Over the past week, Donald Trump has been repeatedly attacking Judge Gonzalo Curiel, claiming he is unfit to handle the Trump University case because he is a “Trump hater” and that he is a Trump hater because he is Mexican. This looks straightforwardly racist, and many people from both parties have accused Trump of racism. But two days ago Trump did not appear ready to back down, instead instructing his people to intensify their criticism of the judge and members of the media who go after Trump on the issue. Then yesterday his campaign seemed to do a U-turn–it issued a statement alleging that Curiel is biased because of his professional associations rather than because he is Mexican, and announced that Trump does not intend to comment on the case any further. This implies that Trump really did think there was a way to make some sort of political gain here, but now at the very least has determined that he has nothing further to gain by talking about it. What did Trump think he was going to get out of this? For the past couple days I’ve been trying to figure this out, and I have a theory of what has been going on in his head.