Gather ye popcorn and cue the entertainment. Donald Trump’s advisers, well aware that Hillary Clinton gave their boss a beatdown for the ages, are leaking profusely to the media, sharing their angst about the clueless man-child in their midst.
Yes, folks, the camp that routinely demonizes the mainstream press is suddenly talking a blue streak to the mainstream press — on background, not for attribution — about the Monday night debate, which advisers privately call a “disaster.” Losers often leak like sieves when a candidate bombs, but the stuff we’re hearing these last 24 hours … suffice it to say that no other candidate in memory has been dissed in such withering terms by his own people.
It’s the old “Don’t blame us, blame him” routine, amped up to 11. But it’s understandable, given the fact that Clinton gutted Trump as if he were a fish on a slab.
I’ll synthesize four mainstream stories — from NBC News, The New York Times, CNN, and the AP — so that you don’t have to. According to “top aides and people close to Trump” and “seven campaign aides and advisers,” they’re “awash in second-guessing … frustration and discouragement.” Trump didn’t do the hard work that was required to effectively confront a seasoned one-on-one debater. For starters, “Trump found it hard to focus … he did not seem to pay attention during the practice sessions,” and when preparing for the next debate on Oct. 9, “keeping him focused will be the challenge.”
(Dare I suggest that the last thing America needs is a commander-in-chief who finds it hard to focus?)
According to his leaking aides, Trump has a tough time taking advice. Here’s my favorite gem: “One ally described Trump as the kind of guy who can’t simply be told a stove is hot — he has to touch it to see for himself.”
(Dare I suggest that the last thing America needs, when the global stove gets hot, is a toddler in a Brioni suit who has to scald himself — and us — before he learns his lesson?)
And the leakers say that he still persists in believing that what worked on the stump during the Republican primaries will work on a debate stage in a general election. Yup, he still thinks that winging it for the wingnuts will make him a winner. Or, “as one source said, Trump doesn’t yet seem to grasp that he needs to expand his base of supporters to bring in new voters who are not yet sold on his temperament.”
Is he willing to listen? To stop winging it? Not likely: “Those in Trump’s orbit said the bottom line is that it’s his ballgame — and no one else can convince him to do an about-face.”
It’s tough to change a guy who dwells on his own planet. At a rally yesterday, Trump boasted that he won the debate by “a landslide.” He was referring to a passel of worthless online surveys that Trumpkins could call up and click on over and over. (Idiot Internet trolls duly cited these surveys.) In truth, all the professionally conducted polls — CNN, Politico/Morning Consult, NBC News/Survey Monkey, YouGov, Echelon Insights, Reuters/Ipsos — all found that the public dubbed him the loser.
I especially loved the other day when the serial liar phoned into Fox News to brag about the post-debate polls and declared: “I won CBS.” No post-debate poll was conducted by CBS.
Yesterday, meanwhile, Trump reportedly told surrogates during a conference call that he’s angry that his aides are leaking to the press. Then, this morning, in a statement to NBC News, he denied that his aides are leaking to the press: “Your sources, if they even exist, are probably sources that have been fired long ago and have no knowledge of what is happening in the campaign. Hard to be unhappy when we are doing so well.”
Is there still time for Trump to recoup, to prepare like a grown-up for a “town hall” debate where he’ll have to face not only Clinton but a live audience of real people who pay their taxes? Theoretically, of course. But only if he miraculously learns how to listen. Reportedly, “the campaign is even contemplating bringing in a professional debate coach.”
That poor bastard. And good luck getting paid.
James Fallows, one of our top presidential debate experts, recently posted a magazine piece that anticipated the Monday night bloodbath. He conjured various scenarios, including this one:
Perhaps Donald Trump will fail in the one way that really matters in debates: by confirming, before people’s eyes, doubts they already had …. It might involve a bullying word or gesture toward Hillary Clinton or toward one of the demographic groups he has criticized. It could involve several of these in sequence, spewed out in a live version of one of Trump’s Twitter outbursts, which would reveal mainly that Hillary Clinton had fully gotten under his skin.
Viewers may get a sense that something like this is in store if Hillary Clinton has the relaxed and even jokey bearing that shows her (and for that matter, practically anyone) at her best …. She might read Trump’s own words back at him verbatim, as she did in her convention speech — the harshest anti-Trump TV ads so far have mainly just been clips of him — showing rather than telling the audience that he should not be considered fit to govern. If all or most of this happens, and if the sound-off image is of a calm, confident Clinton and a fuming Trump, she will have won the debates and moved that much closer to winning the election.
Yes indeed. And last night, on Fox News, the misogynist was still talking about the Alicia Machado’s weight.