Roger Simon: Ralph Nader on Trump: a scary ‘father figure’

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Supporter Colin Walker stands in line before the arrival of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at Port-Columbus International Airport on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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“The press does not know how to corner Donald Trump,” Ralph Nader is telling me.

“He connects with those people who are sick of politics and those who have never been interested in politics. But these people know they are being shafted and they are impatient with politicians.

“Trump understands that. And he always exceeds expectations.”

Ever hear of the Ku Klux Klan? The KKK? Guys in white sheets? Burn crosses on lawns?

Sure you’ve heard of them. Everybody has heard of them. Except Donald Trump.

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Sunday, when CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Trump about the Klan and how former Klan grand wizard David Duke has endorsed Trump, Trump was like: Huh? Whuh? The Klan? Never heard of them.

“I have to look at the group. I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about,” Trump said. “You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about.”

Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination for president, and he knows “nothing” about the Klan. Trump, as he tells us endlessly, went to these really, really great schools. But he can’t tell David Duke from Daisy Duke.

Jake Tapper found this a little odd. “I’m just talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan here, but,” Tapper trailed off.

“Honestly, I don’t know David Duke,” Trump said. “I just don’t know anything about him.”

Funny thing is, when Trump was initially asked at a news conference Friday about Duke’s endorsement, he disavowed it. But by Sunday, under Tapper’s questioning, he pleaded ignorance.

The press went crazy about this. Once again, some said Trump is “through.” He was said to be damaged goods heading into Super Tuesday.

But why? If you were a Donald Trump voter before, or even leaning toward Trump, why would Trump’s feigned ignorance about the Klan upset you?

Trump has gotten where he is by embracing racism and bigotry. He got to the top of the Republican polls after he said Mexicans were rapists and Muslims should not be allowed into the United States. So why should an endorsement by a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan hurt him?

“People are looking for a strong man,” Nader, who knows a thing or two about running for president, is saying. “That’s the sign of the decay of our society. Trump says: ‘Anyone who attacks us, I will blow them out of water.’ People want this reassurance, this father figure.”

Monday, at a speech in Radford, Virginia, Trump laid it out in very simple terms. “We are looking for security. We are looking for safety. We are looking for good homes. We are looking for good health care. We are looking for a strong military that can protect us from evil.”

In eight years, we have gone from a candidate who won the presidency through inspiration and eloquence to one who uses language an eighth grader could understand.

Don’t knock it.

“His appeal is clarity,” says Nader. “His sentences are very brief: ‘We are being screwed. I will build a wall.’ Put that together with his bluster and his image as a brawler and he gets the attention of those who could never watch debates without falling asleep.

“Wordplay is Trump’s genius.”

And who will stop him? Nobody will stop him. He understands the Republican Party of 2016 because he is the Republican Party of 2016.

“Trump is like climate change,” Bill Maher has said. “We knew it was coming, and we didn’t do anything about it, and now it’s too late.”

Marco Rubio is giving it a college try. Almost literally: Over the weekend, at a university in Virginia, he sounded like a frat boy at his first kegger.

“You know what they say about men with small hands!” Rubio said about Trump as the crowd roared.

And Trump “doesn’t sweat because his pores are clogged with the spray tan.”

“Donald Trump isn’t gonna make America great again,” Rubio said. “He’s gonna make America orange!”

Ralph Nader does not find this encouraging. “How demeaning this is to our posterity,” Nader says.

But somebody is going to be the next president. Whom does Nader want?

“I don’t want to choose between cancer and drug-resistant tuberculosis,” Nader says.

The Republican Party may shatter over Trump. Historians will make Trump’s rise to the top look obvious, but it was not. I don’t recall anybody predicting it.

“Man is a strange animal,” E. Stevenson said. “He generally cannot read the handwriting on the wall until his back is up against it.”

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