about it from Trump’s perspective. Everyone — and I do mean everyone — laughed at him when he got into the presidential race almost a year ago. They said he was nothing more than a reality-TV star. A loud-talking know-nothing who would not go anywhere.
Then Trump beat the other Republican candidates. Convincingly.
What possible lesson could he draw from that? This one: The people who say they know what works in politics have no clue. And the people who matter (voters) love his over-the-top rhetoric and willingness to be controversial all the time.
Plus, remember that Trump is 69. How many people of that age, particularly those who have lived as public and successful a life as Trump, make major changes in who they are and how they approach the world? The answer is very, very few.
If you are a Republican elected official, cough, Paul Ryan, cough, desperately hoping that a more cerebral, more serious, less I-will-say-whatever-is-on-my-mind-at-this-exact-second Trump is just about to emerge, I have some news for you: You’re out of luck.
Trump is who he is. Republican voters, or at least a decent chunk of them, liked that person enough to hand him the party’s presidential nomination. And that’s the person Trump will be between now and Nov. 8 — and the one the GOP has pinned all of its hopes on. Gulp.