- Why Hillary Clinton’s comments were even more painful than Trump’s
- Count on Hillary Clinton running again in 2020
- Hillary Clinton’s unusual ad strategy: show people listening to Donald Trump talk
- How Did Hillary Clinton Screw This Up? For Starters, Her Advertising Was All Wrong
Why Hillary Clinton’s comments were even more painful than Trump’s
By Ruth MarcusRuth Marcus Overseeing Washington Post signed opinion content and writing on domestic politics and policy Deputy editorial page editor October 18, 2018
Between the man who is president and the woman who ran against him, there is, for me, no contest; Hillary Clinton would have been a far better president than Donald Trump. But both Trump and Clinton, in their own trademark ways, stepped in it again this week when it comes to women.
Trump’s comments — describing Stormy Daniels as “Horseface” — are the more offensive if for no other reason than that he is the president, and presidential words carry extra weight. Yet Clinton’s comments — insisting that her husband’s affair with Monica Lewinsky did not constitute an abuse of power because Lewinsky, then 22, “was an adult” — are the more painful because she could have, should have, done better.
Trump played to piggish type with his comment about Daniels, the adult-film actress who was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump. This was not a spur-of-the-moment utterance, it was a tweet about a judge’s ruling in Trump’s favor in a defamation suit filed by Daniels: “Great, now I can go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer,” Trump wrote.
“Horseface” now joins the panoply of Trump’s greatest sexist hits: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?” (Carly Fiorina). “Face of a pig” (Gail Collins). “Fat, ugly face” (Rosie O’Donnell). “Blood coming out of her wherever” (Megyn Kelly). That this is not anywhere near the complete list tells you everything you need to know about Trump’s unrelenting offensiveness.
This far into the administration, it is folly to expect some version of presidential Trump to emerge. Indeed, just two days before “Horseface,” there was Trump on “60 Minutes,” behaving in a way that is more subtle but also more chilling. At one point in the interview, Lesley Stahl recounts Christine Blasey Ford’s searing testimony about the indelible laughter of Brett M. Kavanaugh and his friend. Trump shrugs it off, literally. His shoulders rise. He tilts his head in one direction, then another. “Okay fine,” he says. Whatever.
“I watched you mimic her and thousands of people were laughing at her,” Stahl told Trump. She invited regret; the president responded with unadulterated callousness. “The way now-Justice Kavanaugh was treated has become a big factor in the midterms. Have you seen what’s gone on with the polls?” And, the ultimate in Trumpian instrumentalism: “It doesn’t matter. We won.”
Once we scoffed at Bill Clinton for being the feel-your-pain president. Now we have a president who is only capable of feeling the pain of those who are similarly aggrieved.
Speaking of Bill Clinton, there was his wife on CBS’s “Sunday Morning,” being asked about workplace conduct in the clarifying light of the #MeToo movement. “In retrospect, do you think Bill should’ve resigned in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal?” asked correspondent Tony Dokoupil.
Clinton, without hesitation: “Absolutely not.”
Dokoupil: “It wasn’t an abuse of power?”
Clinton: “No, no.”
Dokoupil: “There are people who look at the incidents of the ’90s and they say, ‘A president of the United States cannot have a consensual relationship with an intern, the power imbalance is too great.’ ”
Clinton, interjecting mid-sentence: “Who was an adult. But let me ask you this: Where’s the investigation of the current incumbent against whom numerous allegations have been made and which he dismisses, denies and ridicules?”
Who was an adult . How can she say that, as if that is relevant in any way? Lewinsky’s technical adulthood is no defense for Bill Clinton’s behavior — in the workplace, as her superior (not to mention president), as a man old enough to be her father. And whatever the reasons for Hillary Clinton’s instinctive defense of her husband’s behavior then, her summary dismissal of it now diminishes her claim to feminism.
Would it not be possible for her to choke out something like: “We’ve all had some time to think about this and, yes, this was unacceptable workplace behavior. I don’t think a president who was elected by the country should have resigned over it, but I also think this conduct was seriously wrong.”
But this is not, it never has been, in Hillary Clinton’s emotional repertoire. She does not cede a millimeter; like Trump, she is allergic to apology. Like Trump, she is prone to whataboutism. If what Bill Clinton did was wrong, why does it matter if what Trump has done is wronger, if indeed it was? Whataboutism is an argument for losers, whichever side deploys it.
And so we are left with this depressing juxtaposition: a president who never hesitates to stoop in demeaning women. And a should’ve-been-president who is a champion for women, except those mistreated by her husband. If Trump never fails to infuriate, Clinton consistently disappoints.
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Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images
I am going to tell you all a fact that many people do not like about me. I am not a very political person. The personal, I have always thought, is something that should be subjected to several bruising rounds of Freudian analysis, while lying on a couch.
However, I do realize that a lot of people are interested in this election. I am no idiot. I have the Facebook.com. Hillary Clinton and the person she’s running against, I forget, just debated each other. Is it hard to debate a large tower of yellowish athletic socks wearing a suit? This is something I would email Hillary if I had her private-server address.
However, despite my lack of engagement in politics, I am very interested in dieting. And female politicians (men can literally be a blob wearing a top hat and a monocle) have to diet. So I am going to try Hillary Clinton’s diet, because blah blah democracy, and you have to participate (God, Facebook. I simply cannot).
It has been reported that Hillary follows a diet invented by Dr. Mark Hyman, the director of functional medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. He wrote a New York Times Best-Selling Book called Eat Fat, Get Thin! (punctuation mine), which I buy, intrigued. Maybe I will eat ice cream every night? That has fat in it.
I also purchase White House Chef, a cookbook by Walter Scheib, the chef who cooked for the Clintons and the Bushes in the White House, as well as Hillary’s own cookbook and hospitality guide, An Invitation to the White House, which she maybe wrote under duress? Who can say??
The basic premise of Eat Fat, Get Thin! is that low-fat diets are contributing to obesity, and instead you need to eat tons of fat to get thin. Unfortunately, Dr. Mark doesn’t mean delicious fat such as fudge, fried chicken, and baked stuffed shrimp. In actuality, he wants you to eat healthy, tasteless fat such as coconut oil, avocados, and animal lard. So you see, not as exciting as you thought!
As I read on, I realize that despite its unique and brilliant title, this diet is pretty restrictive. I start to feel even worse for poor H, whose husband — even though he’s ano now — used to eat Big Macs constantly when he was president. Dr. Mark also wants you to eliminate sugar, gluten, grains, dairy, and most fruits. A typical day looks like this: a smoothie with tons of oil and avocado in it, a salad with an oily fish (such as a sardine) on top of it for lunch, and a duck breast and steamed cauliflower for dinner. It sounds grim, but because of all the fat you will never be hungry, supposedly.
The first day of the diet, I am pretty motivated. I’ve eaten too much pasta this summer and it’s time for a new regime. I have looked at Hillary Clinton online and she is wearing THE most beautiful pantsuit in a shocking color. I am ready to go!
I start the day with a “Bulletproof coffee,” a.k.a. an organic coffee that has grass-fed butter and coconut oil in it. (Side note: I Googled the words “Hillary Clinton” and “Coffee” and one of the first results is a YouTube video entitled “Hillary Clinton Has Seizure? Or Demon Manifestation? Possessed? You Decide!” It is a video of Hillary drinking coffee and then shaking her head, but it’s in slow-motion? It has 134,171 views. Poor H!!!!!!) The Bulletproof coffee tastes a little bit like if you put cream in your coffee, but the cream tasted like Vaseline. Try as I might, I cannot finish it, and the butter congeals in reproach at the bottom of the cup.
By lunchtime, I am starving. I have a packet of fiber dissolved in water (a recommendation from Dr. Mark to curb hunger before meals) and then a piece of salmon with a side of steamed cauliflower. The salmon is tasteless because it is seasoned only with oil — still, I eat the entire thing, and am reminded briefly of a young Hillary’s summer job sliming fish in Alaska (she got fired because she asked too many questions). This sustains me for a brief time, but 90 minutes later I’m starving — way hungrier than I usually am after my typical lunch of toast with butter. I eat some cashews with oil on them for a snack, but am still ravenous. How could I negotiate a diplomatic agreement this way? For dinner, I eat a large slab of chicken and a sweet potato. When I go to bed that night I have an intense dream about eating an Oreo cookie.
Days Two and Three:
It is actually astounding how hungry I am on this diet. It is especially unusual for me because I have dieted many times before and thus hunger doesn’t usually take me by surprise. Hunger doesn’t take Hillary by surprise, either! At one point in her life, (according to her secretary) she “would show up for work with a big bag of lettuce and eat out of it all day.”
But nothing in my life has ever made me as hungry as Eat Fat, Get Thin! Not even eating lettuce out of a bag! And I have actually done that, too. The worst part is that I am eating more calories on this diet than I have ever eaten on a diet. Even after eating two tablespoons of coconut oil as a snack I’m hungry. The math does not make any sense. I’m so tired, too, because I am “detoxing” from sugar. It’s like I’m getting pneumonia but I can’t tell anyone.
To distract myself, I start reading the book Hillary wrote while at gunpoint called An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History. This is a very long picture book about how much Hillary loved decorating the White House and being similar to Dolley Madison, with nothing about her having a brain. It also describes different parties held at the White House and the millennium celebration looks particularly excellent.
I am losing weight, in a dull way that is sapping my will to live. But there are numbers behind it. In the space of three days I have lost three pounds.
Days Four, Five, and Six:
Today, I head out to my friend’s bachelorette party in Las Vegas. The minute I darken the door at an all-you-can-eat buffet at Caesars Palace, my resolve crumbles. I have every different kind of noodle possible. And a mimosa! I gain back all the weight immediately in real time while in Vegas.
While recovering from a hangover on the flight back, I start reading an interesting biography of Hillary by Carl Bernstein called A Woman in Charge. Although sometimes Bernstein will write things like “her ankles were thick” as the reason guys didn’t want to date Hillary in high school, he will also call the Clinton presidency a “boomer romper room.” Here are some of the things I learned about Hillary:
(1) She hated Catcher in the Rye as a teen.
(2) She chaired the Fabian fan club. (With Bernie?)
(3) She’s actually mad religious!
(4) One time, when they were dating long-distance (she was in D.C., he was in Arkansas), Bill had another GF. So then Hillary was just like, Well, you suck, I’m going to sleep with someone in Washington who is obsessed with me. And Bill cried!
(5) She has no sense of design and her apartment with Bill looked like “the lobby of a hotel in an old western movie.”
Days Seven and Eight:
When I get back, I resume Eat Fat, Get Thin! with a vengeance. I have a smoothie that is basically only avocado and lemon juice. I eat a steak even though I hate them. I slowly start losing weight again and I plan a state dinner for my friends from the cookbook White House Chef by Walter Scheib.
Walter liked working for the Clintons even though he constantly had to make tons of food, because Bill was always inviting people over at a moment’s notice to watch the Arkansas Razorbacks on TV. At the time, the Clintons wanted to have food that reflected the country, i.e., was diverse and varied. Sometimes Hillary would call Walter into her chamber and ask him What is jicama? and then request a dossier of information on jicama.
He didn’t like working for the W. Bushes all that much, as they loved aspics, which are gross jellies full of meat. Every day W. would say What’s for lunch? but all he really wanted was a BLT. But if you said to him Do you want a BLT? he would say No.
For my version of Walter’s state dinner, I am going to make the dish he first made for Hillary to impress her: pecan-crusted lamb with morel sauce and red curried sweet potatoes. (He also served lamb and sweet potatoes at France’s state dinner, so this kills two birds with one stone!) I am going to make some kind of ’90s phyllo-dough roasted-red-pepper monstrosity from Hillary’s cookbook, and finish the whole thing up with wine ice cream, which Hillary once said was her favorite dessert when she was a senator from New York. (It just so happens that wine ice cream is only produced in New York, because we are a crazy state.)
The state dinner is very fun. Two of my friends who most remind me of French diplomats attend. Everyone’s reactions are as follows: The lamb is considered “fantastic.” The phyllo-dough thing is “gross.” (But I expected that! Hillary wrote that recipe while being held for ransom!) The sweet potatoes are “a little too sweet.” (Whatever.)
The only thing that was bad was the wine ice cream. I was sad about that because wine ice cream was how I lured my friends to dinner! One of the warning signs re: the ice cream was that my friend looked at the ingredients before we ate it and realized that it was just frozen wine, sugar, and a thickener made out of seaweed. Then we ate it, and that was exactly what it tasted like! Hillary is very loyal to New York, is all I will say.
When it’s all said and done, I really enjoyed my brief foray into the political arena. I lost four pounds, all by eating fat! Once I “detoxed” from sugar I was less tired, but I was still pretty tired. I never stopped wanting to have a bread roll. I know the state dinner would have been better if there had been rolls there. I’m sure my two French heads of state would have appreciated it.
The whole thing did kind of make me feel bad for H. She shakes her head and 134,171 people think she is possessed by a demon? No one even wants to give her credit for the Fabian society. And all day, every day, she is drinking Bulletproof coffee and reading dossiers on arctic char (another dossier she requested) so you don’t have to! Honestly, I would rather be a gladiator in Ancient Rome.
Count on Hillary Clinton running again in 2020
This is beyond odd, but here goes. I rise to defend Hillary Clinton.
She is under attack and this time, the long knives are wielded by members of her own clan. Suddenly, after two years of indulging Clinton’s blame games and pity parties, lefty pundits say she’s talking too much, she’s stuck in the past, she had her chance and she blew it.
Vanity Fair, declaring that she “still hasn’t learned the lessons of #MeToo,” is furious that Clinton said her husband’s Oval Office dalliance with Monica Lewinsky was not an abuse of power because the 22-year-old intern “was an adult.”
Politico flatly declared Clinton a “problem” who won’t go away and fretted that Democrats “don’t know what to do” about her.
A New York Times columnist, noting that Clinton is a font of gaffes and a focus for Republicans, accused her of “moral arrogance” and wrote that “someone needs to perform an intervention.”
The passions are real and the imagery colorful. Imagine an intervention where a pink pussy-hat posse forces Clinton into a van and drives her to a remote cabin in the woods to keep her from talking.
Alas, the motives are suspect. These three writers, all female, are not so much angry at what Clinton is saying as they are over the timing. The gist of their complaint is that she is hogging the spotlight they believe should be trained on Democrats running in the midterms. They’re mad because they fear she’s undercutting the holy war they subscribe to against President Trump.
Intramural feuds are often bloody, but this one is also stupid. Trying to silence Clinton is a lost cause and, even if it succeeded, wouldn’t cure what ails Democrats.
In fact, shutting her up might push the party even deeper into the wilderness.
Implicit in the charge that Clinton is the problem is the assumption that others are the solution. It’s a fair point — until you try to name any Dem who has a better shot at serving as the party’s leader, uniting it around a message and potentially defeating Trump in 2020. After all, that’s the job that is vacant.
So let us run through the parade of likely applicants, starting in the Senate: Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand.
Anybody stand out? While there is political talent, none strikes me as a heavyweight contender who could lead the party and go toe to toe with Trump.
Sanders is running on vapors, Booker is a lightweight who embarrassed himself with the Spartacus shtick and Gillibrand is a do-nothing hack.
As for Warren, CNN, showing its usual tin ear, moved her to the top of the Dem field just before she imploded with her disastrous DNA test. Her silly repetition of the now-disproven claim that she has significant Native American ancestry opens her to endless ridicule and further diminishes her already narrow appeal.
Others advertising their availability include Joe Biden, Eric Holder, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Same question: Does anybody in the group look like a champion in waiting? Not to me and, to judge from the lack of great enthusiasm, not to big funders or hot-shot consultants.
Two others in the thinking-and-hoping stage are New York’s feuding Frick and Frack, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Mayor Putz is term-limited and it looks as if his career has peaked. His image of being lazy, corrupt and incompetent means he’s not an asset to anyone, so he may have to get a real job when he finally leaves City Hall.
As for Cuomo, his mediocre record might get him a third term in deep-blue New York, but it’s not likely to endear him to national Dems. He trusts no one, including himself, which is why he hides from the media, lest he say things like America “was never that great.”
His habit of ducking debates won’t fly in a grueling presidential campaign against numerous competitors, and the rampant corruption on his watch makes him a fat target.
Billionaire Michael Bloomberg is also considering a run, and fellow richie Tom Steyer, whose deep pockets are funding the “Need to Impeach” movement, could be a candidate. Oprah flirted with the idea before saying no, but don’t be surprised if she flirts again.
The list, then, is long, varied and growing — but not compelling. Which is why Clinton, despite her enormous flaws and two presidential defeats, can’t be ruled out as the party’s best hope. God knows she wants it more than anybody else.
It’s also why I have been saying for months that she was keeping her options open and might actually seek a rematch with Trump.
And that was before she and Bill Clinton announced their six-month speaking tour. The gambit is designed to keep her name front and center without having to declare herself a candidate. Her recent phone calls to White House reporters also signal her plan.
So I was not surprised when one of her former aides, Philippe Reines, admitted to Politico that Clinton might run. He cited her fan base, said she was tough enough to go against Trump and could raise the money.
There you have it, the official word that attempts to silence her are doomed. Brace yourself — she’s baaaack!
Harvard’s poison ivy
If nothing else, the trial over whether Harvard discriminates against Asian-American students is revealing the messy ways that top schools decide who gets admitted.
It’s no surprise, for example, that when the question involves legacies, donors’ offspring and athletes, academic merit is often not the deciding factor. Yet most galling is the claim by Harvard’s lawyer that “if it considers race, it is always considered in a positive way.”
That’s sophistry. With a finite number of openings, to consider race as a reason for admitting one student inevitably means shutting out another student, presumably of a different race.
Even an Ivy Leaguer can figure that out.
Behind the bloat
Reader George Merrill asks the $80 billion question. He writes: “Florida and New York have similar-sized populations so you would think the cost of state services would also be similar. However, this is not the case. The Florida budget is $88 billion while New York’s is $168 billion.
“I find the government-provided services in Florida to be excellent. Therefore, it is a mystery to me why New York spends 90 percent more money to provide the same services.
My answer: Waste, fraud and abuse. Everything else is detail.
Stable door’s shut
Nicholas Saridakis wants to answer my question about why President Trump would stoop to call Stormy Daniels “Horseface.”
He writes: “I no longer begrudge Trump his shots at his foes and no longer care about his being ‘presidential.’
“Look where it’s gotten us. The fools who hate Trump can play the dignity game all they want. It no longer matters.”
Kornhaber: The incredible thing he said about Rosie O’Donnell last night was that no one could disagree with him about what he said about her—as if there was a universal standard under which she could be written off completely.
Farrell: Right, and also what was her great crime? It was disagreeing with him. And she’s an outspoken woman who also makes people laugh, which makes her particularly hated. The mockery of him he can’t stand, and so the only response back is to say she’s really like an animal, out of control, ugly, etc.
Kornhaber: The gender double standard is clear, but for many people his hacker comment probably brings to mind a man. I was reading an interview with an Apprentice producer who said that Trump always wanted to keep a fat man on the cast so people could laugh at him. He’s also made fun of Chris Christie’s struggles with weight, right in front of Chris Christie. What does it mean for a man to be making fun of other men’s weight?
Farrell: There have been some interesting cultural analyses that have been done of representations of fat men. The fat man can be the everyman who everyone can identify with and isn’t threatening. Often he’s a humorous character: easy to mock but maybe quite likable, too.
But that also slides into a man who’s perceived as not being sufficiently masculine. Not being sufficiently strong. Not sufficiently male, really. So I think when he mocks other men for being fat, it’s like the alpha male kicking the other men who aren’t as great of a man as he is.
When he said could just be “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds,” we don’t know if he was thinking about a man or a woman. But my sense was that he was imagining a man. I think that was just a statement that he could be some kind of loser who snuck into the DNC because we don’t have the cyber security we were supposed to be having. was a quick way to paint a loser.
Kornhaber: What role has weight played in presidential politics before?
Farrell: Grover Cleveland was really mocked for his weight, Howard Taft was mocked for his weight. I’ve written about the fact that I find it unsurprising that the Obamas have been very concerned about weight because weight is a way to signal being civilized, being the most professional. When Bill Clinton started to gain weight, he was made fun of—that was like, “See, he’s out of control with his weight and his sexuality.”
So weight has certainly played a part before. What’s new is that I don’t have any records of any presidential candidates going around just mocking fat people. Or calling women fat, at least publicly.
When Trump said, “Hillary Clinton doesn’t look presidential”—he denied it then last night—that was actually a really interesting phase, because she doesn’t. We’ve only had male presidents, so when we think of presidents we think of male. She doesn’t look like a man, she looks like a woman. So he was getting to that whole issue of body politics there. Obviously I’m not saying she doesn’t look presidential, but I’m saying body, body weight, body size, skin color, sexuality are all things that have been attributes about whether or not someone is “looking presidential” or not.
Hillary Clinton’s unusual ad strategy: show people listening to Donald Trump talk
The typical negative campaign ad usually features a solemn-voiced narrator telling you how horrible the candidate’s opponent is. Ominous music plays; news clippings fly across the screen. The opponent’s voice is only heard briefly, if at all. The point is to tell you what to think.
But throughout this general election campaign, Hillary Clinton’s team has embraced a very different and unusual strategy. Many of her ads just play clips of Donald Trump speaking, as people watch in silence. For the most part, viewers are left to come to their own conclusions about what Trump is saying, rather than being explicitly told what to think.
Here’s the newest version, an ad called “Mirrors,” released this week, in which young women look at themselves in mirrors while various sexist comments Trump has made in the past play:
And an earlier ad, called “Role Models,” showed even younger children watching Trump make various offensive or disturbing statements on television:
It’s rare for a candidate to effectively hand over the mic to her opponent for an entire ad spot, but apparently it tests well. And Trump has inarguably provided a lot of material for Clinton to use.
Furthermore, the ad reflects a larger strategic choice by Clinton to emphasize Trump’s negative personal traits rather than attempting to tie him to the Republican Party or Republican ideology. This is part of an effort to pry married white college graduates, many of whom might ordinarily lean Republican on the issues, away from Trump because of his style and temperament.
Indeed, Ruby Cramer and BuzzFeed News reported this week that around May, the Clinton team decided to change its messaging to emphasize Trump’s personal traits rather than partisanship or ideology. The strategy appears to be paying off for Clinton, if not for Democrats in general, as Clinton tends to run several points ahead of Democratic Senate candidates in most competitive states.
It’s unclear how much credit Clinton’s message, rather than the basic facts about Trump, deserves for that, though. But as Matt Yglesias reminds us, Clinton and her team are likely saving their most devastating attack ads on Trump for later in the campaign season.
How Did Hillary Clinton Screw This Up? For Starters, Her Advertising Was All Wrong
So where did Hillary Clinton go wrong? Other than, well, being Hillary Clinton — a widely disliked and distrusted candidate?
Ad Age Editor Ken Wheaton just asked me if I thought Donald Trump’s triumph is about “traditional advertising and millions in spending being useless.”
My short answer: Actually, no.
My longer answer is that, while Donald Trump obviously benefited from an unprecedented level of free media coverage, which convinced him for much of the race that he didn’t need to waste money on ads, in the end Team Trump did plow a ton of money into advertising — and it cunningly, strategically outperformed tone-deaf Team Clinton.
To put that another way, Clinton badly screwed up her ad game.
Given that I’ve spent the last 38 weeks, along with Ad Age Datacenter’s Kevin Brown, deeply immersed in presidential campaign TV and radio ad spending data for AdAge.com’s every-Friday Campaign Ad Scorecard reports (here’s the most recent edition), I have some strong opinions about this. In fact, two months ago, in a cover story for Ad Age titled “Yes He Can? Here’s How Trump Could Win,” I suggested that the Clinton campaign’s use of its vast ad budget to hammer away at Trump for being, basically, an asshole, was then already running out of steam.
I specifically cited one of the Clinton camp’s most praised — and most heavily budgeted — ads, titled “Role Models,” which showed innocent little children watching Donald Trump say nasty things on TV, before serving up a tagline: “Our children are watching. What example will we set for them?” As I wrote in September,
What the Clinton campaign seems to forget is that Donald Trump announced his candidacy a long time ago (June 16, 2015) and he’s said hundreds of outrageous things since then, and we’re all used to it by now. We’re inoculated to it. Spending money to try to crank up the outrage machine over Outrageous Donald is probably not going to move the needle at this point. And, again, there’s a condescension factor at play (are you saying I’m a bad parent if I support Donald Trump?!).
It seemed like every ad that Clinton and her allies released in the ensuing months was simply a variation on the theme that Donald Trump is a big jerk. In fact, as recently as Sunday, Clinton’s campaign released a video titled “10 minutes of Donald Trump demeaning, objectifying, and insulting women.”
Whereas Trump’s campaign released dead-simple, exceedingly traditional ads related to Big Issues. In Trump’s first TV commercial of the general election, a narrator declared that “In Hillary Clinton’s America, the system stays rigged against Americans. Syrian refugees flood in. Illegal immigrants convicted of committing crimes get to stay, collecting Social Security benefits, skipping the line….” In contrast, “Donald Trump’s America is secure. Terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out. The border secure. Our families safe….”
A follow-up commercial in the same mold about the economy declared that “In Hillary Clinton’s America, the middle class gets crushed, spending goes up, taxes go up, hundreds of thousands of jobs disappear. It’s more of the same, but worse. In Donald Trump’s America, working families get tax relief, millions of new jobs created, wages go up, small businesses thrive. The American dream, achievable. Change that makes America great again.”
The way I saw it, Trump the candidate may have been erratic, but Trump the advertiser was all about highly effective (for its target audience) message discipline — whereas Clinton’s message discipline was basically, Trump is awful. And I’m your only hope. And, Sorry (kinda) about that private email server.
The irony is that the Clinton camp actually did have highly detailed plans of attack regarding the economy, ISIS and more — in contrast to Trump’s silly, empty “I alone can fix it”-style declarations. But, again, the Clinton campaign put all its advertising and messaging eggs in one basket — one, ahem, deplorable basket — creating a Clinton-branding vacuum that Trump and his allies were more than happy to fill with relentless messaging about her corruption.
In September, I suggested that Trump was “conserving cash for an October all-out attack-ad blowout against ‘Crooked Hillary.’ Because, why wouldn’t he? Clinton is giving Trump all the ammunition he needs. Those ads, like Hillary’s Donald-is-a-big-crazy-meanie ads, are going to write themselves.”
That, of course, is exactly what happened — except it became more of an October-plus-early-November blitz, and FBI Director James Comey showed up at the 11th hour to pour gasoline on the smoldering “Crooked Hillary” narrative.
Take a look at this rather stunning Trump ad released on Nov. 3:
Clinton, hyperfocused on pointing out the obvious — that Trump is crude and unpredictable — let Trump define who she is to millions of voters.
One more thing: The Clinton campaign’s condescension backfired badly — the “basket of deplorables” revolted against her. Hillary Clinton not only misread white, working-class America, she misread American pop culture, how many real Americans think and talk, and why many real Americans embrace antiheroes.
I thought about this recently in a Dunkin’ Donuts that I frequent near my apartment in Manhattan — one of the few non-precious places to grab a cup of coffee left in my mostly gentrified downtown neighborhood. It’s a place where, over the past several months, I’ve had random political conversations with blue-collar workers (including, just last week, a non-union steelworker in town to help erect a luxury hotel) who would never step into a Blue Bottle artisanal coffee shop, let alone a Starbucks.
I’ve also overheard all kinds of random conversations there regarding the presidential election. One recent line that sticks out: “I fucking love Donald Trump,” which was stated all loud and proud by a burly thirtysomething who was sitting at a table drinking coffee and eating donuts with two other men and a woman a few weeks back.
He said that in response to the woman who had just said how “gross” and “rude” Trump is; it was obvious that he was declaring that he fucking loves Trump precisely because he is gross and rude. Because Donald Trump is the embodiment of the American ego and the id circa 2016 for large swaths of the country.
In a way, Hillary Clinton’s campaign was a big “fuck you” to guys like him, in its scolding, schoolmarmish insistence that there was something wrong with you if you could like a guy like Donald Trump.
Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.