On Sunday’s State of the Union on CNN, host Jake Tapper asked Republican frontrunner Donald Trump a false question about Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which Trump proceeded to answer badly.
It was a textbook example of how the mainstream media corners Republicans into attacking conservatives, which serves the dual purpose of marginalizing conservatives on the one hand, and undermining Republican candidates on the other.
Tapper used to be above this sort of thing, but it is what we can likely expect from Tuesday’s GOP debate.
Tapper and Trump had just sparred for several minutes about Trump’s call to stop all Muslims from immigrating to, or visiting, the United States. In his final question, Tapper asked Trump to respond to Scalia “rais[ing] the issue],” during recent oral argument in an affirmative action case, of whether black students should go to a “slower-track school where they do well,” rather than the University of Texas.
Note (transcript follows) that Tapper did not point out that Scalia was referring to black students who would not have been admitted but for affirmative action. He quoted Scalia selectively, signaling that his comment is to be considered racist.
Scalia was only citing briefs submitted to the Court, and the underlying claim–that less-qualified blacks enjoy better career outcomes by attending less elite schools–is solid. But Tapper presented none of that.
Instead, after pounding Trump with insinuations that he is a bigot for barring Muslims, Tapper offered a little carrot of redemption–an opportunity to reclaim P.C. points by bashing Scalia.
Trump–who is supposed to be smarter than this–fell for the trap, regurgitating the dimwitted mainstream media insinuation that Scalia is a racist.
Tapper then brought his trophy to his panel, who hurried to explain that Trump would face criticism from conservatives for bashing Scalia. Mission accomplished.
Yes, presidential candidates are supposed to be prepared for whatever the media throw at them. There are murmurs on Twitter that Ted Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, would have given a better answer.
Perhaps he would have, on a Supreme Court case–but no candidate is immune to gaffes.
Fair warning to all: the media will use whatever trick question it takes to ensnare (only) the GOP frontrunner–in the debates and beyond.
TAPPER: During oral arguments at the Supreme Court this week, Justice Scalia raised the issue of whether it might be better for some African-American students to go to a — quote — “slower-track school where they do well” — unquote — as opposed to a more elite college.
Now, you have said that you’re fine with affirmative action, though it is coming to a time when maybe we don’t need it. What did you think of Scalia’s remarks? And where are you today on affirmative action?
TRUMP: Well, I thought his remarks were very tough.
I mean, I don’t comment on them. They — you know, he’s a respected Supreme Court judge. But I thought his remarks actually were very, very tough.
TAPPER: Tough in a bad way or in a good way, or…
TRUMP: Well, I think they were very, very tough to a certain community. There’s no question about it.
TAPPER: To the African-American community.
TRUMP: I thought it was very tough to the African-American community, actually.
TAPPER: That sounds like you’re not supporting what he said.
TRUMP: I don’t like what he said, no. I don’t like what he said.
I heard him. I was like, let me read it again…
TRUMP: … because I actually saw it in print. And I’m going — I read a lot of stuff. And I’m going, whoa.
TAPPER: So you still support affirmative action?
TRUMP: Look, I have great African-American friendships. I have just amazing relationships.
And so many positive things have happened. One thing I will say — and I will say this, and I say it to everybody — Barack Obama has done very little for the African-American community. You look at unemployment. You look at all of the problems.
But, yes, I was very surprised at Scalia’s statements, actually.
Donald Trump, thank you, as always. You always sit down. You always take the questions. Appreciate it.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
TAPPER: Thank you so much, sir.
TAPPER: Lots to chew over there, a surprise split with the Supreme Court.
Let’s break it down with our panel. We have with us conservative talk radio giant Hugh Hewitt, CNN’s chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, both of whom will be asking questions during Tuesday’s debates, as well as — CNN political commentators Ana Navarro and Van Jones are joining us here as well.
Interesting stuff from Mr. Trump.
DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don’t even know where to start. There’s so much to unpack there.
Just where you ended, with the Scalia comments, for a Republican, for a conservative to criticize Scalia is like anathema, right? I mean…