Thursday, June 23, 2016


Donald Trump's speech yesterday got some good reviews. Slate's Michelle Goldberg wrote,
Donald Trump’s Wednesday morning speech about Hillary Clinton’s record is probably the most unnervingly effective one he has ever given. In a momentary display of discipline, he read from a teleprompter with virtually no ad-libbing, avoiding digs at Bill Clinton’s infidelity or conspiracy theories about Vince Foster’s suicide.... Trump spoke for 40 minutes without saying anything overtly sexist. Instead, he aimed straight at Clinton’s most-serious weaknesses, describing her as a venal tool of the establishment. “Hillary Clinton gave China millions of our best jobs and effectively let China completely rebuild itself,” he said. “In return, Hillary Clinton got rich!” He added, “She gets rich making you poor,” and called her possibly “the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency.”

The point is not that this is true; as political analyst David Gergen said on CNN, the speech was slanderous. But the lies in the speech ... were not obviously self-refuting.
NPr's Mara Liasson had this to say:
Donald Trump did what Republicans have begged their presidential candidate to do for months -- lay out the case, from A to Z, against Hillary Clinton.

... the political significance of the speech is undeniable. After wasting the first six weeks of his time as the presumptive nominee of the GOP -- getting sidetracked almost daily by petty personal feuds and provocative statements -- Trump finally laid out a case against Clinton on foreign and domestic policy.

This speech should quiet some of the angst inside Republican circles about the quality of the campaign Trump is running (or not running). Opposition to the Clintons is one of the strongest strands in the GOP's DNA -- and now that decades-long animus seems to have found a focused champion in Donald Trump.
Josh Marshall's gloss on the speech was titled "For Trump, Almost Normal." Marshall thinks the prompter reined Trump in -- at least temporarily:
So what is it about this speech? The answer is pretty obvious: Trump was using a TelePrompTer, which is to say it wasn't him talking. In fact, pretty much all of Trumps TelePrompTer speeches have been this way. They're kind of plodding. They're clearly not him. But they're also not crazy, which given who we're talking about is not nothing. As I've argued, this is Trump's singular liability in this campaign. People think he's too erratic, crazy, belligerent, unhinged - pick your adjective - to be president. Relatedly, there are whole classes of citizens who think they're at best second class citizens in his eyes - women, Hispanics, blacks, basically anybody who's not a white man.
What has me mildly worried is the fact that the speech had zingers in it that were within the pale. The speech, although it had its share of slanderous lies, wasn't profoundly offensive -- yet it must have been a satisfying attack for Trump. If Trump can continue to find this sort of campaigning satisfying -- doling out scripted zingers that don't shock people but still sting -- he might abandon the all-id-all-the-time approach that put him on course to be the most hated presidential nominee ever.

Marshall has his doubts:
Personally, I think Trump has likely done himself too much damage to be able to overcome these [negative] impressions, which lets be clear, are entirely accurate impressions. Trump is a mercurial and emotional unstable racist and misogynist who is also a pathological liar.

... you have to wait 24 hours to have any idea how a Trump speech went. Why? Because once Trump is cut loose from the TelePrompTer ball and chain, he'll inevitably go on Hannity or O'Reilly and say something totally insane.

... Trump will always be Trump. I have no doubt he'll be back to being Trump very soon.
But maybe, if there's just enough invective in the prepared speeches, he'll abandon his free-form rants at rallies. Maybe his Lewandowski-less team will keep him off Twitter and limit his cable news phone-ins. He'll still be a racist know-nothing. But he'll be somewhat more dangerous as a candidate because he'll seem somewhat less dangerous as a potential president.

Meanwhile, Brian Beutler of The New Republic writes this about Hillary Clinton:
Clinton world is worried about Republicans dumping Donald Trump. Or perhaps that Trump will exit the race voluntarily before the GOP convention. In an otherwise straightforward article about Hillary Clinton’s running-mate selection process, Politico buries this fascinating lede.
The selection process, however, is colored by new uncertainty among Democratic donors and Clinton allies who are no longer convinced that Donald Trump is sure to be the GOP nominee. A big advantage of holding their convention second, Democrats said, was being able to make a final pick with full knowledge of the GOP ticket.
I read this to imply a couple things. First, Clinton will have an heir and a spare in mind: Her ideal running mate to announce should Trump officially secure the GOP nomination, and a more defensive pick should Republicans somehow deny it to him. Second, and relatedly, we’re unlikely to know who her running mate will be until late July.
A somewhat tamed, prompter-reading Trump probably won't have to worry about a challenge at the convention. So Trump may have found the formula that secures the nomination for him. Or maybe he'll cut loose again and the nomination will be at risk again.

The Politico story says that Virginia senator Tim Kaine is Clinton's top VP pick. Kaine boring and temperate and not a passionate progressive. Maybe that's what Clinton wants in a running mate most of all. Or maybe it's what she thinks matches up best against a ticket headed by Donald Trump. Against Trump, boring is good. If you're boring, maybe you look like the adult in the room when Trump is going off half-cocked. Maybe you look sane in a debate with a crazy Trump running mate -- Newt Gingrich, for instance.

So perhaps, as Beutler argues, Clinton would pick someone else if faced with a different opponent. But what if the ticket is a slightly tamed Trump plus a not-crazy-seeming running mate? (Though I don't know who fits that description -- Jeff Sessions?) Is Kaine the person Clinton would want? I don't know. But we'll see how this plays out.


AllieG said...

I find the idea that Trump can be robotized a la Rubio a very remote possibility. 1. He has to live with his past words, which aren't going away. 2. He will have to confront Clinton face to face in the debates and simply being challenged by, let alone bested by, a woman is liable to lead to his all time freak out.

Unknown said...

Never bet against Trump acting like an asshole.

AllieG said...

I forgot one thing. More news will happen during the campaign, no matter how much we wish it wouldn't, and Trump will lose it over said news. Remember, the teleprompter Clinton attack deal was supposed to be earlier, but Orlando intervened. What'd happen if Trump pal Putin does something awful before November 8?

Victor said...

tRUMP will open his ferret-toupee'd mouth every chance he gets.
He'll go off-script often.

'The boy ken't hep hisself!'

And yeah, he will absolutely freak-out in a debate with Hillary.
That's all he's got!
He knows nothing, and she, well... pretty much knows everything - foreign and domestic.
If you can't top knowledge, you try to trump it with hysteria!

Never Ben Better said...

The punditry may still be chattering about the speech, but the Democratic sit-in over gun control pushed it way down off the front page, blunting its impact.

And I agree with others here, Trump can't keep himself from going off script into unhinged rants. He just can't.

CH said...

The interesting precursor to today's Politico story re Kaine's rising VP stock was Monday's (IIRC) Politico story by Ben Smith re HRC getting warned off a Warren pick by unidentified Wall Streeter(s), threatening to cut off contributions in the event of EW's selection. I of course have no idea how much substance, if any, there was to that story; I can only observe that before the Wall Street story, the general tone of politichatter seemed to rate EW's chances as fairly high, and since then she's been increasingly viewed as unlikely.

Danp said...

If Republican voters wanted Teleprompter Trump, they would have voted for someone else. They didn't. They voted for Asshole Trump because he is one of them.

sdhays said...

For a man who's basically only response to Hillary Clinton calling him a racist, bigoted, misogynistic, lying, mentally incompetent moron who is unfit to be President was to mock her for reading from a teleprompter, somehow I think that simply being called "Teleprompter Trump" in the media will either be pretty damaging in itself or at least will end Trump's use of the teleprompter.

jsrtheta said...

@AllieG: I am not so sure there will be debates. Assuming Trump hangs around long enough to be nominated, I wouldn't be surprised if Trump just refuses to debate.

@CH: I haven't seen any sign that Wall Street controls Hillary. But I doubt that Warren will be picked for a classically political and cautious reason - Clinton may well believe that running an all-girl band will be a bridge too far. Rather, she will pick an ambitious but also lackluster male.

Steve M. said...

Trump will debate. He still thinks the outcome of any debate will be what it was in the Republican primaries -- that he'll do a terrible job but afterward all the voters will say that he won.

AllieG said...

I agree with Steve. I just can't imagine Trump putting himself in a position where he could be called a coward by a mere girl.

Steve M. said...

Absolutely right.

Never Ben Better said...

My fevered fantasy for the debates: That Clinton will get him so enraged he'll lose it completely, try to physically alpha-male her to the point of invading her space so threateningly that the Secret Service will take him down, right there on stage in front of all the world.

And muss his hair.

Never Ben Better said...

And Clinton, not the least bit intimidated, will laugh derisively.

jsrtheta said...

@Steve M, @AllieG: I agree the odds right now favor it. But that's just right now. And I think the sort "Macho Man won't back down" theory you espouse may be a little too pat, and possibly irrelevant.

First, he's not the only one now making decisions. If he reverts to form consistently, then I would agree with you. If, as I suspect, the family pressure becomes the dominant force, then I wouldn't.

Second, I can easily visualize Trump refusing to debate on the ground that Clinton is so corrupt and unqualified that he won't dignify her by appearing on the same stage with her. I have no trouble seeing that at all. Don't forget, Trump has never hesitated to walk away from something he thinks is a losing proposition in the past. He simply blames everyone else involved for ruining his great idea, and boogies. It will be quite easy for him to refuse, and no one can make him.

Of course, that's if he even stays in. Now that it's been made plain to him that he will not be able to use the campaign coffers as his personal slush fund, he might split anyway. Yes, he's raised some money this week, but how much more will he raise? If this starts looking like it will cost him a lot personally, he'll bail or, at best, run a token campaign on the RNC dime. He doesn't have, and never did, the resources to "self fund." That was always a lie. (Except until he was told he could not pay himself back for funds he "lent" the campaign.) He doesn't have the liquid funds to do it, and certainly no bank will help him. At best he would have to sell of some assets, and his family will not tolerate that.

Just ask Corey Lewandowski. Oh wait, we can't.