Monday, August 1, 2016

On Trump's Failed Pivot to Normalcy

Stephen Hayes on Donald Trump's failed pivot to normalcy in 2016 General Election campaign

As the 2016 Republican Presidential Primaries drew towards a close and Donald Trump (R-NY) had the nomination locked up, his new campaign manager Paul Manafort promised that Trump 2.0 would be more serious and his image would change.

Well, it's after the balloon drop at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, and the song remains the same. Trump continues to eschew party unity by denigrating his fellow Republicans, steps on his own message by doubling down on bizarre conspiracy theories about his opponent's families and wantonly alienates important voter segments by viciously counter-punching at every perceived slight.

Continually Smearing Cruz 

Fox News panelist and Weekly Standard writer Stephen Hayes chronicled several of the general election missteps in the immediate aftermath of the RNC in CLE.  It is mind boggling that after a smooth convention in Cleveland that stressed party unity that Trump used a press conference the next day to revive the rumor that Senator Ted Cruz's father Rafael was involved in the conspiracies around the assassination of JFK in 1963 because it was published in the National Enquirer.

So instead of capitalizing on the image of GOP unity or putting forth a focused general election campaign message, people chattered about this crazy conspiracy talk.  That stepped on his message. Now Trump may have wanted Cruz to acquiesce and kiss the ring (before he held the news conference saying that he didn't want the endorsement) but to use this tact to disparage Cruz's political future was stupid and leaned towards the loony.

Cruz supporters did not appreciate attacks on the leading Republican challenger. Going against Cruz for perceived sins of the father seems scummy. And to use a questionable National Enquirer photo expose shows that he's not serious. Trump may have been trying to forgo a challenge to re-election in 2020 but first he need to be elected. In the event that Trump is successful in November, he will need every vote in the Senate to have his Supreme Court nominations approved. Alienating a legislative ally is not smart.

The Wrath of Khan

{L] Ghazala and [R] Kzir Khan at DNC in Philadelphi 

Another Trump faux pas was continued attacks against the parents of a Gold Star family who lost their son in 2004 who spoke against him at the DNC in Philadelphia. Rather than respect the sharp critique of Khazi Khan who's son was sacrificed in preserving America's liberty, Trump went after the family. First, Trump questioned why the Pakistani immigrant's wife was silence, giving a dog whistle to those wanting a Muslim ban.  Then Trump questioned if Kahn was giving the speech.  Trump surrogate Roger Stone suggested that Khan may be part of the  Muslim Brotherhood.  That would be a neat trick for a Pakistani family to join an Egyptian based organization. When Mr. Kahn appeared on morning television shows, Trump live tweeted that it was all about Islamic Terrorism.

Thus Trump slanders the family and conflates Muslim with Islamist terrorists.  Pro-tip: If you are going to sympathetic foes, have the good sense to leave it to your surrogates. And reign in your attack dogs to not be too outrageous in their indictments. In Trump parlance: Get smart.

So Trump revived the racist perception of the Muslim ban, displays what can be interpreted as religious bigotry about propriety of women speaking, conflates Muslim with terrorism and seems to denigrate the sacrifice of the Khan's son in pursuit of scoring political points.

Many people have taken verbal pot shots at former President George W. Bush's War in Iraq.  Grieving mother turned political activist Cindy Sheehen would often give the 43rd President an earful for the mess in Mesopotamia. But Bush would grieve with the families, silently take their verjuice and then make policy without attacking Gold Star families.

With Trump's continued attacks on the Khans, Gold Star Family organizations are clamoring for an apology from Trump.  Thus Trump's thin-skin and instinct to always attack is alienating a segment of voters who would be likely to support him.  Considering the way that Trump was booed by crowds in Denver after Trump denigrated General John Allen (who also spoke at the DNC) as a loser, maybe Trump doesn't think that he needs the military vote anyways.

Many establishment Republicans and anti-Hillary activists are trying to convince principled conservatives to give in and vote to Trump, because the alternative is so much worse.  Maybe. But Trump is not making it easy to make that Hobson's choice. Trump continues to act impulsively, engaging his mouth before his brain, picking stupid fights and then doubling down, pursuing a short term strategy for momentary ratings. These are not hallmarks of leadership in America.

Stephen Hayes was spot on about Trump's failed pivot to normalcy. It is unbecoming of a leader. No wonder Hillary Clinton's campaign will now focus on how Trump is unfit for leading America.  Now that the GOP nominated him, they are going to have to spend the next hundred days trying to minimize the damage from unpredictable, impolitic and sometimes untenable ejaculations from their nominee. Good luck.

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