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erful sources who might cut you off. To withhold or downplay the simple fact that Trump is demonstrably more mendacious than Clinton might be "fair"- in the appeasing sense-to Trump, to his campaign staff, and to the many serious people who the Journal's Gerry Baker reportedly said support Trump. (I'm a bit stumped as to who, besides Murdoch, Baker had in mind.) But it wouldn't be fair, in the truer sense of that word, to the reader, to whom all reporters owe their absolute primary allegiance. It wouldn't be fair because it would be suppressing important news. And the Uriah Heep Prize goes to . . . One of the worst ways a journalist can respond to Trump is to apologize for failing to anticipate his ascendency. "I was surprised by Trump's success," David Brooks wrote in April, "because I've slipped into a bad pattern, spending large chunks of my life in the bourgeois strata-in professional circles with people with similar status and demographics to my own." Henceforth, Brooks pledged, he would "go out into the pain." Even for a political columnist who's been evolving lately into some sort of lay cleric, this seemed a bit much. Making predictions has always been the most worthless part of political punditry, and looking backward you'll find political columnists no better able than anyone else to glimpse the future. But for Brooks to chastise himself for failing to predict a freak occurrence like Trump's primary success must win the Uriah Heep Prize for false humility. Trump was, as Politico's Jack Shafer has noted, a Black Swan event. He was the novelty candidate who broke through. You might as well expect yourself to predict when the roulette ball lands on 22. Do you want to inhabit a universe in which Donald Trump can be foreseen? I don't. Not that I want to deny credit to the people who saw more in Trump than the rest of us. One of these was Washington Monthly contributing editor Matthew Cooper, who in June 2015 reported in Newsweek that Trump's fierce opposi16 September/October 2016 tion to trade agreements and to any cuts in Social Security and Medicare reflected strongly held, if widely ignored, views of the GOP base. Another was the political scientist Norman Ornstein, who in August 2015 wrote in the Atlantic, "The desire for an insurgent, non-establishment figure is deeper and broader than in the past." But all Cooper and Ornstein were really saying was, "This guy may do better than you think," at a time when Trump was already leading in the polls. Neither envisioned Trump capturing the nomination in the primaries. Cooper suggested Trump might get 5 to 10 percent, "perhaps dimming the chances of other antiestablishment candidates such as Cruz." Ornstein got closer, suggesting the nomination might go to Trump . . . or it might go to Cruz, or "an establishment figure" like Bush or Kasich. Why did Cooper and Ornstein hedge their bets on the candidate then beating the Republican field and, on occasion, Clinton, in national polls? Because they understood that Trump wasn't just an assemblage of three or four political stances that appealed to the white working class. He was also a flesh-and-blood person who, on a regular basis, voiced opinions that prompted more or less constant speculation that his candidacy would crater. Let's review. Trump spoke rudely about John McCain's POW history; about New York Times reporter Serge F. Kovaleski's disability; about Megyn Kelly's menstrual cycle; and about Judge Gonzalo Curiel's ability, as a Mexican American, to be a fair jurist. Trump said wages were too high (he later changed his mind); he defended torture, using that word, "torture"; and he praised Saddam Hussein for the efficiency with which he killed terrorists. In American politics, any hint of sympathy for overt racial prejudice typically causes a political career to combust spontaneously. In 2002, Trent Lott had to resign his post as Senate majority leader after he said, at a 100th birthday party for fellow Republican Strom Thurmond, that if Thurmond had won his segregationist campaign for president in 1948, "we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years." Yet Trump got away with handling white supremacist supporters with kid gloves. He chided his own campaign for taking down a tweet recycled from one such group. Asked on CNN about pro-Trump robocalls in Iowa featuring "white nationalist" William Johnson, Trump was entirely blasé. "I would disavow it," he said, "but nothing in this country shocks me." When pressed, he replied irritably, "How many times you want me to say it? I said, 'I disavow.' " Trump used that same perfunctory construct, "I disavow," at least twice more when asked about an endorsement from David Duke, as Washington Monthly contributing editor Nicholas Confessore reported in the New York Times. The phrasing struck Richard Spencer-a Trump enthusiast who runs a group committed to "the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent"-as a sort of verbal wink. "There's no direct object there," Spencer told Confessore. "It's kind of interesting, isn't it?" And so it is. Nothing in recent political history allowed for the possibility that a candidate could check off even one item from this far-from-complete inventory and expect to survive. George Romney eliminated his chances in 1968 by making a mildly flippant comment about being "brainwashed" by the military about Vietnam. Ed Muskie doomed himself in 1972 by appearing to weep over an attack on his wife in the Manchester Union Leader (though the tears may have been melting snowflakes). Joe Biden was driven from the Democratic primaries in 1988 for plagiarizing a British politician's speech. Such bêtises, real or imagined, were trivial compared to Trump's. Yet Trump sailed on. Have you ever seen the great 1952 film Breaking the Sound Barrier? A British test pilot breaks the sound barrier by reversing the controls at the last minute. Set aside for a moment the historical truth that the sound barrier was actually broken by an American, Chuck Yeager, who did not reverse the controls, and who pronounced the film-in Tom Wolfe's memorable paraphrase-"an utter shuck from start to finish." Just concentrate on the film's ingenious narrative conceit that

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