Can Donald Trump answer for dad's racial history?

Story highlights

  • Paul Waldman: Donald Trump says racist-sounding things, but claims he's no racist
  • Researcher says Woody Guthrie writings condemned racist practices of Fred Trump, Donald Trump's father
  • Waldman: Son's not condemned for sins of father, but it's fair to ask about a candidate's attitude on race, with regard to family history

Paul Waldman is a senior writer with The American Prospect, a left-leaning magazine, and a blogger for The Washington Post. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)Donald Trump, he would have you know, is no racist.

Not only that, "I am the least racist person you have ever met," as he told CNN's Don Lemon, which is a pretty high compliment to himself. Nevertheless, it seems that hardly a week goes by in this campaign without Trump doing or saying something to make observers say, "Oh yeah, that's pretty racist."
Paul Waldman
Some of them are planned, like his accusation that Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, or his proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States. Others appear impulsive, like his retweeting missives from neo-Nazis and white supremacists.
    But they add up to a picture of someone who, whatever might lie within the depths of his soul, is more than happy to activate and exploit racist feelings among the voters he wants to appeal to. It's no accident that a white nationalist group is currently robocalling Iowa voters to encourage them to vote for Trump.
    And we have just learned of a fascinating story in the history of race in America that brings a deeper perspective to Trump's current persona. Will Kaufman, a British academic who has written extensively about legendary folk singer Woody Guthrie, was doing research in the Guthrie archives when he came across a notebook in which Guthrie condemned the racist practices of his landlord. Kaufman described what