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Trump Fights Back At Conservative Talker — With An Old Bush Strategy

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Trump Fights Back At Conservative Talker — With An Old Bush Strategy


The political world is abuzz after Donald Trump’s seemingly disastrous interview Thursday with right-wing talk radio host Hugh Hewitt, in which The Donald botched a pop quiz on the names of various leaders of different Islamist military forces, and then later called Hewitt “third rate” for having the gall to challenge him.

But what’s really going on here is a fascinating case study in karma for conservative media — and for the Bush family.

First, let’s go back in time.

Way back in November 1999, presidential candidate George W. Bush sat down for an interview in New Hampshire, during which he too was quizzed on the names of prominent world leaders — and he failed miserably.

From The Associated Press report:

The questions were put to Bush by political reporter Andy Hiller during a break in Bush’s campaigning in New Hampshire. Hiller is known locally for asking sassy questions of political leaders.

Hiller asked: “Can you name the president of Chechnya?”

“No, can you?” Bush replied.

“Can you name the president of Taiwan?” Hiller asked.

“Yeah, Lee,'” responded Bush, referring to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui.

“Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?” asked Hiller, inquiring about Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf, who took over last month in a military coup.

“Wait, wait, is this 50 questions?” replied Bush.

Hiller replied: “No, it’s four questions of four leaders in four hotspots.”

After this painful exchange continued, the Bush campaign hit back in public opinion by spinning that nobody casually knew this kind of stuff — not even their own top foreign policy team members. Instead of knowing all these details, they argued, the American people wanted a real leader to set the country’s vision and find out the specifics from there.

From The Washington Post:

Bush campaign spokeswoman Karen Hughes defended the Texas governor yesterday.

“I have yet to meet anyone who knows off the tip of their tongue who the president of Chechnya is,” she said, adding that neither the Bush campaign’s senior policy advisor, Josh Bolton, nor foreign policy adviser Joel Shinn knew all the answers off the top of their heads.

“What the American people want to know is not whether a candidate has memorized the names of hundreds of premiers and prime ministers around the world,” she said. “What they do want to know is does a candidate have a clear vision of America’s strategic interests around the world and can that candidate exert American leadership in the world.”

Now let’s take a look at The Donald’s interview this week with Hewitt, where Trump faced a similar pop quiz — and responded by harnessing all the same anti-intellectual spin that the Republican establishment used so brazenly 16 years ago.

There’s one key difference this time, though: Trump is his own spin man, and doesn’t need a Karen Hughes to say it for him — and he might even be doing it better than the Bushes ever did.

Hewitt: But on the front of Islamist terrorism, I’m looking for the next commander-in-chief, to know who Hassan Nasrallah is, and Zawahiri, and al-Julani, and al-Baghdadi. Do you know the players without a scorecard, yet, Donald Trump?

Trump: No, you know, I’ll tell you honestly, I think by the time we get to office, they’ll all be changed. They’ll be all gone. I knew you were going to ask me things like this, and there’s no reason, because number one, I’ll find, I will hopefully find General Douglas MacArthur in the pack. I will find whoever it is that I’ll find, and we’ll, but they’re all changing, Hugh. You know, those are like history questions. Do you know this one, do you know that one. I will tell you, I thought you used the word Kurd before. I will tell you that I think the Kurds are the most under-utilized and are being totally mistreated by us. And nobody understands why. But as far as the individual players, of course I don’t know them. I’ve never met them. I haven’t been, you know, in a position to meet them. If, if they’re still there, which is unlikely in many cases, but if they’re still there, I will know them better than I know you.

Trump repeatedly referred to this line of interviewing as “gotcha questions,” a charge that Hewitt denied. Trump also argued that if he did not know who all these figures were, he would find the right people who did know (today’s equivalent of “General Douglas MacArthur,” presumably), and put them in his administration.

The host eventually returned to this point, and invoked his own role as one of the moderators at the upcoming Republican debate on CNN.

“At the debate, I may bring up Nasrallah being with Hezbollah, and al-Julani being with al-Nusra, and al-Masri being with Hamas,” Hewitt said. “Do you think if I ask people to talk about those three things, and the differences, that that’s a gotcha question?”

“Yes, I do. I totally do,” Trump replied. “I think it’s ridiculous.”

And Trump wasn’t done, either. Friday morning, he called into MSNBC’s Morning Joe, for a rambling 20-minute discussion that touched on the Hewitt interview.

“By the when, when you say ‘Quds’ versus ‘Kurds,’ I thought he said ‘Kurds,’ this third-rate radio announcer that I did his show,” Trump said, as the Morning Joe panel all laughed. “And it was like ‘gotcha, gotcha, gotcha,’ every question was do I know this one and that one. And you know, it was like he worked hard on that.”

The key moment is at approximately the 5:00 mark below.

Photo: U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during a press availability at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, September 3, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson



  1. FireBaron September 4, 2015

    Yeah, and Richard Nixon didn’t know where Quemoy and Matsu were, either. So what? Whenever Reagan was asked a question he either didn’t want to or couldn’t answer he started his reply with “Well, there you go again…”
    What it comes down to is no candidate is going to be aware of every nuance of every trouble spot. In GHW Bush’s case, as the sitting VP he should have been aware of at least the Musharef issue. Pakistan has long been our military second in that region to counter the old Soviet influence with the Indian Army. But Chechnya was not recognized as a sovereign nation by anyone but themselves at that point, and Taiwan’s influence had steadily waned since the aforementioned Nixon opened relations with the PRC.

    1. Bren Frowick September 5, 2015

      Trump wasn’t asked what towns ISIS controls, or what country al-Qaeda is strongest in, he was asked who their leaders are. One begins to wonder how far the so-called “gotcha” questions need to be dumbed down before GOP candidates won’t feel like they are being forced out of their comfort zone, which is clearly all a big liberal plot, asking difficult questions. Even though it is CONSERVATIVE pundits asking the questions. Should we limit ourselves to asking them things like “Who’s buried in Grant’s Tomb?” Might be interesting, at that…

      1. Kurt CPI September 5, 2015

        Still, it would be interesting to ask the international “who’s who” questions of the Democratic hopefuls as well to see if they fare any better overall.

        1. 11thStPopulist September 5, 2015

          Hillary Rodham Clinton would know. If you read all 600 cerebral pages of her 2014 book “Hard Choices” like I did, you would have no doubt.

        2. Bren Frowick September 6, 2015

          Yes it would. I look forward to hearing ALL the candidates answers, without any pathetic “Thats a gotcha question” dodges.

      2. Ray September 6, 2015

        Trump has said he wil find this era’s Patton or McArthur.
        It’s what leaders do.
        Inform themselves and delegate to the most qualified to get the job done.
        I wouldn’t want a pseudo academic making decisions about strategy in the middle east .
        The MSM,eGOP and a good part of all other media is trying to take Trump down.
        If HH had made a dent he would be a hero.
        Luckily it’s obvious, people have seen this trick once too often..

        1. Bren Frowick September 6, 2015

          The problem here is that Trump clearly doesn’t feel the slightest need to inform himself before dumping off the responsibility on a Patton or a McArthur, both of who were horribly overrated, particularly McArthur, whom Truman fired after his catastrophic mismanagement of the Korean War brought China into it.

  2. Dominick Vila September 4, 2015

    Can anyone imagine a President Trump meeting with the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, and the heads of State of just about every developed nation? As offensive as his arrogance, and narcissism are, the most embarrassing part are his vulgarity and immature mannerisms. I guess for those that loathe change, the transition from Presidents such as FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Clinton, and even Reagan to someone like Trump is nothing more than a natural progression to what now passes as authenticity. In all fairness, there is no question that Trump is as authentic a clown as anyone can get.

    1. Ray September 6, 2015

      He meets influential people all the time and gets along fine.
      He knows the difference between a cutthroat political campaign and a negotiation or a meeting.
      You don’t win major contracts without having people skills.

      1. Dominick Vila September 6, 2015

        Are you suggesting that he is lying to his supporters and that, if elected, he will not behave the way he is doing now? I would not be surprised if what you pointed out is true, by the way. As for contracts, he has been losing more contracts lately than getting new ones.

      2. dpaano March 18, 2016

        Yeah, his so-called “people skills” worked so well that he had to file bankruptcy several times, owes a couple of banks lots of money, and has employees suing him! Can you explain how that describes “people skills?”

  3. Bren Frowick September 5, 2015

    Hewitt worked so hard to make that interview easy for Trump (read the transcript sometime) he might as well have been on his knees at Donald’s feet, yet Trump STILL managed to come off looking like Sarah Palin, unable to identify any of the people he spends so much time demanding death for.

  4. greenlantern1 September 5, 2015

    During WW1, following the Zimmerman Note, Mexico was one of our allies against the Hun!
    During WW2, the Aztec Eagles flew against the Nazis!

  5. sunjune September 5, 2015

    The leaders of importance can be found out in due time , if he is elected. That is why the President has advisers. Making Donald Trump look like a fool is not gaining steam. Try something else. I like this race for the white house. It’s fun to watch.

    1. Wedge Shot September 6, 2015

      No one is making Trump look like a fool, he is is a fool.
      He is only portraying himself.

      1. Ray September 6, 2015

        He seems to be successful. There’s some called the proof is in the pudding.
        portraying yourself is a good thing.
        We have no idea who those other canned and well packaged candidates are.
        Until their major benefactors give them the go ahead to reveal more of themselves there’s no way of knowing them.

      2. joe schmo September 6, 2015

        Hmmm, tons of followers and more and more joining the bandwagon. Must be a reason why Americans are upset with the system? Plenty of transparency going on, that’s for sure…..

  6. suzanne.rfost September 6, 2015

    I want to show *great work opportunity… three to five hours of work daily… Weekly paycheck… Bonus opportunities…Payscale of $6k to $9k /a month… Just few hours of your free time, any kind of computer, elementary understanding of web and stable connection is what is required…Get informed more about it by visiting my profile>page

  7. Wedge Shot September 6, 2015

    I want a president with class. dignity, world knowledge, empathy for people that that struggle to live on this planet and never bully anyone.
    Trump is the antithesis of this and thinks he can be President just by his narcissistic and bullying will.

    1. Ray September 6, 2015

      I want one with some balls ,business savvy and a record of being successful at everything he / she does.

      1. Bren Frowick September 6, 2015

        Going bankrupt four times is not “being successful at everything he does”. And its not hard to enjoy success when you start out with half a billion dollars. Trump is the classic example of someone who was born on third base and believes he hit a triple.

      2. Wedge Shot September 6, 2015

        I want a President that thinks with his brains not with his balls.

        1. joe schmo September 6, 2015

          Obama has brains? Nope!

    2. joe schmo September 6, 2015

      Well…..Obama got elected twice and he does not have class, dignity, world knowledge and empathy…… We need a tough guy because I’m tired of seeing America get pushed around. European’s are keeping their mouths shut. Europe is a disaster.

      1. dpaano March 18, 2016

        Gee, but he DID get elected twice, so maybe he’s doing SOMETHING right….but you can spin it your way if you wish.

    3. idamag September 7, 2015

      Our strength was our diversity. That is being eroded. The two strongest political factions have been pitted against each other in a divide and conquer strategy. As Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Who is going to benefit by this erosion of democracy?

  8. joe schmo September 6, 2015

    Donald Trump is not a politician. The more he goes on the more he learns and he learns fast. This will never happen again and, he’s right, he will know more than the commentator about the subject matter before it’s over:)

  9. idamag September 7, 2015

    The son of the nazies is back.


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