Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: Blame It On Google

Is the Trump campaign self-destructing?  At the moment it looks that way.  After bragging that he won the presidential debate on Monday, the Donald has been complaining to his crowds about nearly everything involved in the debate and the reaction to the debate.  Including, yes, that the debate was rigged.

He's caressing the alt.right conspiracy theory in which everybody is in on it, from the moderator to the network (or whoever gave him a "defective" microphone) to Google for somehow distorting search results.

There's even a report that his kids are mad that the campaign is bad for their businesses, and they want to fire everybody (again.)

A couple of stories in the NYTimes about Trump's non-existent debate prep and the need to prepare a more disciplined approach for the next two have reportedly caused some internal strife, including a rebuke passed on from the Donald himself, who signals that he doesn't intend to prepare any differently.  (Maybe it's because he can't.)  But Paul Waldman is pretty persuasive that his next debate--town hall style--could be even worse.

Meanwhile, the fact checkers keep digging deeper into Monday's debate.  Interesting to me is the WPost deciding that Trump's answer on the 1973 racial discrimination suit against him and his father's real estate company was false and misleading.  For instance, the suit that he said was brought against many, many companies was called United States of America v. Fred C. Trump, Donald Trump and Trump Management, Inc.

Another couple of unprecedented newspaper endorsements, including the first ever from USA Today which declares:This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency."  So it's an anti-endorsement, like some others.

A couple of stories suggest the Trump campaign has decided on a focus--a "follow the money" mantra about Clinton and the Clinton foundation.  But Trump seems so far to be talking about almost anything else.  He and his surrogates are increasingly muttering about Bill Clinton and impeachment in the 90s.  (Which some Rs think is dumb if not dangerous, in that Hillary's own favorables tend to go up when the tawdry aspects of Bill Clinton's presidency are unearthed.)

And Trump can't stop talking about the Miss Universe who he called Miss Piggy, which keeps alive his very troubling attitudes towards women, which his campaign manager, in a Freudian slip, characterized as abuse.

But even if Trump could keep to the topic, bringing up money and corruption opens him to the kind of charges that are increasingly in the news.  The NY state investigation into the Trump Foundation and how Trump used it as a tax-free bank reportedly may be broadening.  WPost is additionally reporting that the Trump Foundation may not meet legal requirements to raise large amounts of money in New York.

 And today there's a report that Trump may have violated the embargo on Cuba with spending there in the 1990s.  Not only is this another potential lawbreaking, but it is a potent issue with Cuban exiles in Florida--and Marco Rubio immediately demanded that Trump come clean on it.  I really don't see how Trump can win Florida, but in any case this won't help him there.  And it's a cold dish of revenge for Rubio.

All of this is happening while the Clinton campaign suddenly looks competent, even skillful.  In general (according to the US News report) Clinton herself is accentuating the positive in her campaign appearances, giving people something to vote for as well as against.  Meanwhile, her heavy hitting surrogates are doing the Trump dump, even (very effectively) the transcendently popular Michelle Obama, who pointed out that the presidency requires a grownup.

Meanwhile the campaign is also playing small ball, going after specific constituencies, like Eastern Europeans in swing states like PA and Ohio who are troubled by Trump's putative Putin embrace.

Meanwhile, mindful of their emotional preferences, President and Michelle Obama and Joe Biden emphasize to millennials that even if they aren't crazy about Clinton, a vote for anyone else is a vote for Trump.

On the other hand, the Clinton campaign's apparent calculation (at least according to the NYTimes) that Ohio won't be important this year seems risky.  Apparently they don't see it as winnable, though it seems to me it is.

Along with the strong surrogate strategy there's the rolling out of Republicans who support Clinton, and the WPost's article on John Warner is special, both for its nuanced portrait of Warner (once wed to Elizabeth Taylor, by the way) and what it says about the values of a generation now fading away, the World War II generation.

Speaking of World War II, there was some buzz about Michiko Kakutani's NY Times review of a new book on Adolf Hitler.  I don't know about the book itself, but the review drew attention because pretty much everything Kakutani said about what the book said about Hitler was directly applicable to Donald Trump, without his name being mentioned.

So even if Trump seems to be spiraling down (with the next set of national polls emerging this weekend), it's necessary to be mindful of the danger he still is.

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