He stood by yesterday’s comments not just in his interview with Stephanopoulos, as you’ll see below, but in the Today show interview that Ed blogged earlier. (Skip to 2:50 of the first clip here.) I don’t know if there’s anything more to say than what Kevin Williamson said to Republican voters last night about the race to come: “Remember, you asked for this.”
I’ll say something. First, Cruz did deny Trump’s insinuation about his dad and Oswald. He called it “nuts.” Second, Trump probably cares less about alienating Cruz and his fan base than about preserving the Enquirer’s reputation as a trash tabloid that nonetheless publishes newsworthy stories from time to time and therefore deserves the benefit of the doubt even on seemingly outlandish claims. No doubt he’s going to use the paper as a pipeline for hit pieces on Hillary. (Team Hillary, if they’re smart, will woo a rival checkout-counter tabloid and use that as a conduit for hit pieces on Trump in order to reach the same audience.) He could have done that here, though, by praising the Enquirer but also saying that perhaps everyone had been too credulous about the old photo with Oswald and that he’d only mentioned it because he was wounded by what Rafael Cruz had said about him. He complimented Cruz last night in his victory speech as a smart, tough competitor; it’s weird and goofy to go on antagonizing him this morning as the presumptive nominee, knowing that Cruz is one of the few people in the party whose support might make some embittered conservatives reconsider their opposition to him. But we needn’t grasp for strategic explanations. Trump probably refused to apologize because he’s (a) too much of a narcissist to admit wrong, even when he stands to gain by doing so, and (b) a conspiracy theorist by disposition. He might actually believe the Enquirer story. Why would he walk it back?
And in fairness to him, his instinct that he won’t pay any political price for pushing stuff like this may well be right. I already confessed my grievous error this morning in ever believing righties were too smart and principled to buy what Trump is selling. The Lyle Lanley of the GOP knew better. Now he’s doubling down, betting that there’s a deep, hungry market for the Trump monorail among the general electorate too. You’d be a fool to bet against him at this point. Three clips for you then, one of his chat with Stephanopoulos, another from his chat with Hannity yesterday in which he insisted that the Enquirer wouldn’t have published the Oswald photo if they had reason to think they might be sued (which went unchallenged by Hannity, of course), and a third of Jake Tapper deluding himself into believing that Americans would prefer facts when they could have sensational lies instead.