The crowd at President Donald Trump’s rally in Topeka on Saturday night laughed at nearly everything the president had to say, taking special pleasure in his insults of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — “Hey, maybe I’m an Indian, and I’m going to do very well” — and “Sleepy” Joe Biden — “Obama took him off the trash heap” — and “Da Nang Dick” Blumenthal, the senator whose dishonesty about serving in Vietnam the president called “the worst in the history of the country, if you look at it.”
The funniest line in this litany of disparagements from the Don Rickles of presidents, though, was when he called Kansas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Laura Kelly the “far-left opponent” of Republican Kris Kobach, and a sworn enemy of the Second Amendment.
Funny, of course, because the knock on her has always been that she’s so unrelievedly moderate. She has quite a pro-gun record in the eyes of her fellow Democrats, and among other people who have ever heard of her.
Sure, the president is a talented exaggerator, and his base loves that about him. When he says all Senate Democrats support “an open borders bill by Leakin’ Dianne Feinstein,” we’re sure they know he’s referring to the “Keep Families Together Act” that says “detention is not in the best interests of families and children.”
When he says, “We will always protect Americans with pre-existing conditions,” GOP efforts to do the opposite in no way dampen the crowd’s appreciation.
When he talks about ICE “liberating a town” and then another and another from the control of MS-13, as if “a foreign invader is finally being taken out,” it doesn’t matter that MS-13 recruits from inside the U.S. and isn’t growing as a result of gang members coming into the country, illegally or otherwise.
When he says that African-American voters are “changing and changing fast” to support the GOP now that he’s in charge, just as Kanye, “Big Jim Brown” and “Iron Mike” do, so what if almost all polling has consistently shown his approval among black Americans is still in single digits?
When he says “we’re the fastest-developing country in the world,” it doesn’t matter that of course we’re not developing at all, but are long since fully developed. This is entertainment, and is not intended to be fact-checkable. Though we don’t necessarily think of Trump as a Maya Angelou aficionado, he does ascribe to her dictum that “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
So when Trump says that former President Barack Obama “would have gone to war” with North Korea by now? Or when he claims that an Obama adviser admitted to him, when he asked why they hadn’t met with North Korea’s dictator, “We haven’t thought of that!” it’s not a problem that everyone knows that never would have happened, and didn’t.
Even connoisseurs of hyperbole, though, have to admit that Laura Kelly, wild-eyed radical, is a tough sell.
The point of Trump’s rally, for which some Kansans camped out the night before, was in theory to swing support to Kobach and to congressional candidate Steve Watkins, who’s been in trouble for his own skirmishes with facts.
So, was it worth the trip for Trump? It’s hard to imagine that Kobach might now have a single supporter he didn’t have before the rally, though Trump’s continued support might bolster his fundraising.
For anyone who was undecided, it’s just too hard to square solid and safe Kelly with Trump’s scaremongering that “you don’t hand matches to an arsonist and you don’t hand power to an angry left-wing mob.”
It’s far more likely that Trump’s trip will benefit virtually unknown Watkins, who’s running for Congress against Paul Davis. A vote for Davis, Trump says, “is a vote for the radical agenda” of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and “the legendary Maxine Waters.” Davis has said he wouldn’t support Pelosi for House speaker.
Watkins, who spent most of his time at the microphone praising the president, did not really crack up the crowd when he joked, “Just think how much more he could have accomplished if he were a Kansan!” But given the way his campaign has been going, even a moment’s attention from the president was the best thing that could have happened to his campaign.