GOP elite and pundits support Trump more they let on: For right-wing media and leaders, it's not what he says but how he says it

Make no mistake, the Republican establishment would love Trump if he were a little better housetrained

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published April 4, 2016 4:01PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Gary Cameron/AP/John Minchillo)
(Reuters/Gary Cameron/AP/John Minchillo)

Over the weekend, Megyn Kelly was once again using her ratings-grabbing feud with Donald Trump to push the notion that she is a legitimate journalist and Fox News is a legitimate news organization, instead of being a right wing propaganda outfit. While on CBS's "Sunday Morning", Kelly rolled out the laughable line that Fox is "fair and balanced" and it's simply that everyone else is some kind of liberal stooge.

It's a line that lost traction for awhile, but it's clear that Kelly is using Trump as a foil — she took pains to emphasize how his supporters have threatened her — to stoke this notion that Fox News is just an innocent journalistic outfit, one that is willing to keep candidates on their toes.

But the willingness to criticize Trump, even harshly, shouldn't be mistaken for actual journalism. The reality is that Fox is a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party, who wants Trump to go away. Folks like Kelly don't dislike Trump because they disagree with him politically, but because he's not house-trained.

Trump's opinions aren't the problem. It's that he can't, or won't, engage in the same kind of disingenuous bullshit other Republicans use to make racist, sexist, or other inhumane opinions seem more palatable. If Trump kept all the same policies and opinions but got better at pretending to be a normal human being, they'd treat him like he was the second coming of Ronald Reagan.

Last week's kerfuffle over Trump's abortion opinions demonstrated how true this is, perhaps more than any other nonsense dust-up in this campaign. Yes, Trump is all over the place on the issue,  clearly and inelegantly trying to find some way to signal to anti-choice voters that he is on board with their sadistic desire to hurt women who have abortions while simultaneously reassuring the rest of America that there's no chance that the nearly 1 in 3 American women who have abortions will be locked up in jail for it.

But that makes him no different than any other major Republican figure on this issue. They all dance around the issue, trying to make it sound like they are somehow going to ban abortion while winking at voters about how their sex lives aren't going to suffer from it.

John Kasich, for instance, was no more coherent on this issue when George Stephanopoulos pushed him about it over the weekend. He kept trying to talk about his policy agenda to prevent women from getting safe abortions as if it were just a personal opinion and dodged repeatedly, using the "leave it to the states" punt, when asked what the punishment should be. The cowardice radiated off him. It's clear he wants to punish women, but won't say it, and is trying to get someone else to take responsibility for it.

In other words, he's just like Trump. The only difference is that Kasich is a more artful purveyor of bullshit, able to deftly pull bad faith maneuvers like pretend this is a discussion about his personal opinions instead of public policy. As Rachel Maddow demonstrated thoroughly on her show last week, Trump is actually less extremist in his views on this than other Republicans. They're just smoother liars, masters of the sociopathic art of making sympathetic noises about women while plotting to take away their health care, force unwanted childbirth on them, plunge them into poverty and yes, in some cases, throw them in jail.

Multiple conservatives, both those criticizing and defending Trump, basically admitted that this is about aesthetics and not substance over the past week.

Brian Kilmeade of Fox News: "Any other candidate, most candidates to this point, would have said I'm not here to talk about abortion."

Steve Doocy, same segment: "He only became a politician about six or seven months ago. This is new for him."

Ben Carson on Fox News: "Well, bear in mind, when interviews are done, usually, you know, there's a general discussion about what the topics are going to be, and you have a general idea of what you're going to say about them." Which is to say, the fault is in not giving Trump enough time to churn out some more aesthetically pleasing bullshit.

Rush Limbaugh spun into a huge fit over this, arguing that the question "came out of left field" and that, without preparation, of course Trump would assume the answer to "what should we do to people who break the law" is throw them in jail. Again, the theme here is not that Trump is wrong, but that he, in his inexperience, hasn't come up with a bullshit-y way to punt the question.

Even Ted Cruz supporter Amanda Carpenter, basically admitted on CNN that Trump's problem is that he's artless: "And the thing that happened with Donald Trump here is that he was unable to clearly articulate and defend a conservative position in the face of liberal opposition, which was Chris Matthews here. Chris Matthews baited him into adopting the most extreme position on abortion that really is out of step with the pro-life community. And so this really gets to Donald Trump as a candidate."

New York magazine published a profile of the Trump campaign, written by Gabriel Sherman, over the weekend, which gives the reader quite a bit of insight into what really galls the Republican establishment, including Megyn Kelly, about Donald Trump.

There is perhaps no better representation of the singularity of the Trump campaign than this handful of political outsiders lounging poolside. They fit no one’s description of a dream team. Hardly any of Trump’s staffers arrived at their positions with high-level political experience. The last time Lewandowski ran a campaign was in 2002, when he managed a losing Senate reelection bid in New Hampshire. Hicks and Scavino spent zero time in politics before this. Hicks did PR for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and promoted Trump resorts. Scavino graduated from caddying to serve as general manager at Trump National Golf Club; he spent his free time as an unpaid disc jockey at a local radio station. Trump’s national spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson, is a onetime Obama supporter turned tea-party activist who once was arrested for shoplifting. His foreign-policy advisers include a former banker who writes a foreign-policy blog that quotes Kanye West and Oprah, and an energy consultant whose LinkedIn page cites as a foreign-policy credential being one of five finalists for a model-U.N. summit.

They're amateurs who are indifferent to the decades that Republicans have spent constructing a careful facade of compassion and principled conservatism to paper over a reactionary ideology that is, in reality, no different than Trump's. Trump's loud mouth threatens to pull back the curtain and show the black-hearted wizard behind the curtain and that is the only real reason they hate him. But it shows how precious conservatives lies and facades are to the party that they are willing to blow everything up and hold a brokered convention than nominate a guy whose main and only real flaw in their eyes is he speaks his mind too readily.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Donald Trump Elections 2016 Fox News Megyn Kelly Republican Primary Ted Cruz Trump Abortion