“Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.” - Christopher Hitchens
The impending presidential debates are likely to be the best attended in the history of American politics. The viewing and listening audience will set a standard for political discussions past and future. At this point, the draw is Donald Trump. Love him or hate him, Trump is a candidate who packs a house and elevates the ratings.
Whether or not the Trump “draw” translates into votes remains to be seen. Ironically, Trump’s negatives may be the new positive. Those so-called “undecideds,” might be a closet demographic, folks who do not support Trump publicly, but on Election Day will push the button for change anyway.
At this point in the campaign, both candidates represent real choice. Hillary is the establishment, the ancien regime, more of the same if you will. Trump is the parvenu, the rhetorical bomb thrower. The Donald represents change, anxiety, and uncertainty too.
Here Trump has a decided advantage. Call it the enthusiasm gap. Emotion and energy are the important components of any political campaign. Specific issues are, for the most part, window dressing. Most candidates see politics as the art of saying and playing, not doing.
Issues are merely emotional outreach, the hot buttons of cynical voter manipulation. If you can talk-the-talk well enough, you might never have to walk-the-walk.
The great weaknesses of democracy are tenure, inertia, and complacency.
Few candidates feel compelled to deliver on campaign promises anyway, especially reform. American campaigning and governance have now morphed into perpetual spin, a cynical PR ritual. Nonetheless, most aspirants are still expected to make politically correct noises to get nominated, reelected – or elected.
Trump has proven to be the singular exception to this and almost every other bit of conventional wisdom, a quality of uniqueness that is now both an asset and a liability
Prospects are diminished, in any case, for any candidate who fails to touch the emotional G Spot of the electorate. Relative likeability and some sensitivity to the mood and needs of the masses is money in the bank.
With Barack Obama the touchstone was melanin. With Hillary the emotional G Spot is sex, gender, and the usual piñata politics. Hillary Clinton is figuratively flying on her genitals and literally sitting on Obama’s entitlement coattails.
Romney was correct about one thing in the last election; America is now two classes, a decreasing number of makers carrying a growing burden of takers. Alas, establishment Romney couldn’t get away with that kind of Mormon candor wearing a Republican frock.
With Trump, truth is an offensive weapon. Change is his forte. Thus, remaking America is at once a noble objective for the “deplorables” and a subversive threat to the usual suspects. Oddly enough, critics right and left seem to be fueling the Trump phenomenon with brickbats.
Indeed, you could argue today that Donald Trump has trashed every possible stuffed shirt, touched every third rail, and roasted every sacred cow on the political green. Indeed, Trump’s critics are in danger of exhausting all stocks of metaphor and invective.
From the beginning, Trump has been riding towards the Oval Office on a tsunami of righteous indignation. The “system” is thought to be rigged or broken and public sentiment says, “throw the bums out.”
The debates are one last hurdle. As media events, these spectacles are front-loaded for Hillary. The moderators are a rainbow coalition from the American left. There’s nothing “moderate” about Trump’s inquisitors. Lester Holt (NBC) speaks for the black vote. Martha Raddatz (ABC) represents the feminist vote, and of course Anderson Cooper (CNN) represents homosexuals and the socially ambiguous. None of these demographics are sympathetic, or even neutral, about Trump. Chris Wallace (FOX) is supposed to be the red bone, a pink token at best. These debate panels are rigged and Trump needs to make that clear to the viewing audience at the outset. Trump has few sympathizers midst the chattering classes. He can expect a barrage of hostile and/or loaded questions. He would be wise to stay with the tactic that served him so well to date. Offense!
When confronted with leading or hostile questions, Trump needs to confront media spinners as he has done in the past. If he has done nothing else in this campaign, Trump has exposed American journalists as partisan shills. Trashing pundits is a no-lose hedge. The press is about as popular as herpes.
If Trump doesn’t like the question, he might ignore it and introduce a question of his own. Becoming Hillary’s interrogator permits all those questions not likely to be asked by a biased press panel.
Mrs. Clinton avoids press conferences for good reasons. She doesn’t like questions, accountability, or candor -- and she gets rattled or hostile on defense.
Topics likely to keep Clinton in a defensive crouch include: her tolerance of husband Bill’s abuse of women from the statehouse to the White House; the Obamacare fiasco; Veterans’ care incompetence; serial foreign policy failures; the Benghazi betrayal and cover up; the private server and email controversy; subsequent FBI corruption; DNC primary fixing; and Clinton Foundation fraud just to name a few areas where the media will try to give Hillary a pass.
Trump is uniquely qualified to grill Mrs. Clinton. She has a policy and program record to defend. He does not. Trump is only liable for hearsay or those now infamous lip slips. Clinton, in contrast, has real skeletons that have been out of her closet for over a decade.
Trump does not have a horrid family and policy record to defend. In contrast, Hillary’s private and public behavior is literally indefensible. She is especially vulnerable as the putative “feminist.” Recall how Mrs. Clinton demonized Bill’s female victims and conquests. A Clinton “score” was characterized as a “bimbo eruption.”
Mrs. Clinton’s achievement deficits are relevant in every sense of the word. Her personal peccadillos, integrity, judgment, temperament, and character should be the core issues of the forthcoming debates.
Hillary’s contempt for common men and women is now, in her own words, a matter of public record. Less well known are the sentiments of those who have witnessed Clintonian behavior out of the public eye. The few Secret Service testimonials available are unanimous about Hillary Clinton.
She is arrogant, patronizing, condescending, abusive, vulgar, often hysterical, and frequently rude, especially to military and police details. The people sworn to protect the presidential family are usually reticent to discuss their wards. Hillary is the one notable exception.
Secret Service agents consider the Hillary detail to be punishment. She’s that bad.
If there are any institutions that do not look forward to another Clinton regime, it’s the military, the Secret Service, and cops at large. Apparently, Hillary abhors uniforms.
Mrs. Clinton apparently suffers from some kind of multiple personality disorder too, smiling and cackling in public and then morphing into an abusive shrew off camera. There may be a medical explanation for Hillary’s mood swings, but those closest to her believe that the ailment is personality.
Pathology or illness is always fair game, but for any politician, it’s character, or lack of it, that matters most.
G. Murphy Donovan writes about the politics of national security.