2. If he stays in the race, he must open his debate performance with a statement so self-flagellating that Andrea Dworkin would beg him to shut up and move on, already. (I don’t see this happening.)
3. The pivot: point out that “while I say nasty things about women, Hillary Clinton kills them — with her votes for wars fought for fun and profit, with drones, with bombs, by supporting psychotic terrorists in Syria and Libya. I can become polite, but she can’t bring back her victims.” Leave Bill Clinton out of it. Nobody cares.
4. Show up so prepared that he runs circles around her on policy. Propose specifics that most Americans can get behind. Frankly, her policy chops aren’t that great. (I don’t see this happening either.)
5. Be direct. Respond to the audience questions respectfully and in detail. Don’t go off on tangents. View harsh questions as an opportunity to reveal that, actually, you’re a good person who’s misunderstood because your showmanship gets out of the way.
In the unlikely event that he can do this stuff, it probably won’t be enough to win. But it might save his personal reputation from further harm.
Then he should avoid mics and cameras for a year or two. Americans love a comeback story.
Conventional wisdom says Donald Trump is going to lose, and lose big.
You see it everywhere in corporate media. Republican Party insiders are bereft and in denial, simultaneously refusing to accept the reality that their party is facing the possibility of catastrophic defeats in races all over the country this fall; indeed, some pundits say Trump marks the beginning of the end of the GOP. The New York Times is running a 24-7 odds placement that puts Hillary Clinton’s chances of victory at 86% against his 14%.
Indeed, if the election were held today, Hillary Clinton would beat Trump by a sizable margin. But the election is in two months. Two months is a long time. Old scandals percolate; new ones emerge. Another terrorist attack could prompt voters to turn to the right.
By far the biggest potential game changer, however, is the presidential debates. Conventional wisdom says Hillary Clinton will use her superior command of the facts and her ability to namedrop world leaders to run circles around Trump. But conventional wisdom is often wrong – just ask unstoppable 2016 Republican presidential nominee Jeb Bush.
I think Donald will trounce Hillary in the debates.
In fact, I can’t imagine any scenario in which she doesn’t get destroyed.
We like to think that the presidential debates are about issues and facts. They aren’t. The winner is the candidate who unleashes the zingiest one-liners and putdowns.
“I knew Jack Kennedy; Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
You’ve watched Donald Trump. You’ve watched Hillary Clinton. Who do you think is better positioned to control the format?
I have no idea whether Hillary Clinton can be quick on her feet or sharp with a nasty one-liner. It doesn’t matter. Her brand is experience and competence. She can’t get down into the gutter with Trump without undermining her message that she’s the adult. She has to look serious and come across as – there’s no other word for it – boring. Remember what happened to Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush when they tried to out-Trump Trump: they wrecked whatever chances they still had to stop him during the primaries.
A more courtly candidate (Bernie Sanders) might have gone easy on Clinton for fear of being viewed as sexist. That concern won’t cross Trump’s mind. He’ll go after her with the ferocity of Black Friday shoppers chasing down a discount Xbox.
Does Trump have vulnerabilities? Obviously. Hillary’s aces in the hole are the temperament argument and his refusal to release his taxes. The secrecy surrounding his tax returns raises suspicions that risk unraveling the fundamental rationale of his candidacy: I’m rich and successful, and I can use the talents I used to get that way to benefit the country. But her vulnerabilities are more serious.
The problem for Hillary is that she has gotten a relatively free ride from journalists and pundits, most of whom will vote for her. Her hypocrisies and inconsistencies comparatively unexamined, she emerges from her primary campaign untested and untempered. The debates offer Trump a juicy opportunity to expose those weaknesses on what promises to be a national stage with record audiences.
If she asks him about his tax returns, he can deflect by demanding the transcripts of her speeches to Goldman Sachs and other Wall Street firms, which she repeatedly refused to release while fending off Bernie. When she goes after him on ethics, he’ll pound away on the 30,000 deleted emails. Oh, and now there’s the latest Clinton Foundation sleaze too.
If Trump wants to go nuclear, he can slam her with the biggest unreported story of the year: the allegation that her husband President Bill was a frequent flyer on a convicted pedophile’s sexual tourism escapades overseas.
I understand why Secretary Clinton was reluctant to agree to any debates. Past performance suggests that she isn’t a strong debater to begin with. Going against a master reality TV and pro wrestling ringmaster like Donald Trump has got to feel like walking into the Coliseum with nothing but faith in God to protect you from the lion’s maw. Trump knows all the tricks: how to deploy comical facial expressions as well as Jim Carrey, how to dominate others using body language, a laser-like ability to identify an opponent’s weaknesses and reduce them to rubble via ridicule (“Little Marco”). In an American presidential debate, 15-point white papers don’t count for jack. The best entertainer always wins.
During a 2000 debate Al Gore walked right up to George W. Bush, looming over him in what many watchers interpreted as an attempt to intimidate the Texas governor. Bush merely looked up at Gore and nodded, a droll look on his face. Bush was an idiot. Gore was a genius by comparison, a fact he proved by repeatedly drawing upon his superior knowledge of the issues and proposing infinitely more intelligent solutions to problems. But it didn’t matter. Voters thought Bush won.
Will Trump’s likely victories in the debates be enough to close the current gap between him and Clinton in the polls? Maybe. All I know is, anyone who says it’s all over is whistling past the graveyard.
It’s all about the debates.
[A side note and thank you: thanks to more than 750 generous contributors, we were able to successfully crowdfund the civil court bond required for me to continue my lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times to the tune of more than $75,000. The next major hearing in the case is currently scheduled for March 2017. I am humbled and gratified by the commitment of so many people to free speech and freedom of expression. I will keep you posted.]
(Ted Rall is the author of “Bernie,” a biography written with the cooperation of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. His next book, the graphic biography “Trump,” comes out this Tuesday, July 26th and is now available for pre-order.)
During the first Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton relentlessly emphasized that she would become the first woman president if she wins. Ignored was the man next to her, Bernie Sanders. His election would also make history.
This week: People are lining up to run for mayor of San Diego in the aftermath of the sexual harassment scandal that toppled Bob Filner. Advantage goes to the man or woman who can guarantee no more unwanted hug-gropes.
For the first time in memory, both major candidates for president of the United States are heading into the home stretch of a campaign without having campaigned for concrete policy proposals. We literally have no idea what either of them would do if elected. All we know is their tone and public personnas.
If you ever needed proof that incrementalism can’t work, Obama’s healthcare proposals weren’t the victims of the vast right-wing attack machine, but rather of the Democrats’ own prediliction for arguing against themselves. “If we ask for too much, they won’t give it to us, so we’ll ask for less. Wait, now they want us to compromise from our fall-back position. OK, we can do that.” And so it goes, as the Republicans smell the stink of weakness and exploit it for all its worth. And who can blame them, except the families of the dead?
Ted Rall is the political cartoonist at ANewDomain.net, editor-in-chief of SkewedNews.net, a graphic novelist and author of many books of art and prose, and an occasional war correspondent. He is the author of the biography "Trump," to be published in July 2016.