Post #131: The Final Days of Donald Trump

Heading Into the Second Debate

Until a few weeks ago, historians of the US presidency were fixed on Donald Trump’s meteoric and unpredictable rise.  Now they will have to focus on his meteoric and unpredictable descent.  October 7, 2016 will be remembered as the day Donald Trump effectively lost the election when his contemptuous, disgusting view of women, though well known years ago, came fully into public view with the release of a video that captured his “extremely lewd” (Washington Post) words.  Trump’s retreat—an apology that made the laughable claim that “everyone who knows me” knows he is really not a misogynist—was a charade, since everyone knows Trump never really apologizes.

Now the Republican Party chorus line of Trump supporters is again in a pickle: Do we or don’t we dump Trump?  Can we dump Trump?  (Almost certainly not.)  As of October 9, forty-four Republican members of Congress, governors, and former officials had disavowed their previous endorsement of him, and a few even called for Trump to step down in favor of Mike Pence (who said he felt “offended” by Trump’s remarks but, incredulously, hoped the upcoming debate would “show what is in his heart”).  (For a list of all prominent Republicans who have announced they were dropping their support of Trump since his candidacy began, see www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/29/us/politics/at-least-110-republican-leaders-wont-vote-for-donald-trump-heres-when-they-reached-their-breaking-point.html.)  House speaker Paul Ryan was so “sickened” that he disinvited Trump from a campaign event in Wisconsin; Pence refused to attend in Trump’s place.  But most Republican leaders rolled their eyes and, as on previous occasions when Trump has said stupid, ugly things, continued by their silence to support him.

The second presidential debate thus took on new drama.  Would Hillary Clinton shake Trump’s hand?  (She didn’t when they took the stage, but did at the end.)  Could the town-hall style debate focus meaningfully on any topic other than his attitude toward women?  (It did.)  Would he try to refocus the debate on Bill Clinton’s affairs?  (He tried.)  Pity the moderators.

The Trump video is the second gift he has handed to Hillary Clinton.  The first one was his candidacy: Had the Republicans put anyone other than Trump (or Ted Cruz) up for the presidency, I believe Hillary would have lost the election.  Now the video, a second gift not only because of its damaging contents, but also because it hit the press at exactly the same time as some very damaging WikiLeaks emails that reveal Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street, which paid her very well to reassure bankers and corporate leaders of her support of free trade deals and their self-regulation.  She is recorded making a distinction between her public and private views—and her private views turn out to be anything but progressive. But the Trump video stole the headlines, and was the first topic in the second debate.

 

Notes on the Second Debate

Only by taking into account Trump’s near-impossible situation might we say that he did better than expected.  But in fact he was his usual self: unrepentant, repetitive, and consistently unwilling to give direct answers to questions.  He tried to hold Clinton responsible for just about every problem, from inner-city poverty and crime to chaos in the Middle East and even his ability to use the tax regulations to avoid paying federal taxes.  His best moments were attacking her on the private emails and her unfortunate remark to donors about Trump’s support by “deplorables.”  His worst moments were his dismissal of moderator Anderson Cooper’s question that suggested Trump was guilty of “sexual assault” by insisting the video merely showed “locker room talk” (he used that phrase four times); his baffling shift from the video to boasting that he will “knock the hell out of ISIS”; and his promise that if elected he would appoint a special prosecutor on Clinton’s emails, telling her “You’d be in jail.”

Clinton held her ground when criticized.  She showed poise, patience, and precision, and repeatedly stressed her thirty-plus years of public service, particularly on behalf of women, children, and minorities.  Clinton’s strategy on the infamous video, well advised in my view, was not to “pile on,” though the first question on a president’s “appropriate behavior” did lead her to say—after Trump made his usual proclamation that “nobody has more respect for women”—that the video “represents exactly who he is,” a man who “insults, ranks, and embarrasses women.”

Public and foreign policy issues did get some attention, though nothing new emerged in the well-known positions of the candidates.  Obamacare, immigration, taxes, Syria, the next Supreme Court nominee, and energy were discussed.  Trump did raise eyebrows when he disagreed with Pence, who has urged further US military action in Syria, and when he again defended Russia, suggesting that perhaps no hacking at all had occurred and that Russia and Bashir al-Assad are simply engaged in “killing ISIS.”  (But then Trump said, “I know nothing about Russia,” which is surely correct.)  And when debating energy policy, Trump claimed “EPA is putting the energy companies out of business,” which must be news to Exxon-Mobil et al., whereas Clinton offered a plan for transitioning to clean energy, relying more on natural gas and coal now but focusing on fighting climate change.

Nothing in the second debate suggests a change in the trend to Clinton nationwide.  Trump’s supporters will not flee his sinking ship, but Clinton will probably make further gains among minorities, women, and independents.  His long history of misogyny has caught up with him, and I cannot imagine that anything might happen to change that reality between now and election day.

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5 Comments

  1. Thank you Mel,
    I could not agree with you more. At this point it appears virtually impossible for Mr. Trump to prevail in the November election and I sincerely hope this is true. In private remarks, I wondered how long it might take Trump to concede losing the election and I still wonder.
    It remains clear to me that his only truly loyal supporters are those who often suggest that our country, “Bomb Russia or China or [fill in nation of choice], off the map, when they misbehave.” Our military may be strong, but we do not have the ability or the desire to do that. I cannot imagine allowing Trump within a mile of the ‘little red button,’ that he threatens to use.
    Can you just see a Trump legislative package presented to the Congress? A significant number of GOP members would absent themselves or quietly turn their backs toward him. Judicial nominations achieving Senate confirmation are much the same story. If the current president has had a difficult time having Senate confirmation hearings scheduled, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
    IMO, when election day finally arrives, Clinton may not be everyone’s favorite, but she can do the job. Trump is not up to the task. Period!

    1. Thank you, Craig. Couldn’t agree more. Clinton has many flaws, and as I’ve posted, her foreign policy views, especially on Russia and China, deeply concern me. But Trump is scary; he is not intelligible on foreign or domestic affairs.

  2. Addendum,

    For the first time in 131 posts since 2014, I’ve posted a comment directly to the blog, as opposed to sending a private comment or two via email. In error, I omitted mentioning Trumps recent comments about women and I should have. As truly disgusting as his recently disclosed remarks were, adding yet another reason to NOT vote for the fool is not necessary. As much as I hate to admit it, a very few close friends are Trump supporters. Will their support of the fool change our relationships? Probably not, but stranger things have happened and I may view a few relationships in a different light. Thanks again for 131 excellent posts. I may rarely comment in public or in private, but I always learn something when reading your work. Once a teacher, perhaps always a teacher and we are fortunate to have you -and Jodi – as members of this community. Regards,

    -Craig

  3. Driving south through Northern Maine yesterday I was surprised to see the depth of support for the Trump campaign despite recent revelations. This election should be a walk away and it Is not. Clinton supporters should find no comfort in this. On foreign relations she is seen as far too weak. For example, Does anyone really believe she would enforce a no fly zone against the Russians or engage the Syrian army to stop the coming slaughter in Aleppo? Trumps assessment of the situation there as depressing as it is, is more realistic. It is lost. On domestic relations Clinton is too closely aligned with Wall Street and condescending of everyday Americans. It is not that Trump supporters are all ignorant or that they like Trump, it is just that their confidence in and contempt for the Clintons runs deep. They are not without reason. While supporting Clinton, I too see her as a weak leader and have set the bar low in terms of expectations. I think we are in for a bumpy ride.

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