Normally my posts have some sort of quantitative angle, but you will not find a single number in this little diversion.
As you might imagine from the title, this article is about Donald Trump. If the article had a subtitle, it might be “How to Destroy a Favorable News Cycle Without Really Trying.”
This has been the worst week of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. There was the excellent news that the FBI was not recommending prosecution for her “excessive carelessness” in managing her emails, to be sure. But it was sandwiched and perhaps overshadowed by her husband’s spontaneous and compromising visit with Attorney General Loretta Lynch (forcing Lynch to more or less recuse herself from the case); by FBI Director James Comey’s rather brutal assessment of Hillary Clinton’s judgment, making it clear that “no indictment” was a borderline call; and by the outraged GOP hierarchy’s denouncement of the verdict, and hauling Comey up to Capitol Hill for a day of testimony on what prompted it.
The playbook GOP response to this juicy torrent of appalling Clinton news would have been thus: first, the candidate should issue a standard denunciation of Clinton’s behavior, a press release quoting Comey at length; second, continue to denounce Clinton’s judgment and trustworthiness in the course of standard stump speeches; and third, and most importantly, get out of the way -- take extreme care not to make any new news that might interrupt the news cycle, squeezing out as many days of negative coverage of Clinton as possible.
Trump did issue the standard press release (and a few tweets to boot), and did attack Clinton while on the road…but as for strategy #3 (“get out of the way”)…well, you can’t make this stuff up. Far from getting out of the way, Trump, unable to restrain his narcissistic ways, proceeded to create competing story lines:
- He decided to bring back a troubling issue of his own making…the use of the Son of David star on an anti-Hillary graphic that had labelled her as corrupt. At first, after the complaints about the anti-Semitic inference began, the campaign turned the star into a circle and claimed no malicious intent, and the issue wound down. But on Wednesday – the day after Comey issued his recommendation, and while still in the full-swing of that news cycle – Trump reopened it, by saying that the campaign should NOT have removed the star, noting that Disney used the star in a rather innocuous promotion for the movie “Frozen.” (On top of the inanity of reopening this issue, the analogy was insane.)
- Then, on Thursday, he met with several GOP Senators with the intent of smoothing relations with them and, perhaps, even emerging with an endorsement or two. But the meeting devolved into a shouting match with Trump denouncing two attendees, Senators Sasse of Kansas and Flake of Arizona. In ripping into Flake, he said pointedly that he would ensure that Flake lost his re-election bid this year. Flake was incredulous, not at the threat, but with Trump’s obvious ignorance – Flake is not even up for re-election in 2016.
- Having twice offered competing headlines to drown out the aftermath of the Hillary news, Trump then outdid even himself. Many of us awoke this morning to this rather confounding headline: “Would Trump Quit After Winning the Election? He Doesn’t Rule it Out.” Yes, Trump was apparently asked this question – the thought has been floating around certain circles that he just might do this, having been sated by the win and having no real thirst for the actual governance that goes along with it. And Trump’s response? “I’ll let you know how I feel about it after it happens.” This sent the media scurrying to the rule book, to see what would happen if it happened. And on and on.
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