With a late barrage of pandering, nonsense and vulgarity, the Donald Trump campaign roared into primary day in New Hampshire Tuesday, hoping that the frontrunner’s substantial lead in the public opinion polls will translate into a convincing victory in the Granite State.
Trump himself, who has shown a real genius for lowering the tone of the Republican primary campaign to depths previously unplumbed, dug down even deeper in a rally attended by thousands of supporters Monday night.
Trump has vowed to bring back waterboarding – widely regarded as a form of torture – in the interrogation of suspected terrorists, and he criticized one of his opponents, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, for his failure to be sufficiently enthusiastic about it. Suddenly, standing on the stage, he stopped and gestured toward a woman in the crowd who had just shouted something.
“She just said a terrible thing,” Trump said. “You know what she said? Shout it out because I don't want to say,” he encouraged.
The woman shouted again, but she was hard to hear in the crowded room. “OK,” Trump said, “you're not allowed to say and I never expect to hear that from you again. She said – I never expect to hear that from you again – she said he's a pussy."
Just as Trump crowds have cheered mass deportation, the killing of terrorists’ wives and children, and the exclusion of Muslims from the United States, they erupted in laughter and applause at the vulgarity directed at Cruz.
Called on his decision to repeat the phrase Tuesday morning, Trump defended it as “like a Retweet” – the process on the social network Twitter that allows users to share something someone else tweeted with their own followers.
Trump, of course, has come under fire for retweeting white supremacists, bigots, misogynists and others, so it’s not clear how much of a defense that is.
But The Donald wasn’t the only Trump speaking in favor of waterboarding on Monday. His son Eric Trump appeared on Fox News with host Greta van Susteren to claim that his father is the best candidate to keep America safe from terror. When it came to the subject of waterboarding – a war crime for which the U.S. tried, convicted and hanged Japanese soldiers after the Second World War – he blithely compared it to fraternity hazing.
“Somebody complains when a terrorist gets waterboarded which, quite frankly, is no different from what happens on college campuses in frat houses every day,” he said.
For his part, Donald Trump was in full pander mode Tuesday morning. He recorded a special get-out-the-vote Facebook message to New Hampshire voters. Skipping any introduction, he begins: “Tom Brady is a great friend of mine and he’s said so many nice things about me and my ability to win.” Brady is the quarterback of the New England Patriots football team, far and away the most popular franchise in New Hampshire.
In an appearance on MSNBC, he restated his intention to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, estimating that his 1,000-mile-long and 40-foot-high barrier could be constructed for $8 billion and insisting that Mexico would be forced to pay for it.
However, at $8 million per mile, or $1,515 per foot, the Mexican government might want to consider some other bids. And New Hampshire voters might want to think hard about whether they like the idea of listening to Trump repeat gratuitous slurs against his opponents for four years.