Tuesday, March 01, 2016


In The New York Times today, Amy Chozick and Patrick Healy write about the Clinton campaign's plans for general-election attacks on Donald Trump. I'm moderately optimistic, especially given what we read a few days ago at the Huffington Post about the amount of anti-Trump material that seems to be untapped:
Multiple Republican campaign sources and operatives have confided that none of the remaining candidates for president have completed a major anti-Trump opposition research effort. There are several such efforts being run by outside conservative organizations. But those efforts are still gathering intel on the businessman after having started late in the primary season....

"I think everyone was and is waiting for someone else to do it," said [a] Republican campaign official....

... it is treated as a truism among Republicans that a vast reservoir of damaging opposition research remains untouched. It's a suspicion that Democrats aren't challenging. Indeed, one Democratic opposition research said that they’ve spent the past eight months compiling material on Trump as he’s risen up the ranks....

That researcher estimated that of all the material they’ve compiled -- court and property records, newspaper clips and videos -- approximately 80 percent of it has yet to surface in this election cycle.
But Chozick and Healy say there's some concern in the Clinton camp:
Even as Democrats prepare to take on Mr. Trump, there remains deep anxiety that the messages may not break through.

In January, Clinton advisers were startled after Senator Ted Cruz of Texas released an ad that alleged that Mr. Trump had used eminent domain to try to bulldoze an elderly widow’s home in Atlantic City, making way for a parking lot to accompany one of his namesake casinos.

The woman won the legal battle and remained in her home, but the ad, which Mr. Trump disputed, did not dent his support.
I wonder if the problem was the ad itself. I have a theory about why a lot of attacks on Trump fail: They put Trump front and center, and he comes off as an exciting disruptor, a gadfly who gets under his enemies' skin. Attacks on Trump actually aggrandize Trump.

Let's look at that Cruz ad:

What do we see in this ad? Trump making money. Trump riding in a limo. Trump on magazine covers. Republican voters may hate eminent domain -- but Trump in this ad is just so gangsta. Of course this doesn't tarnish him very much. He still looks like the man.

Compare that with a heartbreaking ad that was used against Mitt Romney in the 2012 election:

The super-PAC's most searing ad was "Stage," in which a man named Mike Earnest describes building a 30-foot stage at the paper plant he worked at in Marion, Indiana. Romney-run Bain Capital had recently bought the plant. Days after building the stage, Earnest explains, a group of businessmen strolled onto it and told everyone at the plant they were fired. "Turns out that when we built that stage," Earnest says into the camera, "it was like building my own coffin. And it just made me sick."

The ad doesn't focus on Romney. The focus is on one of Romney's victims. Romney doesn't even show up until more than halfway through ad, and then only briefly, as a silent, menacing presence.

Of course, it was a lot easier to do this to Mitt Romney -- sure, he was a rich businessman, but he never exuded a sense of the good life. He never made people feel that his success might be contagious. Trump does that. That's why he's so hard to beat. And while Trump isn't literally spreading around the cash, his fans can at least laugh at his attacks on his enemies, and feel that they're getting back at the powerful themselves. (That's why it probably won't help Marco Rubio at the polls to imitate Trump's trash talk. The trash Trump talks feels liberating to a lot of people. Rubio is just reminding them how much they enjoy Trump's attacks.)

So when you attack Trump, you have to silence him. You have to make his victims the focus. Trump, in your ads, can't be the insult comic or the rich guy whose joie de vivre is unmistakable. He has to seem like a looming menace. Voters have to come away from the ads feeling empathy for whoever got in Trump's way. They mustn't come away feeling, even subconsciously, that it would be fun to be Trump.

You have to mute Trump. You have to neutralize what people like about him. Then the attacks might work.


Victor said...

The fact that none of the GOP campaigns were ready with tons of oppo-research on Trump, ought to be a disqualifying factor for their candidates.

Hell, all they needed to do was to talk to a few NYers!

It's almost like the party ignored important things, like Bush did before 9/11, and then had no real plans for follow-ups after launching their own campaigns - ala W after invading Iraq.

The GOP has it's new "Bush Doctrine:
"Don't do any research. Just prepare to attack. And then... and then... VICTORY!... derp...

W. Hackwhacker said...

That's very shrewd advice -- hopefully Democrats will follow suit.

Tengrain said...

Steve -

I would add one more caveat: the highlighted victims must look like his supporters. His supporters like him because they think he hates the same people they do, and if his victims look just like him, well...



Yastreblyansky said...

Also, to Tengrain's point, that he thinks they're stupid. That they don't know or care what the KKK is, or that cutting the top marginal income tax rate to 25% is "sticking it to the hedge fund guys" and a cut for the middle class, or...

Philo Vaihinger said...

Very perceptive.

mlbxxxxxx said...

I think you are correct about how to attack him. However, it is pointless to try to turn-off Trump's current supporters. If you use the metric of how big a dent you make in Trump's support as a measure of success, you are always going to be disappointed. Most of these people are unreachable and can only be disillusioned by Trump starting to sound moderate -- something he's going to have to do for the general and is going to be very risky for him.

The goal of Dem attacks on Trump should be to make him an unacceptable choice for the folk that might be tempted to climb aboard his bandwagon. Stymied growth in his support is the mark of success and is really the best that can be hoped for -- along with energizing our GOTV effort. Demonizing Trump should be pretty easy and should be done relentlessly -- once he has secured the nomination.

Feud Turgidson said...

Remember Hannibal?

Not the cannibal fictional physician, the fan of Baal actual Carthaginian military general.

Remember what his big thing was? I mean, besides he leadership, daring, planning, organization, execution and massive dangling clangers?


Right from when he descended from the Cisaplines, for almost 20 years Hannibal's heffalumps punic'd [sic] every ally of the Roman Republic all up and down the Italian peninsula into a place of pachyderm panic.

When he was finally defeated, not in Italy but back home near Carthage, in the battle of Zama, for the very first time he'd run up against an opposing general and force that knew the first thing to was take out those 76 or so thrombosis-inducing scary heffalumps leading Hannibal's big hairy parade.

Look it up: Scipio Africanus had his main central shock troops deftly step aside to create a corridor for Hannibal's characteristic charge of panic-inducing pachyderms to hurtle right thru, and then Scipio's forces were free to circle Hannibal's homies into a bait ball and cut them to pieces.

But what if you were Scipio, and for religious or other belief system reasons, you were unable to go after Hannibal thru taking on his big flashy strength, his terror inducing elephant charges? What then?

Then, you'd lose - much like 19 years worth of generals of the Roman Republic and several dozen other Italian city states had lost to Hannibal.

Steve M.'s analysis is fine, so far as it goes. But not HRC, not Bernie Sandals, not any happy warrior the D's would pick, would have any hesitation at all in going first after Drumpf's elephants. Any D opponent is not going to suffer from the disadvantages and handicaps of all of those in the R field, who were stuck with having to take on Drumpf without being able to go after those damn heffalumps.

Rick WTF, that comms director of the Cruzbio's made a big magilla about "firing" for the comm's dude authorized or executed that attack on the other Cruzbio on some horse pucky Answers In Genesis crapola, is - surprise (given they all, if they only have a brain and refuse to sacrifice children, end up here) - now on MSNBC as a paid pundit, and he addressed exactly this point over the last few days: It's standard orthodox political strategy to FIRST establish your own brand before going after any opponent for his. The Cruzbio bros in particular in their first rodeo: besides having to let a lot of the racist crap go because Republicans d'uh, < WHICH IS THE ELEEPHAN PROBLEM, RIGHT THERE - but on top of that, both have been handcuffed by having to build up their own buttercuppiness before daring to to even THINK about going over to where Drumpf is and grab and drink his milkshake. And of the Cruzbios, the more credible I-can-out-Hilter-your-Hilter is the one with from Texas with the oh-so punchable face and icky creepoid presence.

This is to prove to not be a problem for a D nominee. After all, they SHOOT heffalumps, don't they?

petrilli said...

I think a key part of an anti-Trump strategy would be to acknowledge the brilliance and yes, legitimacy of other parts of his message -- when he talks about global trade policy, loss of manufacturing jobs to low wage countries, NAFTA, TPP, and the fact that it's true that working people and the country in general have been getting rolled on these deals for 30 years. These parts of his speech get huge cheers too. They deserve to. A non Objectivist, anti-free market message is finally landing and sticking in GOP territory like a rogue strand of RNA. That's a big effing deal. If there were a way to strain the racist lumps out of Trump's speeches and demagogue the good parts, Democrats might have longer coat tails this November. But Democratic Elites are just as yellow and two-faced as the GOP's regarding breaking the orthodoxy of our trade and banking policies. There is no reason we can't bring manufacturing jobs back here, and that's true whether Trump or anyone else says it.

petrilli said...

Fred, If I recall correctly, The Romans felled Hannibal's elephants by slitting the throats of their horses, driving the pachyderms mad with fright at the smell of equine blood.

Who will the Dem's sacrifice to get to Trump's elephants?

Victor said...

How about Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for starters?

That twit needs to go!

Ten Bears said...

Careful Vic,that kind of talk can get your doors kicked in. She's the next VP.

Feud Turgidson said...


I've read all the earliest historical accounts (albeit all are from the winning Roman side and mostly quite number of years after the event), and 3 survey works with source material, some even in Latin (thanks to being raised at a time when Latin was a fairly standard subject from middle school on), and I've never seen that story laid out as historcially accurate or even asserted.

That is, I've certainly seen the claim, but only closer to 2 millenia after; so, I attribute it to the same sorts of phenomena that brought us Noah's Ark, burning bushwa, Moses's tricks with tabloids and splitting seas, virgin birth (which is maybe not as implausible at the rest, but also fits a very popular ploy by reluctant boyfriends in those days - still is, til the paternity test).

But rather than torture this to death, here's pure Lazy Slop History straight outta not far from Compton, i.e. What Mister Wik Ipedia sez
[lightly edited, mostly to replace the ancient word describing a war beast that no longer exists in that form with its more relevant way more recent fictional descendant]:

"Scipio knew that
heffalumps could be ordered to charge forward,
but they could only continue their charge in a straight line.[11]
Scipio predicted that
> if he opened gaps in his troops,
the heffalumps would simply
pass between them,
without harming any of his soldiers.

Scipio > created the lanes between the army regiments across the depth of his troops and
hid them with maniples of skirmishers.

The plan was that
--> when the elephants charged,
these lanes would open, <--
allowing them to pass thru the legionaries' ranks and be dealt with at the rear of the army."

Must of been a bastard to get those oomphing lumpas under control. I imagine they got archered and spearchucked to death, in the classic manner time immemorial.

Ten Bears said...

All of the slaughtered horse accounts I've read discount it, as twenty years of stomping not humans but horses and various sundry animals would have inerred the pachiderms to the smell of blood.

Ten Bears said...

Not only humans ...

Ten Bears said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
petrilli said...

Victor, apparently Feud nixed my horse blood metaphor as a false myth. But the internet says that screaming pigs were definitely used to frighten ancient war elephants into a panicked whirling bone crushing frenzy. Flaming, screaming pigs.

Unless Feud decides to spoil the fun again with his facts and college historical book larnin' and all.

I think your Debbie Wasserman Schultz suggestion holds up even better.

Feud Turgidson said...

AOR, in honor of this evening from where it now appears that, barring convention (as opposed to conventional, tho with Rs that works as well here) violence, it's inevitable that the party of Lincoln will in July convene to confirm the nomination of the political equivalent of a comically bewigged, seltzer-squirting, misogynist jerkwad of a racist Richie Rich lying p.o.s. vain self-centered narcissist of a 4th rate insult comic working a hall full of addicts and aspirational serial killers, I hereby decline, for this evening at least, to comment upon, in way, the Squealing Stuck Pigs Variation on the Press-Ganged Mammals family of pre-Christ Heffalump defenses.

All who wish to reference said SSPs in this evenings revels are welcome and may consider themselves assured hearby from catcalls, or any other sounds denoting derision, by hoots or otherwise, and mockery in general. Enjoy.

Never Ben Better said...

Sigh. Allow me to be the party pooper regarding the (mostly fictitious) tales of Hannibal's mighty war elephants, and the doughty Scipio's (alleged) solution thereto:


Shorter version: Roman propaganda.

Feud Turgidson said...

NBB, as I ALREADY noted, the entire 'original' history of this comes to us via the extremely suspect chroniclers of the victors, none of whom were actually present at the key events (such as Canae and Zama) and who were, it appears, deeply ignorant of how and why Hannibal Barca used and indeed struck on using war elephants. IMO Hannibal used them largely as Carthaginian propaganda, to scare the poop out of opponents. What's managed to filter down to us from Polybius and Livy is pretty fragmented, so unlike with Gibbons on his far more recent Delcline and Fall of the Empire, we can't really trust that what DID manage to endure is even at all fairly representive even just of each historian's ultimate conclusion (Were not even sure that any 'fair and balanced' effort was intended in the first place - AS I'D ALREADY POSTED EARLIER ABOVE!).

But the fragments we do have included versions of several 'interviews' of Hannibal, including in the context of negotiations between the Roman Republic and Carthage at a time when Hannibal had juice (one of which presents Hannibal and Scipio in dialogue, in a sort of Hot Stove League Hall of Fame horseshit discussion slash seminar on World's Greatest Generals), and what those depict is someone who had a sort of Rick Pitino like approach in stirring his troops into wading into the hellscape of massed troops small arms close combat that was most of warfare around 200 BC (and really, pretty much going back thousands of years and forward at least into the Renaissance and arguably into WWI).

So, yeah, of COURSE propaganda, but this is well-known and common problem with history - as those of us who've actually spent a lot of time studying the discipline are fully aware, without feeling the need to tune into the History Channel and other such puerile hosts of overly simplistic oversimplified simpleton fan fic.

IOW, just TYPING 'propaganda" isn't an answer to anything. It's a fact historians have to take into account, among all sorts of factors.

Feud Turgidson said...

Crikey, that 'propaganda' banality almost made me forget Y I returned to this thread - for THIS:

QUESTION: What's the difference between a DICK JOKE and DONALD DRUMPF?

This is an open question, and I fully expect there are many potentially 'correct' answers. To get the ball rolling, I'll open with this classic one, inspired by a scene in The Godfather Part II:

ANSWER: Nothing.

Again: I do not suggest this is the only, or the best, or even a particularly good, answer. I do think it could qualify as a fair start.

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