When the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attacks what he calls the decline in the United States military under eight years of President Obama, he often suggests that General George Patton and General Douglas MacArthur are rolling over in their graves.
If so, just imagine the rumblings beneath the dedicated, consecrated and hallowed ground of Gettysburg this week after Trump’s campaign speech there Saturday.
He promised a serious talk on major policy initiatives for his first 100 days if he were to win the presidential election against the Democrat Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.
But first, Trump had to get a few things off his chest.
One was how he planned to sue the nine, 10 or 11 women (who can keep count?) who have accused Trump of unwanted sexual aggression.
“Total fabrication,” Trump said of his sex scandal. “Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
They’ve been speaking up since the discovery and circulation of that Access Hollywood recording from 2005 in which Trump bragged that he enjoys kissing strange women and grabbing them by their private parts.
His speech came in the Pennsylvania town that was the site of President Abraham Lincoln’s most famous speech.
He gave it at the dedication of a cemetery in 1863 for the Union soldiers killed there over three days in the most important battle of the Civil War.
Trump’s choice of his top topic there was the talk of the Sunday shows.
“I didn’t remember Lincoln opening his Gettysburg speech by attacking women who accused him of sexual assault,” Bakari Sellers told host Jake Tapper on CNN’s State of the Union.
On Face the Nation on CBS, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic told host John Dickerson that Trump’s opening was “the opposite of big” and that “people are left with that bad taste” after Trump’s complaints.
“He’s not been able ever to stop being Donald Trump,” Goldberg said, “and that’s the fatal flaw.”
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Republican strategist Stuart Stevens told host Chuck Todd that Trump provided “the craziest way to begin a substantive speech.”
Stevens wondered if it was scripted this way or whether the campaign was even aware Trump would open like this.
So Tapper asked Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager.
“Well, he delivers his own speeches,” Conway said. “This is his candidacy. He’s the guy running for the White House.”
Kellyanne Conway comes out again against ‘ripping the baby out of the womb’ and ‘countries that throw gays off of buildings.’
An ABC poll released Sunday showed Trump tailing Clinton by 50 percent to 38 percent in the popular vote. The gap appears to be widening as Trump lashes out at the media, at “Crooked Hillary” and at other Republicans.
Before sullying himself at Gettysburg Saturday, Trump used Wednesday night to lose his third debate against Clinton and say he’s not sure he’ll accept the results of the election if loses to that “nasty woman,” as he called her that night.
On Thursday, he was booed by a roomful of priests (and others) for attacking Clinton during the Al Smith banquet in New York, where the humor is supposed to be self-deprecating.
“He’s got a tin ear for something like this,” Bob Woodward of The Washington Post told host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
Hand me the remote . . .
FOX NEWS SUNDAY In reference to Trump’s increasingly poor standing in the polls, Wallace opened with “Can Donald Trump close the gap?” (He could have opened with “Can Hillary Clinton close the deal?” But Fox sees things from a certain perspective).
Campaign manager Conway kept up the fight, echoing her leader by telling Wallace of how Clinton and Democrats will “rip a baby from the womb” and of how “a lot of Republicans just hide under the desk, hoping abortion shrapnel won’t hit them.”
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Fox) was there to debate Rep. Xavier Becerra. Gingrich warned of a Canadian-style health care system and the “public option” for health coverage that Clinton might consider if insurance companies continue to back out of the Affordable Care Act.
On the pundit panel was Republican Karl Rove, once known by the oxymoron “George W. Bush’s brain.”
Wallace asked him “What is Trump’s path to victory?” (He could have asked “What is Clinton’s path to victory?” but Fox sees things from a certain perspective).
Later, Woodward suggested that “There are a lot of secret Trump supporters out there who won’t even tell pollsters that they’re going to vote for him because they think it’s a neighbor calling, playing a joke.”
Taking an overview of the entire campaign was Kimberly Strassel of The Wall Street Journal who said “It has been so ugly on both sides.” Perhaps, but this is false equivalence. It’s been much uglier on the Trump side.
MEET THE PRESS Conway, making the rounds, told Todd that Clinton’s campaign is running “cesspool kind of ads” against Trump. Todd asked her about Trump’s threatened lawsuits.
TODD: “Why not sue them now? Why wait until after the election?”
CONWAY: “Because we’re busy winning the presidency.”
Soon, she turned the conversation to “radical Islamic terrorism,” one of Trump’s main themes. She also came out again against “ripping the baby out of the womb” and “countries that throw gays off of buildings.”
Stevens, the Republican not working for Trump, said the campaign has evolved into a “concert tour” with Trump the crowd-pleaser vowing vengeance to large, loud mobs who chant, in reference to Clinton, “Lock her up!”
In that Lincoln was the first Republican president, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times suggested Trump might be the last of that party’s candidates for that office.
“Maybe this party just needs to crash and burn,” he said. “That version of the Republican Party needs to die.”
Friedman also speculated of Trump: “People say he’s going to start his own media company and be constantly terrorizing the Republican Party from the right.”
Near the end of the show, Todd put up a black-and-white picture of Clinton watching the Chicago Cubs clinching the National League pennant Saturday night.
She viewed it on an iPhone, her other hand holding a cup, her mouth open and her eyes wide with wonder. She grew up in north suburban Chicago.
STATE OF THE UNION Also making the rounds Sunday was Robby Mook, Clinton’s campaign manager, who spoke to Tapper of Trump and his attacks against his female accusers.
“He should just apologize and move on,” Mook said. “This is telling about what kind of president Donald Trump would be. He’s more concerned about himself. He attacks people who raise legitimate concerns about his behavior. This should be an alarm bell to voters.”
When Conway took her turn with Tapper, he presented to her a video from April 13, when she worked for Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the Republican primaries. She then spoke of Trump’s complaints.
“We hear from the Trump campaign the system’s rigged, the system’s corrupt,” Conway said then. “He can whine and complain all he wants that he didn’t know the rules.”
Conway said Democrats should not “get so high-minded and sanctimonious” about Trump’s behavior “when, after all, the Clinton Foundation took millions from countries that disrespect women.”
On the pundit panel, former Republican Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona debated former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska.
Of Trump’s “rigged election” complaint, Brewer said “Donald really believes there is some hanky-panky going on” but that “there will be a peaceful transition of power” on Inauguration Day.
Sellers responded “I’m glad she stated it. Donald Trump has never stated that there will be a peaceful transfer of power.”
He referred to recent outbursts of bilious words from the 70-year-old Trump.
“There’s a tendency, as you go through life, to become bitter,” Kerrey said. ““The central message he’s putting out there is sort of the geezer cynic.”
Regarding Trump’s problems with female accusers, Brewer said “He’s been water-boarded by these issues.” She called it “somewhat of a put-up oppression of Donald Trump” and that “it’s just unbelievable.”
“He tells it like it is,” Brewer concluded.
This was a bit rich for Kerrey, who pointed to his head and said “No, he tells it like it is in his head. That’s the problem. You never know what’s up in his head.”
THIS WEEK Host George Stephanopoulos on ABC pulled lots of statistics from the ABC poll, including one that said 69 percent of those surveyed don’t like the way Trump is handling charges of sexual assault.
ABC showed a video clip not noticed by all the networks. At the end of the last debate, Trump picked up his written notes and tore them in half.
Only one problem. The main action of the scene was at the bottom of the frame.
Viewers could hardly see it because the “lower third,” as the TV producers call it, was filled with three levels of printed copy.
The trick to keeping this shot powerful is for someone to tell the control room ahead of time to lose the “lower third” when it airs.
Eric Trump, one son of Donald, stopped by to defend his dad. He sounded so optimistic that Stephanopoulos asked him “Do you think you might be living in a bubble of your own support?”
“No,” Eric said. “I don’t think so at all, honestly.”
On they went about the sex scandal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: “All these people are lying even though they describe behavior that your father bragged about on that tape?”
ERIC TRUMP: “George, where were these women before? Where were they?”
The host reminded young Trump that one of the alleged victims, a reporter for People, told six different friends and colleagues about the incident when it happened.
“George, I just don’t believe it,” Eric Trump said.
One who believed it was Katrina vanden Heuvel of The Nation who referred to Trump’s characterization of Clinton.
“Millions of women (are) saying ‘We are all nasty women now,’” vanden Heuvel said. “She’s tied a party to the boorish, predatory sexual behavior of Donald Trump and I think that’s critical.”
At the same table was Jonah Goldberg of National Review who said “If Donald Trump doesn’t play nice, when and if he loses, and he decides that he’s just going to be a spoiler or create this television network we could see, I would predict that we are going to see a new party emerge.”
STEPHANOPOULOS: “Is this the end of the Republican Party?”
GOLDBERG: “It’s entirely possible.”
FACE THE NATION One of John Dickerson’s guests on CBS was Frank Luntz, the Republican pollster, who voiced what sounded like disappointment over Trump.
“If he had stayed the voice and the vision for those people who’ve been left behind, this race would be a lot different than it is right now,” Luntz said. “This is about the voice of the voters, not the voice of Donald Trump. He scores really badly when he starts attacking Hillary Clinton on personal terms or goes back as far as Bill.”
Luntz was just warming up.
“John, I have never seen a campaign that has less discipline, less focus and less of an effective vision at a time when more Americans are demanding a change in the way their government works,” Luntz said. “This should have been a slam dunk for the GOP.”
Among the pundits, Jamelle Bouie of Slate discussed Trump’s strange bromance with Vladimir Putin, the unsavory president of Russia.
“Nothing triggers Donald Trump like criticism of Vladimir Putin,” Bouie said. “It’s quite remarkable to watch . . . This is historic and it represents a seismic shift in the way American politicians talk about Russia and large, authoritarian countries in general . . This is not entirely explicable yet to me. But it’s revolutionary.”
Another panelist, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, said of Trump “If you’re saying this election is going to be stolen, boy, you’d better put up the evidence and put it up now.”
The big non-election story was the advance on ISIS control of Mosul, Iraq, by Middle Eastern fighters aided by American advisors. It was covered by Holly Williams, who referred to the terrorists as “a sadistic death cult” and “barbaric extremists.”
MEDIA BUZZ The Fox show—hosted by media critic Howard Kurtz—went on at length about the fabulous performance as debate moderator by the wonderful Wallace, the first Fox anchor ever to host a debate at this level.
Kurtz often cites how there are at least two sides to every story. Somehow, he must have missed this critique of Wallace by Media Matters, the progressive website that keeps watch over right-wing media.
Wallace, Media Matters wrote, “repeatedly injected right-wing framing and misinformation into his questions.”
“His question about the economy began with the false premise that President Obama’s 2009 stimulus plan damaged the economy,” Media Matters wrote. “His question about immigration took Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton’s 2013 comments about `open borders’ grossly out of context; his question about abortion access invoked the right-wing myth of `partial-birth abortion,’ a non-medical term invented by anti-abortion groups; his question about the national debt falsely alleged that programs like Social Security and Medicare are going to run out of money and add to the debt absent short-term cuts, echoing Republican talking points about entitlements.”
Media Matters called the Wallace approach “casual, subtle dishonesty” that is a result of right-wing propaganda repeated so often that it seeps into false assumptions upon which campaign issues are framed by networks like Fox and anchors like Wallace.
Or, in the words of Washington Times columnist Kelly Riddell, Wallace’s performance revealed him to be “a true, fair-and-balanced, professional journalist.”
And, as Kurtz said to Wallace in his exclusive interview, “You have gotten a lot of praise, well-deserved in my view. Do you think you’ve changed some minds about the news side of Fox News?”
RELIABLE SOURCES Host Brian Stelter on CNN interviewed Dan Rather, who warned the Clinton campaign not to get too cocky about its big lead on Trump.
“Don’t taunt the alligator,” Rather warned, “until after you’ve crossed the creek.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.