Kellyanne Conway just demonstrated how impossible it is to defend Donald Trump right now
By Aaron Blake, October 10, 2016
After standing down from defending Donald Trump on the Sunday shows, with Rudy Giuliani as her replacement, Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway was back at it after Sunday's debate, and again on Monday morning.
It didn't go that well. Conway lodged a serious accusation against unnamed Republican politicians and, at one point, sounded like she wasn't fully committed to the Trump campaign. She also otherwise seemed to fumble her messaging for Trump on the video and his debate performance.
If anything, it was a reminder that the damning new Trump video and Trump's increasingly combative reaction to it are making life very difficult — yes, even more difficult than usual — for his surrogates.
So far, Conway has:
1. Accused Trump's opponents of making unwanted sexual advances themselves
Appearing on MSNBC on Sunday night, Conway accused some of those denouncing Trump's hot-mic comments of their own lecherous behavior.
But she didn't say who.
"I would talk to some of the members of Congress there when I was younger and prettier, them rubbing against girls, sticking their tongues down women's throats who were uninvited, didn't like it," she said, adding: "And some of them, by the way, are on the list of people who won't support Donald Trump because they all ride around on their high horse."
This is a very serious charge, and it harks back to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who wrote in her 2014 book about an unnamed male colleague who sexually harassed her. “Don’t lose too much weight now," the senator told her, in Gillibrand's recounting. "I like my girls chubby.”
There was plenty of pressure on Gillibrand to name the senator she accused of such misdeeds. Eventually, the New York Times reported that it was the late senator Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).
Conway is apparently accusing GOP politicians of even more aggressive behavior — "sticking their tongues down women's throats who were uninvited." It would seem as though Conway may be asked to elaborate on this, as well.
2. Said she wouldn't leave the campaign — "unless ..."
Here's another exchange from MSNBC on Sunday night:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: So you’re with the campaign till the bitter end?
CONWAY: I’m with the campaign until the bitter end, unless ... (PAUSE)
MATTHEWS: Unless what?
CONWAY: Who knows? But I’m sitting here as his campaign manager. I’m sitting right here with you in the debate hall where he just performed beautifully.
MATTHEWS: So you’re worried about more shoes dropping?
CONWAY: No, I didn’t say that. No, no, no. No. What I — no. I made a commitment, and I believe he would be a much better president.
RACHEL MADDOW: We don't know what the "unless" means.
CONWAY: I know. I didn't mean to alert the breaking news again, Rachel. The "unless" is very simply; it's unless someone in my household needs me or unless something changes in my own life.
It's true that you can never tell precisely what career-altering twists and turns life can take over the course of ... 29 whole days. But the "unless" was a truly weird moment that is hard not to read into — as is Conway citing the "commitment" she made to Trump. That makes it sound like she's not overjoyed to be doing all of this.
Conway copped to the fact that she had just messed up, but still ...
3. Left open the possibility there could be more embarrassing tapes
Asked on "CBS This Morning" about whether there could be more tapes or reports of Trump saying such sexually aggressive and lewd things, Conway didn't dispute it.
“There’s no way for me to know that, Charlie," she said. "I’m just very happy that Donald Trump said that he was embarrassed and apologized and then said that this is not who he is — and that over the last year and a half as he’s been running for president, he’s met millions of Americans who have inspired him to soldier on, to fight for the issues that they care about that he's trying to articulate and show a real contrast with Hillary Clinton."
Conway may just have been totally honest here; there literally is no way for her to know if there are more reports to come. But as Trump's campaign manager, she has surely asked him whether there might be other, similar instances to defend. Yet she didn't feel comfortable saying there weren't.
4. Downplayed Trump's "You'd be in jail" comment — after the campaign played it up
Trump shot back at Clinton during Sunday night's debate that "you'd be in jail" if he were president. It was a remarkable thing for a presidential candidate to say — and one that Conway sought to suggest wasn't as serious as it sounded.
The problem: The campaign isn't downplaying it at all. In fact, it's promoting it.
“That was a quip. And I saw in NBC’s own reporting it was referred to as a quip, so I'll go with NBC on it," Conway told "Morning Joe." "He had already finished his statement. She said something like, ‘That's why you'll never be president,’ and he said, 'You’d be in jail.’ And so that was his answer."
But if it was just a "quip," why did Trump social media director Dan Scavino tweet it out at 2 a.m. Eastern?
Dan Scavino Jr. ✔ @DanScavinoAnd VP pick Mike Pence on Monday morning told MSNBC it was "one of the better moments of the debate last night."
"It's a good thing Trump isn't in charge of the law in this country." - Hillary Clinton
"Yeah, because you'd be in jail." - Donald Trump
10:51 PM - 9 Oct 2016 · Manhattan, NY, United States
Kyle Griffin ✔ @kylegriffin1The Trump campaign is all over the place on messaging right now. So is the person running it.
Mike Pence tells @MSNBC he thought Trump's threat to jail Clinton was "one of the better moments of the debate":
6:35 AM - 10 Oct 2016