When asked this morning on CNN whether Pence should have called David Duke “deplorable” yesterday, Conway made a point about media bias. Sure, she conceded, he absolutely should have used the word. He had already condemned Duke and reiterated that the campaign doesn’t want the support of him or his fans, she noted, but the media clearly hoped to hear him use Hillary’s new buzzword. By refraining, he made it easy for them to ignore his condemnation in their headlines and focus instead only on the “deplorable” part. In other words, Conway is saying, Pence should have known that most of the biased media wouldn’t report his comments fairly in headlines if he didn’t give them what they wanted.
So how did the media report Conway’s comments this morning?
That makes it sound like she doesn’t really believe Duke is deplorable and wishes Pence had used that word purely to get the press off their backs. That’s not what she’s saying at all, though. Her point is that the media can’t be trusted to fairly represent what Pence said when they’re focused on trying to score a point for Hillary — and now they’re doing the same thing to her. It’s happening exactly the way Team Clinton drew it up.
Pence was asked about all of this again at this morning’s presser with House Republicans and reiterated that he condemns Duke but won’t “name-call” because “I’m not going to validate the language Hillary Clinton used to describe the American people.” That was exactly my point in this post yesterday — Team Trump wants people to see “deplorable” as a curse word, a broad smear of the entire working-class part of the electorate. If Pence concedes that Duke really is deplorable, then he’s giving an inch on the idea that it’s not a smear in some cases. And then that opens the door to the inevitable next question: In which cases, exactly, is it not a smear? Neither Pence nor Conway wants to play that game, but Conway’s way of ducking it is to try to turn the tables back on Clinton. Pence’s way is taking the high road. No name-calling!
Some Republicans would prefer a little name-calling, though:
Sen. Mike Lee told Mike Pence in a private meeting the GOP "must identify David Duke's racism as deplorable": pic.twitter.com/kcWouuyNqZ
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) September 13, 2016
The best argument against playing Clinton’s game and refusing to call Duke “deplorable” isn’t that Team Trump might alienate the alt-right, which is impossible, or that it’ll open the door in interviews to laundry-list questions about which other Trumpers fit the description. The best argument, I think, is that Trump doesn’t want to be seen jumping through hoops that Hillary Clinton has set for him. Conway’s advice here to use whatever words the media wants in denouncing Duke and making the questions about him go away is sensible, but it overlooks the fact that Trump’s persona is all about dominance and resisting “political correctness,” which at this point has essentially come to mean “anything the left believes.” If Hillary believes some of Trump’s fans are deplorable, then by definition his agreement — even in an extreme case like Duke’s — is a concession to PC. Then again, Conway seems to have his ear these days. If the question comes up at the debates, as it probably will, maybe he’ll take her advice, use Hillary’s new favorite word, and then turn the question quickly back to Clinton and Gosnell, etc.
Click the image to watch.