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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer
Sunday, October 2, 2016
Trump Has A WINNING MESSAGE But He’s Failing to Deliver
Socio-political commentary ... Michael Goodwin In less than four months, a new president will take the oath and swear to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Among potential supporters gobsmacked by Trump’s latest screwball turn, some believe it proves he doesn’t want to win the White House. Their theory holds that the possibility of victory must terrify him, so he is intentionally making himself unelectable.
As evidence, they point to his habit of self-destructing just when things look best. Then as now, Trump pushed the race to almost even before taking a detour to wage a fight that made no sense.
Then he launched a Twitter fight with the Khans, a Gold Star, Muslim family. It’s true the parents of Capt. Humayun Khan, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, were invited to the Democratic convention precisely to attack Trump. It’s also true their criticism was amplified by a left-wing media that did not show the same sympathy for the pain of another Gold Star mother, Patricia Smith, who blamed Clinton for her son’s death at Benghazi.
But the Khan story would have gone away if Trump had let it. He couldn’t and wouldn’t, trading Twitter barbs with the parents for days and foolishly escalating the stakes in interviews.
In fact, it was a political trap. He didn’t just take the bait, he swallowed it, hook, line and sinker, then asked for more.
Voters were turned off, and a Fox News poll found that 69 percent of respondents familiar with Trump’s fight with the Khans said he was “out of bounds,” including 41 percent of Republicans.
In a flash, Clinton opened a big lead nationally and was ahead in all 11 battleground states followed by Politico. After one estimate that she might win 400 electoral votes, I wrote that Trump faced “a crushing landslide that would turn his name into a political punchline and make his brand synonymous with loser.”
In fact, he already was starting the long climb back. He had shaken up his team, started reading serious policy speeches from a teleprompter and was punching up at Clinton instead of punching down at bereft parents.
It took six weeks of message and personal discipline, and by last week’s debate, the race was a dead heat. Trump had momentum and was on course to win 261 electoral votes by one count, just nine short of victory. In the most dramatic development, Clinton looked to be conceding Ohio.
Then Bad Trump, like a monster from the “vasty deep,” suddenly surfaced. His target this time was Alicia Machado, the 1996 winner of the Miss Universe pageant. Back then, Trump called her “Miss Piggy” and “an eating machine” after she gained weight.
But it was Clinton, reprising her role with the Khans, who had baited the hook. Using her opposition-research book, she cited Machado near the end of the debate as an example of Trump’s derogatory comments to and about women.
And once again, Trump lunged for the lure and began a self-defeating insult war. Apparently sleepless with wounded pride, his middle-of-the-night tweets accused Machado of having a “terrible” past, of being a “con,” of being “disgusting” and having a “sex tape.”
Compounding a debate performance where Trump missed golden opportunities, his bizarre behavior exacted a price. The first polls show he is back on a road to defeat, and the damage is likely just beginning. He’ll keep core supporters, but he’s making it very hard for undecided voters to back him.
Clinton isn’t saying much, in keeping with the maxim to step aside when your opponent is committing political suicide.
Some call her lucky, but her luck is the kind the late baseball executive Branch Rickey described as the “residue of design.” The way Clinton and her team used the Khans and Machado amounts to a clinic on how to exploit an opponent’s weakness.
It might be the only way she could win. Burdened by scandals, branded a liar, suffering a charisma deficit and hobbled by health issues, she is making Trump an unacceptable alternative.
Still, she couldn’t do it without his help. Although he has the change message that best matches the moment, he is beating himself.
Previous predictions of his demise were wrong, but time is running short for another comeback. Besides, if the armchair shrinks are correct that he fears victory, Trump would always find a way to secure defeat.
Then again, a deep dive into his psyche may not be necessary. His behavior could be proof that Clinton and the NeverTrumpers were right all along — that he’s not temperamentally fit to be president.
Whatever the reason for his conduct, we could be witnessing the beginning of the end.