Pence and Trump seem to think we're stupid. But if that's the case, it appears that at least one right-wing commentator thinks conservatives are equally stupid.
I direct your attention to the latest column by Monica Crowley, a former Nixon aide who now works for The Washington Times. Writing for an almost exclusively right-wing audience, Crowley asserts that Donald Trump was the soul of decency and politeness in his first debate with Hillary Clinton. If I'm reading Crowley correctly, she's telling her GOP-base audience that Trump didn't utter a single harsh word in that debate:
One of the biggest ironies of the first presidential debate is that Donald Trump’s reluctance to aggressively attack Hillary Clinton has now given him the license to fully do so.No, really, she wrote that. She wrote the phrase "Donald Trump’s reluctance to aggressively attack Hillary Clinton" in all seriousness. She wrote that Trump "pulled his punches."
Going into the debate -- his debut on the world’s biggest stage -- everyone, including his closest aides, was telling him that he must achieve plausibility: That is, he needed to reassure voters by looking reasonable, confident and self-possessed. If he were able to demonstrate an even temperament and basic command of the issues, voters could picture him behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office -- and Mrs. Clinton’s negative ads about his unfitness would melt away.
Mr. Trump took his marching orders seriously and pulled his punches, at one point even acknowledging his self-restraint: “I was going to say something really rough about Hillary and her family, but I told myself it was not nice. But she spent tons of money on horrible ads about me, and I’ve spent virtually nothing.”
Crowley also argues that Trump would have done much better if he'd responded to some of what she describes as Hillary Clinton's "abuse." This is an interesting counterfactual -- imagine if he'd said some of these things in the first debate:
On the birther controversy: “Why are we even discussing the birther issue? Your team started it eight years ago when you ran against President Obama....”Yes, imagine if he'd said something like this:
LESTER HOLT:... The birth certificate was produced in 2011. You've continued to tell the story and question the president's legitimacy in 2012, '13, '14, '15...Oh, wait -- he did say that. He did accuse the Clinton campaign of pushing birtherism.
HOLT: .... as recently as January. So the question is, what changed your mind?
TRUMP: ... Secretary Clinton also fought it. I mean, you know -- now, everybody in mainstream is going to say, oh, that's not true. Look, it's true. Sidney Blumenthal sent a reporter -- you just have to take a look at CNN, the last week, the interview with your [Clinton's] former campaign manager. And she was involved.
Another zinger suggested by Crowley:
On cybersecurity: “Great question. Maybe Mrs. Clinton would like to comment on the 33,000 emails she deleted with BleachBit, or why she deliberately endangered our nation’s most sensitive national security secrets by installing a private, unsecure, nongovernment server in the first place. Does anyone in the audience at home think what she did is OK? Think about it, folks: If you did that at your job, wouldn’t you get fired?”Yes, imagine if Trump had said that -- or maybe said this:
TRUMP: ... I will release my tax returns -- against my lawyer's wishes -- when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release....Oh, he said that too.
Let her release the e-mails. Why did she delete 33,000...
... When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted, when you have the man that set up the illegal server taking the Fifth, I think it's disgraceful. And believe me, this country thinks it's -- really thinks it's disgraceful, also.
Another proposed Crowley gotcha:
On his personal and corporate history: “Bankruptcies? Inherited wealth? Very funny, I took out a loan 45 years ago and turned it into a multibillion dollar company...."Yeah, Trump didn't say anything like that ... except maybe this:
TRUMP: ... my father gave me a very small loan in 1975, and I built it into a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars, with some of the greatest assets in the world, and I say that only because that's the kind of thinking that our country needs.Crowley really believes her audience will accept the notion that Trump didn't say any of these things, even though most of her readers heard him say all this in real time. This could very easily become right-wing conventional wisdom after a Trump defeat: He could have won, but he was too polite to really take it to her.
That's how the right operates. Conservatives really might decide that Trump sabotaged the GOP's chances this year by being too nice.