According to Donald Trump, perhaps poised to win his first presidential primary on Tuesday, his greatest strengths are winning too much and making terrific deals. One of his less-appreciated talents is making excuses for behavior that has not traditionally been included in the campaign curriculum — and for his failure to live up to his own lofty standards of triumph. For a man whose soul has never made the acquaintance of brevity or wit, these exercises render him unusually snappy. Explanations are unnecessary, as are apologies. Even if he improvised a moment that has left a wave of shaking heads rippling in its wake, he stands by what he said.
However, as Trump’s magnetic press appeal only grows stronger when he says something unthinkable, he has to think of something to follow it up with. Which is when the grab bag of excuses below comes in handy.
If Trump keeps doing well in the primary, these excuses could one day become presidential excuses. Pull out a notebook and learn from the master.*
*Warning: These excuses have not been approved by the FDA for any human being besides Donald Trump. If you try to use these on your friends, family, and colleagues, they may cause your entire life to implode. These sentences are completely insufficient for use by anyone who is not Donald Trump, and will cause everyone in your life to question your capacity for empathy and ability to act with a modicum of decorum in social settings. Deploy them at your own peril.
1. Retweets ≠ Endorsements
On Monday night, Donald Trump did something that would be unthinkable for any other candidate running for office in the United States. He called Ted Cruz a pussy when it comes to torture — on camera.
In fact, he was amplifying what a woman attending his rally in Manchester said. “She said,” Trump dictated, “he’s a pussy.” The woman later told Mic that she was supporting Trump because he had “balls the size of watermelons, whereas the other ones got the balls of little grapes."
The next morning, Trump defended his remark on Morning Joe by arguing that "It was like a retweet."
And, as everyone knows, retweets do not equal endorsements. However, this excuse does have some flaws. Although Trump rallies do sometimes look like a Twitter timeline brought to life, filled with subtweets, trollish mobs waiting to boo anyone who disagrees with them, and a dearth of facts, it remains true that it is probably inadvisable to retweet everyone who @s you — in reality and on the Internet — if you happen to be running for president. However, this is not a lesson that Trump has bothered learning.
2. We’re just having fun!
On another news program Tuesday morning — Trump is powered by a photosynthesis dependent on Nielsen ratings — the presidential front-runner tried out another defense for being the first presidential candidate to call a rival a pussy in public.
“We were all just having fun,” he said on Morning Joe.
This is one of Trump’s favorite excuses, and would be used frequently in his presidential administration — perhaps especially during state dinners with countries he hates, if such things would still exist in a Trump presidency. Last month, when Trump said he could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters,” he later defended the remark by telling Fox Business, "We were all having fun.”
When he gave out Senator Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number during a rally last summer, it was also just a lark. “I did it for fun,” he told Fox & Friends, “and everybody had a good time, and we had a packed house. … The place was amazing.” In August, when Megyn Kelly asked him that question about all the awful things he had said about women, he responded, "what I say, and oftentimes it's fun, it's kidding. We have a good time."
It is not clear at press time how he reconciles the “fun” defense with his complaint that “politicians are having fun on our dime while the world is burning.”
3. If that was wrong, why is everyone cheering?
Calling one of your opponents a pussy requires pulling out nearly every single defense you know. If you are Donald Trump, the list of excuses you know is not very long, but it does include calling on your many fans for backup. If what Trump said was so wrong, would thousands of people have cheered?
“I got a standing ovation,” he told Morning Joe on Tuesday. “The place went wild. You’re talking about close to 5,000 people. It was a great moment.”
Reminder: An astounding number of Americans once thought that cupcakes, pet rocks, and the motion picture Crash were things worth applauding.
Trump had said nearly the same exact thing after giving out Graham’s number: “The place went wild. We all had a good time.”
4. Wink, wink, smirk. Someone call the PC police!
If you still aren’t convinced that Trump repeating his supporter was the most presidential moment of this election cycle, he has one more defense to try on you — what if the rest of the world is just too politically correct to handle the truth?
“The world is politically correct,” Trump told Morning Joe in the coda to his defense on Tuesday morning.
This is his favorite excuse, Dr. Trump’s remedy for every ill in the U.S., the duct tape for democracy. It’s also an excuse that allows him to ignore any debates over his actions. "I think it's no secret he doesn't care for political correctness, and of course it raises eyebrows," his spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, told Fox News after he marveled at the notion that he could shoot people in New York City without repercussions. After being chided by Kelly for his remarks in front of millions of Americans — which made him so angry that a once-beautiful friendship has morphed into a Nicholas Sparks–caliber turbulent romance, he said, “The big problem this country has is being politically correct. I've been challenged by so many people and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness.”
When defending his plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States last fall, Trump said, “We can be politically correct and we can be stupid, but it’s going to get worse and worse.”
5. I didn’t start it — blame the Founding Fathers.
If you think Donald Trump is bad, he would like to remind you that he is only following the example of great Americans.
“FDR did it!" was an actual argument made by Trump when he was defending his Muslim ban. Citing a policy widely acknowledged as one of the worst ideas in American history — the creation of internment camps during World War II — is not a particularly wise strategy when defending your own criticized proposal.
When defending his plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants during a debate, Trump pointed a finger at Dwight Eisenhower and said Eisenhower had done it first. "Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower — Good president. Great president. People liked him. … You don't get nicer, you don't get friendlier. They moved 1.5 million people out. We have no choice.” Eisenhower's program, given the offensive name “Operation Wetback,” is now considered a human-rights disaster.
Pierson even found a way to bring the Founding Fathers into the campaign’s defense of Trump's decision to call Cruz less than elegant names. “When we look at the Founding Fathers and when they were competing, they said far worse things about each other,” she told CNN, adding, “The line to me is free speech, the First Amendment.”
6. I’m not an expert.
Presidential candidates love telling us that they aren’t experts whenever they are dealing with a question they’d rather not answer. There is nothing that Trump hates talking about more than losing — a subject he was forced to discuss after the Iowa caucuses.
Trump pointed out that he only lost because he is just so much of an outsider. What is campaigning?
"I think we could’ve used a better ground game, a term I wasn’t even familiar with,” Trump told his preferred excuse distributor, Morning Joe. “You know, when you hear ‘ground game,’ you say, ‘What the hell is that?’ … The caucus system is a complex system that I was never familiar with … I’m doing this for the first time. I’m like a rookie.”
In other words, he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. He’s just having fun, haven’t you heard?
Note: Writing about Trump excuses ≠ endorsement.