The only suspense remaining after last night’s presidential debate is the margin of the Hillary victory. As Nate Silver put it: Trump was down ten and just threw a pick-six.
Silver meant that Trump the quarterback just threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.
Of course, it’s not over until her corpulence sings, but it’s not too late to point out that Trump is losing because of unforced errors and not, dare I say, because the media have conspired to do him in. This is not to say that the media have not been biased beyond anything we have seen, but the American people, in their wisdom, know media bias when they see it. They might be influenced, but they are not persuaded by a biased media.
Amusingly, at a time when no one reads newspapers anymore and when people spend more time oversharing on Facebook than they do studying election issues, we are now being told that the vast media conspiracy has done in Trump.
And we have it on the authority of he of the ever-cloudier crystal ball. That would be “mighty prophet” and “seer blest” Scott Adams, cartoonist recycled into a soothsayer. See also this.
A few days ago Adams wrote:
Here I pause to remind new readers of this blog that I’m a trained hypnotist and a student of persuasion in all its forms. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to learn the tricks for discerning illusion from reality. And I’m here to tell you that if you are afraid that Donald Trump is a racist/sexist clown with a dangerous temperament, you have been brainwashed by the best group of brainwashers in the business right now: Team Clinton.
Happily, Adams is always ready to remind us of his credentials as a soothsayer. Unfortunately, he is wrong. Not because the Clinton team has not been trying its darndest to define the Donald as some kind of bigot. But because that is not the salient point. It’s not about what they have been saying about Trump, but about Trump’s failure to make the case for his candidacy. And about his covering up the failure by chomping on whatever chum the Clintons have thrown in the water.
The American people are not morons. If Trump loses the election, the reason will not be because he is a sexist pig. The reason will lie in the fact that he demonstrated in the first presidential debate that he is unprepared to assume the office of the presidency. Hillary’s remark about preparation was the coup de grace for the Trump campaign.
Trump did not know enough to make the case for himself or against Hillary. So in the days after the debate he pivoted to the question of his dispute about a former Miss Universe. The less he talked about issues the more the nation concluded that he was not prepared.
Even when he showed in the second debate that he had boned up on some of his material, he used the aftermath to harp on the charges that different women were bringing against him. The truth is, even if those charges were all false, Trump’s statement to Billy Bush was on video tape. When he asserted last night, for the umpteenth time, that he respects women more than anyone else his protestation rang hollow.
Rather than listen the dubious messages coming from his gut, he would have done better to have read some Shakespeare. He would have understood the meaning of the phrase: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
In truth, Trump could not let it go. He was sinking his own campaign, and refusing to listen even to Roger Ailes. Thus, Ailes let Trump go. The only real chance he had at rehabilitating his campaign went off to his country place. And Trump was done.
He was done for being incapable of taking advice, even from the best people. Why hire the best people when you are unable to listen to them? Did Trump, by failing to follow advice that had been given by the best people, announce to the world that if he were the president he would ignore the best people and let his gut do the talking.
The charge of bigotry stuck because Trump would not talk about anything else. The problem was not that he was being tarred by the Clintons. The problem was that by taking the bait, he was showing that he had paper-thin skin and was unprepared to make the case against the Clintons, to make the case against Obama, and to present himself as someone who was ready to take on the job.
It was not so much that Trump got slandered. It was that his constantly harping on those issues made him look like a reality show impresario and not a presidential candidate.
Scott Adams should stop trying to hypnotize the nation and to show the American people a little respect.
For the most part Trump did not do a terrible job last night. For the most part Hillary sounded shrill and mean-spirited. But, as he is wont to do, Trump saved her when he fell into conspiracy-theory mode and announced that he would not commit to accepting the results of the election. He said he wanted to keep everyone in suspense.
One notes that every other senior Republican, from Mike Pence on down, has said the opposite. One notes that the last time a Republican really was robbed of an election—Richard Nixon’s loss in Illinois in 1960—the sainted Nixon chose not to fight the results because he did not want to destroy the people’s faith in the democratic process.
Anyway, this morning everyone is saying that Trump threw it away with his remark about keeping people in suspense. In so doing he repudiated his political party and was effectively standing alone—perhaps as a martyr to his own cause, perhaps as a leader who no longer had any followers. At the least, it was an unforced error, one that gave weight to the slanders that had been directed against him.
This morning The Wall Street Journal editorialized about the debate. No friend of Trump, the Journal editorial page has certainly not been a Hillary supporter:
Mr. Trump’s biggest mistake was his refusal to say he would accept the election results if he loses. “I will look at it at the time,” Mr. Trump said in reply to Mr. Wallace. Asked again by Fox News’ Mr. Wallace—by far the best moderator of this election year with his focus on substance—Mr. Trump made it worse by saying “I will keep you in suspense, okay?”
That again is Mr. Trump’s ego talking, a man who doesn’t like to lose refusing to take responsibility for his campaign. Voters on the right and left want to have faith in the electoral system. Mr. Trump’s statement makes us wonder if Mr. Trump and adviser Steve Bannon are planning to blame everyone else if he does lose. It’s true that Al Gore tried to steal the 2000 election from George W. Bush until the Supreme Court finally intervened, but that is not an example any Republican should want to follow.
The hard reality of this campaign is that it was set up for a Republican victory. A divided and unhappy country wants to move in a new direction. Even Mr. Trump, after all his mistakes, had essentially tied the race before the first debate. Win or lose in three weeks, the result will be one that he has earned.
Humility, in a leader, involves being able to take responsibility for defeat. Trump is more of an entertainer than a leader.
For those who would like more detail, Holman Jenkins provides it in a column on the same page:
Mr. Trump lacks message discipline. Instead of scattershot claims that the race is being manipulated, wild conspiracy theories about ballot box-stuffing, which both parties and Americans of decency and goodwill strongly refute, he might be focusing laser-like on the “rigged” argument that nobody can confidently refute.
That’s the argument that Hillary Clinton is her party’s nominee and on her way to the White House only because the Obama administration decided to waive the law on handling classified material—and the FBI went along—in order to assure that its designated heiress would succeed to the presidency.
I will tell you one other reason why he said it. He must have thought that it had entertainment value. He must have thought that it would keep his name in the papers. After all, the Donald thinks that he is the king of all media and that his judgment are infallible. And he thinks that all publicity is good publicity.
For lack of message discipline and for lack of the ability to set out the details, Trump has missed an opportunity to attack the true Clinton scandal. With a new Wikileaks revelation every day Trump could have spent his time on the campaign trail or in television interviews exposing the perfidy of the Obama administration and the Clinton team. He preferred to talk about women’s bodies. Roger Ailes was so exasperated that he quit. And Roger Ailes, as you know, was not a saint.
The appeal of “rigged” is obvious. It’s an argument that can continue to be prosecuted on-air after Election Day. Mr. Trump need not, as losing candidates do, concede defeat and disappear. His son-in-law, we’re told by the Financial Times this week, has already reached out to an investment banker about starting a Trump TV network after the election.
America, you’ve been played.
If today’s Democratic campaign were being fought against a generic Republican without Mr. Trump’s distinct qualities and history, here’s what would dominate the news:
Mrs. Clinton was verbally convicted by the FBI chief for mishandling classified information yet somehow not formally charged.
Her aides were allowed to cut curious deals with FBI investigators that effectively swept under the rug any possible charges against them for obstruction or evidence tampering.
Those same aides have been revealed, through email leaks, to have freely mixed public and private interests, including their own and Clinton private interests, in the performance of jobs that, in some cases, saw them receiving salaries from the Clinton Foundation or the Clinton family even as they also worked for the taxpayer at the State Department.
The State Department itself, during Mrs. Clinton’s time as secretary, operated as an extension of the Clinton Foundation when it came to handling the requests and advancing the interests of important Clinton Foundation donors, some of which were foreign governments.
The latest email leak, likely at the hands of Russian hackers, shows the State Department negotiating with the FBI over the classification status of Mrs. Clinton’s private emails in search of reducing her legal jeopardy.
The flaw in the Trump campaign was simply that the candidate went with his gut. He did not take advice. He did not prepare. He did not look presidential. He did not control his temper. He let fly. Look where it has gotten him. Look where it has gotten the Republican Party.
When he wrote his book about the art of the deal, Trump advised people to make deals based on their gut instincts. It was bad advice then. It is destroying his candidacy now.
Many a time have I, for one, advised people that going with your gut is pure folly. It is one of those dumb ideas—like leaning in—that comes to be accepted as a higher truth, as an infallible pathway to success. It isn’t. Time to get over it and to get over oneself.