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Disaster in Detroit: Fear of a Black City

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How wonderful to see the Republican standard bearer reaching out to the “the blacks” in a city so blighted by the lack of a Trump Casino and Luxury Golf Estate. Our future Comedian in Chief never fails to entertain, but powerful computers couldn’t have conspired to alienate African Americns more effectively than Team Trump did this weekend in Detroit. Dynamically, a moon-shot to “the blacks” crashed and burned courtesy of the New York Times‘ last minute spoiler.

The Times published a leaked memo evincing the entire Detroit plan as utterly manipulated, with both questions (not unusual) but also answers scripted, possibly written for him by the Congressional Black Caucus.

So, knowing the jig was up, Trump changed tack from the originally promised one-on-one Q&A, went ahead anyway, and gave a clunky speech in the church. Purposefully clunky.

In historical context, chronologically, we see an “evolution” of the candidate in terms of “reach out.” Before the defenestration of Mr. Lewandowski in June, the theme was “Let Trump be Trump” – an apologist strategy for all the unpredictable horrors that too accurately defined a “tell-it-like-it-is” man of the people. It didn’t go well, ultimately, because the candidate’s uncensored self exceeded the bounds of taste and decency. Reboot.

Next up was Paul Manafort; “Don’t let Trump be Trump.” That strategy didn’t last, evidently, in part due to Manifort’s horrible past resume of dictators, but more because he didn’t succeed in getting The Donald on script. Reboot.

So late August brought the turnaround; Steve Bannon of Breibart who did get Trump playing along. This resulted in two weeks of teleprompter read lines which almost, almost, made for a politically acceptable professional candidate; Mexican disaster excepted.

That wasn’t enough, though, because strange things happened then. September sees the unusual situation of Saturday’s black church fiasco. We saw Trump looking down, and up at the audience, repeatedly, and blatantly “reading off the paper script” (not even a teleprompter). This was a first for him.

Given everybody knew the entire debacle was manipulated, Trump was really saying; “Yeah, I know this is fake, you know, so you and I know, we both know that…but I’ll read it anyway.” That example, when everybody in the room knows it is a lie, is an example the difference between a liar and a pathological liar.  Mr. Trump is the pathological type. Not only did he read it anyway, after his cover was blown, but he pretended, admitted really, it was all a scripted farce he had nothing to do with writing. This is not ham-fisted message missteps, this is excellent spin control, something the Trump campaign is in dire need of.

How do we know this? The strategy seemed to be deliberately measured; reading off the paper script on the lectern. We’ve never seen Trump read down off the script; we’ve never seen what we saw in Detroit which was a concentrated, almost constipated, study of the words on the page in front of him, and bewildered scans around the room. Hilariously, he used his finger to trace along the words on the page as he read them. This is new. Its new because before he even arrived in Detroit everyone publicly knew his lines were so blatantly pre-written ahead of time. He wanted us to know that. He wanted white people to know that.

This is the latest version of advisers, possibly ventriloquist Kellyanne Conway, saying to him “Your Trumpian Highness; Everybody knows the fix is in; everybody knows you know that this whole Detroit pantomime is a show now. The only way to come clean is to effectively admit this and give the speech as if it were pre-prepared, totally scripted, and acted badly.” Presumably the earlier shots of Trump awkwardly swaying with Jesus and the congregation would make up for the fantastic phoniness.

So what was actually in Saturday’s speech delivered in this ostensible outreach effort? Who cares? Something about better schools, opportunity, not being shot in the street; it doesn’t matter. Because whatever was in that speech, we all knew (rightly) it would be laughable bromides written by the RNC and assorted apologists from Trump’s “My African American” team. We can almost hear Trump yelling at whoever he put in charge of this mess; “Fuel up the jet – I’m outta this dump – back to Fifth Avenue!”

Can this season sink any lower – one may ask?  Of course it can; note the talking head commentaries after Detroit. From the wreckage of this Detroit Disaster one could almost count down to CNN’s coverage from a TV 4-square panel of black commentators and apologists still stumping for Trump.  They’re a type, often religious, and with a 1% favorable rating in their own racial demographic, it’s hard to imagine they’re popular people in their neighborhoods. African-American Trump surrogates are a particularly disreputable subset – they’re like his Latino stooges, two of whom pretty much threw themselves off Trump Tower down onto 5th Ave last week when they understood – finally – they were mere photogenic props in his larger lie of concern for minorities.

After Saturday the African-American vote is even more of a lost cause for Trump, below its current 1% even. So from here on in we’ll probably see a new “pivoted” flip flopping attempt to convince respectable white people they’re not voting for a bigot.

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David Anderson has a B.A. (Hon.) in Middle East politics from Melbourne University and did post graduate work at Georgetown University. He grew up in Australia and is a retired attorney in New York City.

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