share

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Forget the past 2020 election ‘steal,’ Donald Trump

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin


In his trademark fashion, the late New York Mayor Ed Koch once summarized his view of how voters should decide whether to back a candidate. 

“If you agree with me on nine out of 12 issues, you should support me,” Koch said. “If you agree with me on 12 out of 12 issues, you should see a psychiatrist.”

His whimsical observation came to mind during my Palm Beach interview with Donald Trump on Presidents’ Day. As I wrote last week, No. 45 was relaxed in a white golf shirt and red MAGA hat as he answered questions on the Biden presidency, his relationship with GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell and his dealings with Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China and European leaders. 

But one topic reigned supreme, and it was the main reason I requested the interview. It involves the 2020 election, and relates to Ed Koch’s view of how voters should think about candidates.

The ‘stolen’ election

My question to Trump was this: “You constantly claim the election was rigged, that you actually won and your victory was stolen.

“But if I am a voter who agrees with you on most policies but disagrees with you about the election results, or is just tired of hearing you talk about it so much — should I vote for you? Is it a litmus test that I must agree the election was stolen?”

Trump shook his head and said no without elaboration before asking me a question: “But because I won, how can I not talk about it?” 

After ticking off the roster of states where he has alleged fraud, including Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, he added, “Everything I said was true, and it’s being proven as we speak.”

That’s the endless rabbit hole of continuing claims and audits that have proven nothing significant, so I repeated the question: “Is agreement a litmus test for voters?”

President Joe Biden
The door is wide open for former President Donald Trump to sweep a frailing President Joe Biden in 2024.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

His answer shifted, and after citing the large crowd size at his recent rallies, he claimed, “These people want me to talk about 2020 more than anything else. If I didn’t talk about it, I would lose a lot of them.”

Although he’s right that most polls show a majority of GOP voters agree the election was stolen, fewer than a third of independents agree and only a sliver of Democrats do. The overall total in most polls falls somewhere between one-third and 40% and seems to be declining over time. 

In short, Trump’s playing a losing hand. For most voters, the 2020 train left the station.

When I suggested as much, he insisted that “most voters can walk and chew gum at the same time” and said it was necessary to “find out what happened” in the last election or “they will try to cheat again.” 

U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden participate in the first presidential debate at the Health Education Campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio in 2020.
The majority of polls indicate that voters have moved past the outcome of the 2020 presidential election.
AFP via Getty Images

He added: “I think Democrats cheat in elections,” and seemingly compared it to how “men playing in women’s sports are destroying women’s sports.” He finished by saying, “Our election system is broken and corrupt.”

I told him about a little dinner plebiscite I conducted among four conservative New Yorkers in Florida days earlier. All four voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020 and plan to vote for him again in 2024 if he runs. 

However, they were also unanimous in wishing he would drop the stolen-election talk, saying it was time to move on. They wanted to hear more about how he would solve the multiple crises overwhelming the Biden administration.

He responded by repeating what I said — that the four conservatives would vote for him regardless — then insisted he doesn’t “dwell on it endlessly” before adding that he must talk about the last election “because it’s the most important thing for some people.”

“But,” I asked, “is it the most important thing for you?”

Attendants applaud former President Donald Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida on Feb. 26, 2022.
Attendants applaud former President Donald Trump’s speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando, Florida, on Feb. 26, 2022.
Stephen Yang

When he quickly said no, I asked what is, to which he said, “The biggest, most important thing for me is bringing back the country.”

His obsession

That was essentially the end of the interview, but hardly the end of his obsession with the past. The next day, when radio host Buck Sexton asked Trump what went wrong in Ukraine, the former president declared: “Well, what went wrong was a rigged election. And what went wrong is a candidate that shouldn’t be there and a man who has no concept of what he’s doing.”

It was in the same radio interview where Trump made news with another foolish statement, saying it was a “genius” move and “very savvy” for Putin to declare portions of eastern Ukraine independent before starting the invasion.

To be sure, there is nothing controversial in the fundamental point Trump was making about Biden being outmaneuvered by Putin. The view is widespread, with even many Democrats saying Biden and NATO were weak and slow in developing countermoves as Putin surrounded Ukraine on three sides with nearly 200,000 Russian soldiers, tanks, armored vehicles and missile launchers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and US President Donald J. Trump (L) talk during a break of a leader's meeting at the 25th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, 11 November 2017.
Former President Donald Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for outflanking NATO in his attempted conquest of Ukraine.
EPA

But especially in public life, how you say something is often as important as what you say. And by complimenting Putin’s strategy as the Russian brute was invading an ally, Trump sounded unpatriotic.

The root of all this linguistic malpractice lies in the former president’s inability to accept defeat. His insistence that he won and was cheated smacks of an effort to evade any responsibility for the outcome. The fact is, he should have beaten Biden like a drum.

Yet more than a year later, he remains trapped in the web of victimhood he is spinning around his loss. One result is that he has gained no apparent insights about what he might have done differently.

When I asked if he had any regrets about his term, he conceded that “you always have regrets,” but didn’t offer specifics. Instead, he fell back on the defense that “from the day I came down the escalator, I was under attack.”

He’s right about that, and no president was ever treated as unfairly by the media and the Deep State as he was. It’s also true he had a right to contest the results, as Democrats have often done.

Digging himself in

But Trump, as is his habit, didn’t know where to stop, and his conduct and comments about the election played a major role in creating the atmosphere for the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. However that role is ultimately defined, there is no question he is in a much deeper hole, legally and politically, than he would be otherwise. 

Look at it this way: Had he conceded defeat before Jan. 6th, he would now have a clearer path to a second term, especially in light of Biden’s disastrous performance. 

Instead, too much of Trump’s focus is still fixed on the past at a time when Americans desperately want, and the world needs, a leader for the future.



Source link

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *