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It’s truly hard to understand the rise and endurance of Donald Trump

I do not have an educated guess about whether the KKK and Mussolini brouhahas will have an influence on Trump’s popularity.

Jake Tapper interviewing Donald Trump on CNN on Sunday.
CNN

Good Monday morning to MinnPost readers.

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday with primaries and caucuses across 13 states (including the best state, Minnesota) with so many delegates at stake that if the current frontrunners have big days, the race could be almost over for one or both major-party presidential nominations.

I recently wrote — after Donald Trump’s big win in Nevada across almost all age, income, gender and ethnic groups — that it was too soon to declare the race over, but if he makes a similar showing on Super Tuesday, it will become harder and harder to imagine any other contender winning the Republican nomination.

I didn’t write after Hillary Clinton’s smashing victory over Bernie Sanders in South Carolina by a similar margin and across almost all groups. Clinton, unlike Trump, has the additional advantage of a huge lead among the so-called super delegates to the Democratic convention. I would say the same thing about Clinton as about Trump: It’s too soon to talk about the race being all-but-over, but if she wins an overwhelming majority of the Super Tuesday states, it will not be too soon.

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Also in case you missed it, on Sunday during an interview with CNN, Trump was asked whether he wanted to repudiate an endorsement of his candidacy by David Duke, the Grand Wizard of the violent, white supremacist Ku Klux Klan. Duke, the most famous of recent KKK leaders, has said publicly that voting against Trump would be “treason to your heritage.” The Anti-Defamation League has called on Trump to repudiate Duke, the KKK and the endorsement.

Trump did not do so. He said he was unfamiliar with Duke and his remarks did not indicate whether he understood what the KKK was, which is a little hard to imagine. He said he was unwilling to denounce or repudiate Duke or the KKK until he had a chance to look into them.

[Just added: I see in Slate that, contrary to Trump’s statement that he doesn’t know anything about Duke, Trump said, and was quoted in the New York Times saying,  in 2000 when he (Trump) decided not to seek the Reform Party nomination for president:

“The Reform Party now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke, a neo-Nazi, Mr. Buchanan, and a communist, Ms. Fulani…This is not company I wish to keep.”]

I’ll put the transcript of the Trump-CNN full exchange below so you can mull for yourself whether Trump was being cautious, ignorant or issuing a dog whistle to racists.

Trump was also asked on “Meet the Press” why he had retweeted a famous quote from Italian fascist leader of the mid-20th century, Benito Mussolini. The quote: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep.”

The website Gawker took responsibility for tricking Trump by sending him various Mussolini quotes in hopes that he would pass some of them along. Trump fell for the bait, or perhaps “fell for it” isn’t quite right because when asked about it on “Meet the Press,” Trump seemed to indicate that he knew he was retweeting a Mussolini quote. He implied that he didn’t have any feelings one way or the other about Mussolini, but he just liked the quote. I’ll put that transcript below as well.

Since I readily admit that I do not truly understand the rise and endurance of Trump as a serious candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, I do not have an educated guess about whether either of these brouhahas will have an influence on his popularity.

First, here’s CNN’s Jake Tapper talking with Trump about Duke and the KKK:

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TAPPER: I want to ask you about the Anti-Defamation League, which this week called on you to publicly condemn unequivocally the racism of former KKK grand wizard David Duke, who recently said that voting against you at this point would be treason to your heritage. Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or that of other white supremacists in this election?

TRUMP: Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke. OK? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So, I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on, because, you know, I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists. And so you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about.

TAPPER: But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is, even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you. Would you just say unequivocally you condemn them and you don’t want their support?

TRUMP: Well, I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I would have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups, I will do research on them. And, certainly, I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong.

TAPPER: The Ku Klux Klan?

TRUMP: But you may have groups in there that are totally fine, and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups, and I will let you know.

TAPPER: OK. I mean, I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but —

TRUMP: I don’t know any — honestly, I don’t know David Duke. I don’t believe I have ever met him. I’m pretty sure I didn’t meet him. And I just don’t know anything about him.

Video of the exchange is in this link.

Trump is now saying that he had a bad earpiece and couldn’t hear very well what he was being asked.

And here is transcript of Trump discussing the retweet of the Mussolini quote with Chuck Todd of “Meet the Press”:

TRUMP: Sure, it’s OK to know it’s Mussolini. Look, Mussolini was Mussolini. It’s OK to — it’s a very good quote, it’s a very interesting quote, and I know it. I saw it. I saw what — and I know who said it. But what difference does it make whether it’s Mussolini or somebody else? It’s certainly a very interesting quote. That’s probably why I have —

TODD:  Well, Mussolini is a known fascist.

TRUMP: — between Facebook and Twitter, 14 million people when other people don’t.

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TODD: Do you want to be associated —

TRUMP:  It’s a very interesting quote, and people can talk about it.

TODD: Do you want to be associated with a fascist?

TRUMP:  No, I want to be associated with interesting quotes. And people, you know, I have almost 14 million people between Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and all of that. And we do interesting things. And I sent it out. And certainly, hey, it got your attention, didn’t it?”

Video of that exchange is viewable here.