By Reed Galen
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Quote by a Smart Person: Quote by a Smart Person: “If you start in the pit of despair with these profane, awful things, even a glimmer of hope or awareness is going to occur that’s much brighter coming from this dark, awful beginning.” Chuck Palahniuk
This week’s speech duel by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump served to frame the narrative for the balance of the campaign. This will not be a campaign about new ideas or fixing the country. This will not be an election about competing visions of the future. This will not be a campaign about discussing our most pressing problems and how to solve them. No, this campaign will be about just how much fire Trump and Clinton can rain down on one another between now and November 8th.
All presidential campaigns are fought in the context of a referendum. If we’re following a two-term president, voters make a judgement on the last eight years, and whether the incumbent party deserves to continue. For first-term presidents, the referendum is on whether they’ve achieved sufficient lift in their first three years to earn a second term from the American people. For Republicans, this was supposed to be the year of the double-whammy. Not just a chance to finally point out the failures of Barack Obama during his presidency, but a chance to drive Hillary Clinton from public service forever. The best laid plans, and all that.
With Trump’s ascendance as GOP nominee, Hillary gets to make the referendum on whether The Donald has the minimum basic skills to run the country. As it looks right now, he doesn’t appear to have the management wherewithal to be the nightshift leader at an Arby’s so she’s ahead of the game already. Donald Trump will help her in this endeavor. As a monomaniac, it is impossible for him to do anything but make everything about him, his words, and actions. Rather than truly having to defend her long record, and numerous questionable judgments, Clinton can now look out to the crowd and basically say, “Hey, at least I’m not that guy.”
Battle of the Unpopular Kids
Imagine if the meanest of the mean girls and the nastiest of the bullies in your high school were running against each other for class president (everything is high school, remember.) No one likes them except their own crowd, although most are awed by their power to command the hallways and parking lots. They get up and they give their speeches and most of the crowd tunes out, hoping for something interesting, mostly thinking about lunch, or not wanting to go to gym, or pretty much anything that will distract from the two jerks on stage telling us how they’re good for us and have our interests at heart when we know very well they’re not and that they think of little else other than themselves.
For a country as divided as we are across so many spectra, this unpopularity should be troubling. One of these people will occupy the White House starting next January. Approximately half the country will believe they absolutely do not belong there, are crooks, and will never support them, regardless of the issue or event. We saw this trend toward the never-will mentality during Bill Clinton’s time in office, saw it grow with the Florida Recount, expand during Bush’s second term and blow clear out of its moorings in 2009 and 2010 as Obamacare passed and Democrats lost Congress. It will not improve with the resolution of this election.
Of the more than 200 million Americans Constitutionally eligible to be President, these were the two we chose.
So Right, About Being Wrong, About So Much
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will win any performance awards for giving speeches via teleprompter. Clinton isn’t a gifted rhetorician to begin with and Trump looks as if he’s had his arms tied behind his back and sock shoved in his mouth as he glances uncomfortably from panel to panel looking for the words.
Their speeches this week were crystallizing moments in 2016. They were extended, opposition-research driven snoozers that served only to lay down enough markers for ad makers and mail vendors to use as we get closer to November. But one thing struck me about both candidates’ presentations: The claims they made about each other were largely right on target and worse, mostly true.
Clinton’s speech was framed as a rebuttal to Trump’s economic agenda, if one can call his inherent ramblings on the subject an “agenda.” She staked out, in painstaking detail with the energy of someone on a Xanax binge, Trump’s statements, restatements and misstatements about the American and the global economy. There is very little to take issue with factually in her speech. The Donald does not seem to have a basic grasp of how the economy works.
She then laid into him for the numerous insulting and misogynist statements her opponent has made about women in the workplace over the years. Again, spot on. He has said those things. When weaving together her narrative, though, when speaking about Trump she damned him for lack of specifics. When speaking of her own agenda, she asked us to refer to the website and fell back on well-worn progressive pabulum — her own rhetorical safe space, as it were.
Trump’s talk, correspondingly, had little of the flourish and flying spittle we’ve come to expect. This is Trump 2.0! If Jeb was low energy, Trump looked to be mainlining Zoloft during his remarks. You can have one or the other folks: You can have the Trump you want — who’s stream of consciousness rants would make Hunter S. Thompson proud or you can have what Trump displayed in Soho — a boring, old, uncomfortable guy, reading somewhat outrageous and inflammatory things off a pane of glass.
His attacks on Clinton — from Benghazi to the Foundation, to her lack of any remotely new ideas are all spot on. Hillary Clinton is all those things. Her public record of questionable acts is long enough that even Trump doesn’t have to do much work to put them up on a platter to make a voter look and say, “No, thanks.”
Their respective tilts at one another reminded all of us what we were afraid of: These are the people we’ve chosen to potentially lead us and they could not be found more wanting. God save the Republic.