Doing his best to sound presidential and distance himself from his loose-cannon image, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump went on-script Tuesday night to deliver a softer, more carefully crafted form of bigotry that was much more disturbing.
Reading from teleprompters to stay on point, Trump made an appeal for unity and American exceptionalism, and then in the next breath reminded us that he's way too stuck in the past to lead the country into the future.
"We're going to take care of our African-American people that have been mistreated for so long," Trump said.
The cringeworthy use of the possessive pronoun was reminiscent of Trump recently calling California congressional candidate Gregory Cheadle "my African-American."
But Trump didn't limit his scripted racism to African-Americans. He also talked about how he had "embraced the victims of illegal immigration"—and he wasn't talking about the people who are trapped in the U.S.'s broken immigration system.
Trump said the real victims of illegal immigration are the "moms and dads who have had to bury their own children because of people who shouldn't have been in the country"—an apparent reference to Jamiel Shaw, the father of a 17-year-old who was killed by an undocumented immigrant and featured in a Trump campaign ad released last February.
The scariest thing about Trump's new, softer brand of on-script bigotry is that it is carefully thought through and methodically worded. These are no longer just the slips of a politically unprepared 69-year-old man who shoots from the hip and oftentimes sounds like a grumpy grandpa with social ideas from a bygone era. This is Trump sitting down with speech writers and using a pencil and eraser to get the words right—AND STILL SOUNDING LIKE A BIGOT. (That's what the eraser is for, Don!)
Trump can no longer blame his racism on the media misconstruing his message or twisting his words out of context. This is team Trump crafting a speech to the nation and the best they can come up with is something that still sounds toe-curlingly bigoted.
The worse is yet to come.