Belligerent Trump Breaks Clinton Advantage (Debate II) (#17)
The Hillary Clinton campaign received a gift from heaven last Friday, October 7th, in the form of a video showing Donald Trump talking about women in the most vulgar and demeaning way. On the video he openly asserted that he could make unsolicited aggressive, physical sexual advances on women, and he could get away it because of his wealth and fame. The video was a god-send to any opponent of Donald Trump’s, let alone being generally recognized as a ‘for certain’ death knell to a Presidential election campaign where the offending party in the video is one of the candidates. But that is normal life, and Donald Trump does not inhabit that normal universe. Just when the Clinton campaign, the Republicans, and the World thought that Donald Trump was toast, finally, he miraculously, and through sheer will, bounced back in the second Presidential candidate’s debate last night.
He made a comeback by off-handedly minimizing his behavior as simply ‘locker room talk’, and then by going on a vicious relentless personal counter attack on Hillary Clinton herself, her public service track record, and her husband Bill Clinton’s past infidelities. Facts, reason and logic are usually in short supply in any of Donald Trump’s utterances at the best of time, last night Donald Trump dispensed with the niceties and went for a no holds barred barroom brawl, in which Hillary Clinton was definitely disadvantaged. Unfortunately, the criticism that Tim Kaine got for his overactive demeanor, and his over aggressive and frequent interruptions of Mike Pence in the Vice Presidential candidates debate, last weekend, seemed to have made Hillary Clinton cautious about countering a rampaging Donald Trump too aggressively, and that may have worked against her in this debate.
She was composed and restrained under the fierce and constant personal attack from Donald Trump. She tried to make her points forcefully, factually and logically (for most part), but she was confronting a Donald Trump in full attack mode, where facts, logic, or even the questions themselves, were irrelevant, and doing heaviest damage to your opponent was the only thing that mattered, and in that Donald Trump excelled last night.
This terrain is familiar ground for Donald Trump. He relishes counter-attacks. When under attack, he is at his belligerent best. It is the natural state with him, but for Hillary Clinton it was dangerous and unfamiliar ground, and she was unsure of how far she should take her own counter-attacks and how aggressively. So she showed ‘Presidential restraint’, countered Trump with facts, policy details, public service record, and lost.
Lost, because she needed to knock him out for the count, and the World expected her to, but she couldn’t.
For Donald Trump it was a do-or-die moment, with nothing left to lose considering the fallout from the damning video, he pulled no punches and pummeled Hillary Clinton personally and relentlessly. He repeatedly called her a liar, called her the “devil”, repeatedly reminded the audience that Bernie Sanders had called her judgment into question and therefore she had terrible judgment. He attacked her 30 years in public service as complete, irredeemable failure. And he over and over pinned all the current and past faults and failures of America, on to her personally.
Each failed policy decision, whether foreign policy or domestic, he pinned on her as a Senator, as though she solely commanded the entire American government apparatus, and had sole authority to determine everything, without input from the President, or the Congress or the Senate, or others in government. It was all her personal failure as a Senator in not stopping every bad thing that happened for the past 30 years or more.
It was all unadulterated idiotic BS of course, for reasonably informed people, but for his base and the Republicans it was an effective and damaging assault on Hillary Clinton, the woman they love to hate.
Hillary Clinton, as a sole Senator, could no more be responsible for all of America’s ills, many of them recounted when she was not in government, as much as Donald Trump could be responsible for all of America’s virtues. But nevertheless, the relentless litany of ‘her fault’, attached to all of America’s ills were manna from heaven to Republicans in general, and his core support base in particular. For those of us who are not Donald Trump admirers, it was still, admittedly, a tour de force performance, and vintage Donald Trump.
Prior to the debate and after the emergence of last Friday’s exposure of the ‘unadulterated Trump’ video, his campaign was breathing its last and by all accepted norms of elections and public life, it really should have gone down for the count. The Clinton campaign certainly would have hoped it would.
Donald Trump recognized the danger, and throwing caution to the wind he came out swinging for the fences, and connected enough to breathe some life back into his campaign, at least until the next disaster. It was an extraordinary show of resurgence in the face of seemingly fatal self injury. Considering how many times Donald Trump has shrugged off self inflicted bullet wounds to his foot, and the last weeks to his head, cats with their nine lives have nothing on the “Donald”.