I want to talk about the very first answer Donald Trump gave in Wednesday night’s presidential debate.
You may not remember it, because of all the insane things Trump said later, but Trump’s first answer was foreshadowing for everything that would follow.
Moderator Chris Wallace asked a broad question about what approach the Supreme Court should take in interpreting the Constitution.
“It’s just so imperative that we have the right justices,” Trump said. Then he continued:
“Something happened recently where Justice Ginsburg made some very, very inappropriate statements toward me and toward a tremendous number of people, many, many millions of people that I represent. And she was forced to apologize. And apologize she did. But these were statements that should never, ever have been made.”
I actually agree that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg should not have injected herself into the election by calling Trump a “faker,” even though he is one. But that’s not what’s important right now.
What’s important is that, when Donald Trump was asked what he thought the Supreme Court should do with its power, the first thing he decided was important to address was that the justices on the court should be nice to him – and that he had made one of them apologize to him when she wasn’t.
This should not reassure conservatives who have somehow convinced themselves Trump’s approach would be to appoint judges who would closely follow the Constitution, rather than judges who show sufficient respect to him personally.
And over and over again during the debate, Trump brought matters back to himself – to his own detriment.
When Clinton was answering awkward questions about the Clinton Foundation, Trump redirected the conversation to praise his own troubled foundation – prompting Wallace to press him on whether he used foundation funds to pay a legal settlement for his business.
When talking about Russian interference in the US election, Trump again bragged that Russian President Vladimir Putin says nice things about him.
If he didn’t pay enough in taxes, he said that’s because Clinton didn’t do enough to make him pay. (In fact, when she was a senator, Clinton voted to close a loophole he may have used.) He said he used foreign steel only because Clinton didn’t stop him from doing that, either.
When Clinton later suggested Trump might find new ways to avoid paying taxes – a practice Trump has bragged about in the past, saying “that makes me smart” – he took personal offense, calling her “such a nasty woman.”
And when Clinton accused him of being so conspiracy obsessed and so unwilling to admit his own failures that he even accused the Emmys of being rigged when he didn’t win those, he chose to relitigate the issue, saying he really should have won an Emmy.
So nobody should be surprised by the big headline out of Wednesday night’s debate: that Trump would not commit to accepting the results of the election if he loses.
“I will tell you at the time,” he said. “I’ll keep you in suspense. OK?”
Well, no, it’s not OK. But it’s not surprising either. For Donald Trump, everything is about Donald Trump, including the electoral system that has held the United States together for nearly 240 years.
If Trump wins, Trump will accept the results. If he loses, well, we’ll see what Trump thinks is in Trump’s best interest.
Trump cares only about Trump, not America. But you already knew that, and so did the Republicans who have cravenly endorsed him.
After this debate, those endorsements will become only more awkward.