Republicans Circle the Wagon for Trump

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Last night, after I finished writing about the Republican convention, I plopped into my easy chair and watched an episode of The Night Manager, which I DVRed a while back. After it was over, I turned on CNN at about 1:30 am Eastern time, and they were chatting about the Melania Trump plagiarism. It was sort of astonishing: virtually everyone was doing their best to minimize the whole thing. And I’m not talking about the Trump cheerleaders, I’m talking about the regular reporters.

Anyway, at one point someone—Jake Tapper, maybe—said he was most interested not in the plagiarism per se, but in how the campaign would respond to it. Option 1 was to just bull through it, as Trump usually does. Option 2 was to be “transparent,” which he defined as admitting that it happened, and explaining that it was probably an accidental cut-and-paste done by a harried staffer. I was agog at both these points. Bull through it? How can you do that? And in what universe does making up a story about an “accidental” cut-and-paste count as transparent?

But I guess I was wrong, wrong, wrong. The Trump campaign certainly seems to agree that the cut-and-paste story would, in fact, count as transparent and thus would be bad for Trump’s image as an asshole. So they did what I thought was impossible: bull their way through. Katrina Pierson, a spokesperson who makes Ron Ziegler look candid and honest, had this to say:

“These are values, Republican values by the way, of hard work, determination, family values, dedication and respect, and that’s Melania Trump,” Pierson told The Hill. “This concept that Michelle Obama invented the English language is absurd.”

Paul Manafort, of course, also says there was no plagiarism. Chris Christie says the speech was 93 percent non-plagiarized, and that should be good enough for anyone. Actor Stephen Baldwin says the identical phrases were “sheer coincidence.” The RNC’s Sean Spicer says Twilight Sparkle of “My Little Pony” used the same words as Melania. WTF does that even mean? I guess they’ve all been reduced to desperate googling in an effort to find someone, anyone, other than Michelle Obama who might have said something kinda sorta similar to the plagiarized phrases.

Then there’s Ben Carson, who actually admits something happened, but suggests it was just an innocent mistake and paints it as an overall positive: “I think we should celebrate the fact that both parties take something like what Michelle Obama said and Melania Trump said and they honor it and cherish it and think that it’s something — that tells you that we’re not as far apart as Democrats and Republicans want to make it out to be.”

As for the Trumps themselves, they’ve been silent so far. Melania’s Twitter account merely passes along the campaign’s official statement, while Donald’s Twitter account has been unusually inactive. I guess he’s letting his minions soften up the ground for him before he strikes. What’s your guess? Will he blame Hillary Clinton? The liberal media that’s obviously out to get his wife? ISIS?

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This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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