This weekend, an anti-Semitic meme was tweeted by Donald Trump. Aside from the obvious problems (the fact that some of his most ardent supporters online are racists), this raises several questions:
1. This image was lifted from a “racist feed.” Why would a campaign take anyone’s graphic without attribution?
Nobody is mentioning this, but shouldn’t a campaign either cite the source of an image, or, you know, create its own graphics? Seriously, I’m not sure if it qualifies as plagiarism, but this strikes me as inappropriate for a campaign (even if the graphics weren’t offensive).
2. Is Trump’s campaign simply not ready for prime time?
Why isn’t Trump’s director of social media — who bills himself on Twitter as a “senior advisor” — sensitive to the fact that such imagery has a pernicious historical context?
Was this the product of someone who is too tired or busy, or of someone who lacks the requisite knowledge to manage such an important job?
Or has a culture that fetishizes “political incorrectness” made it less likely anyone on the campaign will raise red flags…
Now, you might say that the media is biased, and that would be a familiar critique. But even if one concedes that this whole story is blown out of proportion by a media that prefers controversy over substance (and liberals over conservatives), shouldn’t that be factored into the equation? The question is whether a smart campaign would avoid committing the kinds of gaffes that could distract from coverage of Hillary Clinton’s scandals.
3. Why didn’t the campaign just cop to the mistake and move on?
When you’re wrong, it’s best to just own up to it and put the story behind you — especially if this is clearly a staff mistake. Instead, Trump’s denials and obfuscation kept this story alive, ensuring speculation and commentary (not to mention the trickling out of excuses and explanations).
Perhaps the most annoying thing was the lame excuse that the Star of David imagery was, in fact, a sheriff’s logo. This insults our intelligence, and reminds me of the time Sarah Palin’s social media guru claimed that a target was actually the “crosshairs that you would see on a map.” (Note: Attacks on Palin over the Gabby Giffords shooting were unfair. But let’s be honest, those were targets. It is commonplace for political strategists to talk about “targeting” an opponent.)
At the end of the day, this is one more bump in a long campaign. But the trouble is that it is a symptom of some serious problems. And the fact that Trump’s campaign seems committed to ignoring or defending these mistakes (rather than addressing them) suggests that nothing will be learned from this. If you’re rooting for Trump to run the kind of campaign that can defeat Hillary Clinton in November, the handling of this July controversy should provide zero confidence.