Thursday, August 06, 2015


Look, Donald Trump might be boring tonight at the debate -- I doubt it, because Roger Ailes has probably ordered his moderators to make sure Trump gives Fox some really good television -- but I seriously doubt that anyone's going to trip him up.

Here's why. As a Bloomberg story points out, Trump can be tripped up, but you have to do it right:
Watch this famous David Letterman clip, when the talk show host slyly lures his prey to take the bait and then pounces.

Busted on his own rhetoric, Trump doesn’t know how to respond: He’s, for once, speechless.
Do you see what happens here? Letterman doesn't give the game away. He seems to be doing a calm, polite interview about various subjects, including Trump's line of neckties and Trump's discussions with then-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. But after Trump starts railing at China, Letterman --yes -- quietly pounces on the fact that Trump's ties are made in China. And Trump just shrugs.

Why doesn't Trump have a nasty comeback? Because Letterman doesn't betray hostility until he nails Trump. He doesn't give Trump a chance to get his testosterone flowing.

I live in New York. I know precisely what skill Trump has honed: When you encounter a direct challenge, you respond with even more aggression than was directed at you, and you accompany that with trash talk. Chances are your antagonist is concerned about maintaining a certain level of decorum. If you don't give a crap about decorum, but you actually seem to have your wits about you as you fire back (that's the trash talk -- this wouldn't work if you threw a punch), then chances are you'll back your opponent down, having shocked him by upping the aggression ante.

That's what Trump does. It works. And he gets to keep doing it because people who attack him generally don't creep up on him and then pounce, the way Letterman does in that clip.

Tonight, the candidates aren't going to try to go after Trump in that Letterman way -- they're afraid of Trump and won't attack him at all. The Fox moderators might go after him, but if so, they're going to go after him head-on. They want Classic Trump. They want an angry, nasty reply. (By "they," of course, I mean "Roger Ailes.")

Maybe they'll try to trip him up by asking a question that should be answered with a presidential level of attention to detail. But that won't work -- Trump will just veer off into chest-thumping generalities and never answer the question. He'll be unfazed.

In any case, no one's likely to get to him. His opponents are afraid to try, and Fox wants to keep The Trump Show on the air. And Trump knows that anyone who might want to try to take him will try to take him down directly, not stealthily, like Letterman. Trump is always ready for a direct attack.


Victor said...

Yeah, Steve, you and I grew-up at about the same time in the same NY City, never mind the borough.

Trump is an asshole - as is Roger Ailes.

Ailes is a brilliant TV guy - he knows how to sell.

But, in this case, he's hurting his GOP "brand," because Trump is non-controllable.

The rabid loons on his on-air staff are controllable, because the nastier they are, the more money they "earn:"
I'm lookin' at you, Bill O'Rally and Sean "Unibrow" Hannity.
And you too, Ms. Kelly!

Trump's a "free-agent," and he doesn't need the support of billionaire "Sugar Daddies," because, even if he's not actually worth billions himself, he has enough access to money to campaign.

Most of the rest of the GOP candidates, 'depend on the kindness of (billionaire) strangers.

It should be fun tonight, at the debate.
I'll be finishing a novel about a serial killer, who, no doubt, would finish in the top 3-5 in tonight's debate!

aimai said...

Great Analysis, great clip!

L.A. Goldenrod said...

I don't think Trump is stupid, but if he's smarter than I think he is, he will throw the ultimate curve and not even bring his bombastic clown act to the debate tonight. He will be prepared with substantive (in the context of his racism and misogyny) answers to the questions, depriving his critics in the GOP of any opportunity to portray him as unfit for the nomination. That would upset the equilibrium of the party poo-bahs who are desperate to portray him as a novelty candidate, despite the fact that his momentum with Republican primary voters continues to grow with each new opinion poll.

I don't think he'll do that. But if he's smarter than I think he is, he will.