Friday, May 27, 2016

How should Hillary Clinton...

...campaign against Donald Trump? That's a good question, and if I knew the answer I'd be an extremely well-paid political adviser.

We all watched the Republicans flail about against the Donald in the primaries. Most of his early targets, like Jeb "low energy" Bush, tried to take the high road. It didn't work. Then "Little" Marco Rubio, for example, got down in the gutter with Trump by attacking the size of his hands. That didn't work either. Ted Cruz may have had the best strategy of all: he embraced Trump until the race became pretty much mano a mano. If you'll recall, though, on the day of the Indiana primary in which Trump crushed "Lyin' Ted," the New York tycoon suggested that Cruz's father was somehow connected to the Kennedy assassination. The Texas senator suspended his campaign that evening.

As Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, said:

If you imagine politics as a stick fight, all other stick fights have been won by a person with a stick. But here was Trump who said, ‘I read the rules and there’s nothing against bringing a flamethrower.’ 

(That was from a very interesting piece in Slate, "They Totally Knew: The People Who Foresaw the Rise of Donald Trump," and probably the best description I've heard yet of the Republican race.)

So, again, how do you fight a guy who brings a flamethrower to a stick fight? Or, more specifically, how do you answer charges about Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs, Vince Foster's suicide, Whitewater, and whatever else the Donald chooses to dominate the news cycle on any given day and throw Hillary off her message?

Well, Ramesh Ponnuru, writing in Bloomberg, "How Clinton Can Demolish Trump," says:

Her most powerful message against Trump might be a non-ideological one: His lack of knowledge, seriousness and impulse control make him too dangerous to put in the presidency.

My guess is that Clinton and her advisers will reach the same conclusion, and make Trump’s unfitness for the presidency the central message of her campaign. Her real meaning will not be explicitly spelled out, but will be unmistakable nonetheless: You may not like either of us, but you should fear him.

Since the blog you're reading right now is free, here's some advice for Mrs. Clinton that may very well be worth the price I'm charging. But, hey, opinions are like you-know-whats -- everybody's got one. So here's mine.

Every time Trump brings up some non-issue from the '90s and forces reporters to ask Mrs. Clinton about it, I'd have her answer their queries with a question of her own. For example:

"Mrs. Clinton, Donald Trump is talking about Monica Lewinsky. How do you respond?"

"I have a question for Mr. Trump: how exactly do you intend to deport 11 million Americans?" And then I would have her cite reasons from this piece in the Times on how utterly unrealistic that would be.

Next day:

"Mrs. Clinton, Donald Trump is talking about Vince Foster. How do you respond?"

"I have a question for Mr. Trump: tell us more about that wall with Mexico you plan on building." And then I would have her cite some of the reasons from that same piece on how impractical that whole idea is.

Next day:

"Mrs. Clinton, Donald Trump is talking about Whitewater. How do you respond?"

"I have a question for Mr. Trump: tell us more about your plan to prevent all Muslims from entering the United States." And then go on to explain how ridiculous that would be.

In other words, every time Trump tries to capture the news cycle by putting Mrs. Clinton on the defensive with some stupid charge I would advise her not to even answer him, but instead throw one of his own loopy proposals right back at him with some facts on how crazy it would be. If there's one thing everyone can agree on (even his supporters, I suspect), it's that Trump is a complete ignoramus on policy who has gotten a free pass so far from the media, his Republican opponents and almost everyone else. I'd hammer him on how clueless he is and therefore utterly unfit for the office.

For now, the math favors Mrs. Clinton. But that flamethrower of Mr. Trump's worries me. Time to take it out of his hands.

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