The Things Donald Trump Doesn’t Know About, From His Interview With Anderson Cooper

Echoes of the Know Nothing party.

You may remember from your American history classes the Know Nothing party, that anti-immigrant, mid nineteenth-century political phenomenon. Know Nothing was not the party’s official name but a nickname derived from a clandestine organization within the party’s ranks, members of which were supposed to say they knew nothing when asked about it.

And in both these ways–the xenophobic underpinnings, the pretense of ignorance–we are reminded of Donald Trump‘s candidacy.

In the Trump vernacular, the “I know nothing” of the Know Nothings is reimagined as “I don’t know anything about that,” and its variations.

He relied on this trope three times in his interview on Anderson Cooper 360 last night.

Know nothing point one was on his immigration policy. Cooper tried to clarify Trump’s recent “softening” (a word we’re putting in quotes because we’re not fans of it, even as we acknowledge its unfortunate utility as an signifier) on the idea of mass(ive) deportation.

“But if somebody hasn’t committed a crime, will they be deported?” Cooper asks Trump.

“I’ll tell you what we know, let me explain, let me tell you what, we know the bad ones. We know where they are, who they are. We know the drug cartel people. We know the gangs and the heads of the gangs and the gang members. Those people are gone. And that’s a huge number,” Trump replies.

“But isn’t that,” begins Cooper.

“No, it’s not,” replies Trump.

Cooper tries again. “But that’s Jeb Bush‘s policy. I mean, essentially,” he says.

“I don’t know anything about Jeb Bush,” says Trump about the former contender for the Republican nomination. “He wasn’t building a wall. Jeb Bush wasn’t building a wall. Jeb Bush wasn’t making strong borders. And I’m not knocking Jeb Bush, but I was with him for a long time,”

Steve Bannon, Trump’s own recently appointed campaign manager–third of a series–is the star of the second know nothing claim, about a term Bannon himself has proudly used.

“Are you embracing the alt-right movement with Steve Bannon?” asks Cooper.

Alt-right? What’s that? Is that a thing? That’s not a thing.

Or, to quote Trump directly, “Nobody even knows what it is. And she didn’t know what it was. This is a term that was just given that frankly, there’s no alt-right or alt-left. All I’m embracing is common sense,” he replies.

To which Cooper replies, “Well, Steve Bannon did say Breitbart is sort of the voice of the alt-right.”

And faced with a response from Cooper that contradicts Trump’s earlier contention, he reverts to knowing nothing, but for the fact that he draws a big crowd.

“I don’t know what Steve said. All I can tell you, I can only speak for myself. You see the crowds we have. You see the enthusiasm. These are great people. These are people that have not been heard for many years and now they have been heard, first time in many, many decades. In fact, some people say the first time, period,” says Trump, adding, “And I think we are going to do very well. You see what’s going on with the polls over the last three or four days. I think we are going to do very well.”

So the campaign is back to trusting polls now?

But surely, the man with “one of the best memories in the world,” would totally be up on his own business history, especially when it comes to the content of one of his first lawsuits (as defendent), one that “marked the first time Trump became a regular presence on newspaper front pages,” right?