Of Tantrums and Teleprompters

Ironic, isn’t it?

We’ve endured eight years of haters excoriating Barack Obama for his use of teleprompters, and a year of repeated tirades by Trump himself. But finally—at long last—on the night of the June 7 California primary, Donald Trump found himself attempting to project legitimacy by—wait for it—reading a speech off a teleprompter.

I’ll set the scene…

It’s the 2016 primary season’s final multiple-state Tuesday night. (Did you notice how they ALL became “Super Tuesday” this time around?) Hillary Clinton has hit Trump all week as unqualified by temperament to be president, not even needing to mention his ignorance of most (if not all) nuances of the office. She has not yet delivered her presumptive-nominee victory speech, declaring a win for both herself and all women.

Bernie Sanders has not yet lost the California presidential primary decisively, and every other state but two. He has not yet refused once more to abandon his now-doomed-for-certain quest.

Donald Trump has spent the week accusing an Indiana-born judge (and by extension the U.S. legal system) of prejudice, and collecting rebukes from the big-name supporters in his own party. Mexican heritage? Muslim? Woman? They would all bend the law to target an oh-so-innocent Trump over his completely legitimate university. Uh-huh.

And so he spends ten-or-so minutes reading a blandly standard speech that someone else wrote for him. Not taking his usual plunges into self-pity. Not lashing out, not even taunting. Just trying to sound presidential. But how does he sound? Ordinary. This I can tell you: as a reader of words off a teleprompter, Donald Trump is no Barack Obama.

Hillary’s victory speech was more thrilling, celebrating the shattering of one glass ceiling (nomination) and looking forward to breaking yet another (the Presidency itself). She found a rhythm that she hadn’t mastered before and didn’t do any shouting that could be used against her. But truth be told, with a microphone she’s no Barack Obama either.

On the other hand, she didn’t seem to be using a teleprompter.

Obama finally chimed in the next day, endorsing her as the most qualified candidate, not just this year but “ever,” which conceptually includes himself. She has more experience than he did in 2008, and the added knowledge that she will get nothing but opposition from all Republicans. Obama imagined different, way back then.

But Hillary has been under vicious conservative fire since 1992, and is still standing. So haters: bring it! Again.

This election is being called a hold-your-nose choice, and I can certainly see that in the way that even evangelicals are ditching their beliefs to support Trump. I don’t hate Hillary like most conservatives and some of my fellow liberals, but I’d vote for her even if I did, just to protect the Supreme Court from another generation of 19th-century jurists.

When you think about the issue of Supreme Court appointments, it becomes believable that Donald Darko assumes the judge on his Trump University case is blinded by race or ideology. That’s exactly the kind of judge a Republican president would appoint to the SCOTUS. It’s also the kind that they imagine Hillary appointing.

What’s truly ironic is how the Right—and now I’m looking at poster boy Mitch McConnell—is so blatantly ignoring Obama’s SCOTUS appointment, a moderate that the President took great pains to select. Merrick Garland is no ideologue, but Antonin Scalia certainly was. The Right no longer considers even a moderate to be acceptable.

It’s clear now that ideology is the new quota yardstick. When black (and liberal) justice Thurgood Marshall retired in 1991, George H.W. Bush appointed black (and deeply conservative) Clarence Thomas. You could easily imagine Republicans chortling in private: “Ha! We found one who’s on our side!”—knowing that because he was black, any case made against his appointment could be easily deflected.

A nasty political battle erupted anyway, over sexual harassment (although the motivation for it really was his ideology). In the end, Thomas won confirmation and his conservatism did indeed flip the Court’s up-to-then more liberal leaning.

Subsequent Republican appointments have sought to cement that conservative slant. John Roberts has been a bit of a surprise—actually thinking for himself—but Samuel Alito fits the knee-jerk ideologue mold perfectly. As does Trump’s concept of prejudiced judges.

I keep reading that Trump is some kind of racist—either casual or unconscious or even thoroughly committed. But I disagree. I’ll argue that Donald the Demagogue’s focus never drifts far enough away from himself to consciously practice racism. He attacks the judge who ruled against him because the man ruled against him, no other reason.

Trump accuses the man of racism because that avenue of attack resonates with so many of his followers. I think it’s the same motivation for any number of Republicans—and I’m looking at Mitch McConnell again—who use racism despite no personal commitment to it. It gets votes.

A hold-your-nose election? Yes, I agree. It’s also going to be plug-your-ears nasty.

Framing is the key, which is not so different from branding, which is why Trump has gotten this far with no demonstrable governing skills. He’s spent his life framing himself as a winner, and his framing of the country’s current state fits in with the image he projects for himself: I will change all of our losses to wins.

And while Trump touts losses (of jobs, pride, and greatness) Clinton attempts to tout how far we’ve come (see: glass ceiling shattered, civil rights advanced), but she can’t win that argument with angry old white men who refuse to look past the end of their shriveled dicks.

Don’t get mad; I’m an aging white man, often angry. I’m allowed to make those jokes.

Trump and the NRA portray gun control as a loss, as indeed it would be if it denies guns to people who cannot pass a basic background check. Clinton has the right approach here, talking about saving children from gun violence. Can it work? Only if that theme gets daily repetition: “The NRA is OK with lunatics murdering children.”

My approach: I’ll agree with gun rights advocates that we should enforce existing laws first. Let’s start with the Second Amendment, for example: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Agreed, let’s not infringe that right. Let’s just regulate it well, with background checks. And as we do with driving, require education courses.

The Dems must frame deportation as a loss: how about a commercial showing Mexican families rounded up and shoved into paddy wagons at gunpoint? How about man-on-the-street interviews asking if businessmen, housewives, construction workers, college students want the low-paying jobs that so many illegal immigrants hold?

Hillary shouldn’t attempt to frame the election as unachievable promises vs. experience. It may be correct, but it barely worked against Bernie Sanders. She’s got to get Divisive Donald back on Twitter with instant return salvos of ill-considered invective. Oh wait, Elizabeth Warren is doing exactly that.

Then there’s the Richard Nixon take-no-prisoners approach. Daily Beast offered their imagined take on Nixon’s advice to Hillary: “Hit the bastard, Ms. Clinton. Then keep doing it until he stops moving. And then hit him a few more times to be sure.”

Clinton should speak directly to Trump’s lizard brain, the unconscious and un-self-aware id that roils beneath the surface of his extraordinarily thin skin, waiting to be unleashed by insults that catch him unprepared. Release the Kraken!

She should be ready to unleash unexpected jabs during a debate, when Trump’s handlers have no opportunity to temper his response. I’m thinking of the way that Texas Democrat Lloyd Bentson took down Dan Quayle during their 1988 Vice Presidential debate (“Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine…you’re no Jack Kennedy.” Watch Bentson’s face as Quayle compares himself to Kennedy. He was delighted to see Quayle play directly into his hands—and oh so ready with the calculated, crushing response.

Not that it won Bentson (and Michael Dukakis) enough votes to win, mind you. That election was after all, for “Reagan’s third term.” But the exchange cost Quayle what little positive reputation he then enjoyed. And he spent the next four years reinforcing the public’s opinion of him as a complete idiot.

I love watching him begin a sentence and get visibly lost just a few words in…

Political Survivor # 44

Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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