Monday, October 10, 2016

GOP Split Widens; Trump Debate Fallout

Bill's expression pretty much sums it up
It was a chilly 46 degrees outside this morning here in central New Jersey when I got up at 6:30 to grind some beans for coffee, the frosty fall weather was a stark contrast to the surreal landscape of the heated second presidential debate last night in St. Louis, Missouri.

A landscape where Donald Trump once again seemed to exist in some kind of parallel universe based on his bizarre perception of reality.

Who won the debate last night largely depends on who you're supporting and who you ask; but there's little question who came off as genuine presidential material.

With post-debate opinion polls and television ratings still being tabulated last night, Fox News quickly declared Trump the winner, despite his unhinged and often rambling performance where he seemed to randomly throw just about anything in his arsenal at Hillary Clinton; hoping something would stick that would overshadow the toxic press generated by the release of his 2005 Access Hollywood conversation with Billy Bush last Friday.

Like CNN, the Washington Post declared Clinton the winner for reasons that were pretty clear for anyone who watched or listened to Trump trying to out-Trump himself.

From my vantage point listening to the debate on NPR, Donald Trump's decision to use a relentless, hyper-aggressive attack strategy against Hillary Clinton ended up backfiring on him; particularly given his desperate need to try overcome the perception among many women that he's a crude, insensitive misogynist.

Billy Bush & Trump torpedoing his 2016 presidential bid
On that count he failed miserably.

The Donald's desperate attempt to try and deflect global attention away from the massive public backlash against the vulgar comments he made about using his "star power" to grope unsuspecting women simply ended up reinforcing the tape.

His overbearing bully mentality was on full display as he petulantly badgered both of the moderators of the event, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz, and continually interrupted Clinton during her efforts to answer - almost as if he was confirming the widely held perception of his contempt for women.

Throughout the event I followed some real-time reactions to the debate on Twitter and there were numerous comments about how Trump seemed to almost physically stalk Clinton around the debate stage; shadowing her movements and at times physically hulking over in a way that was somewhat predatory and creepy.

Trump's efforts to relentlessly attack Clinton on issues like foreign policy only served to reveal how little he understands about diplomacy, military strategy and global political affairs.

At one point, in an effort to deflect Clinton's accusation that his bizarre infatuation with Russian President Vladimir Putin stems from the fact that both he and members of his campaign personally benefit financially with ties to Russia through business interests, Trump retorted dismissively that  (in true Sgt. Schultz fashion) "I know nothing about Russia."

Before quickly contradicting himself by adding, "I know about Russia, but I don't know about the inner workings of Russia."

This guy lies so effortlessly and habitually that he sometimes trips himself up.

ABC's Martha Raddatz proved deft as co-moderator
In a particularly heated exchange when Martha Raddatz repeatedly tried to nail Trump down on what his strategy would be to resolve the crisis in Syria by reminding him that his running mate Mike Pence had advocated the use of American military forces, Trump shot back:

"He and I haven't spoken and I disagree."

Directly contradicting one's own vice-presidential candidate in front of a televised audience of over 60 million people less than a month before the election?

Probably not a good sign for a campaign, nor was displaying a petty child-like resentment over the fact that Pence justifiably chastised Trump on Saturday over the lewd comments from the video.

As reported early this morning, the open tension between the two running mates was underscored by Pence's decision to cancel a fundraising appearance that was scheduled for today in front of the Ocean County Republican Organization in Tom's River, NJ.

Paul Ryan to Trump: You're fired!
The growing and palpable tension within the highest ranks of Trump's campaign wasn't limited to his running mate either.

On Sunday RNC Chair Reince Priebus, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and NJ Governor Chris Christie all canceled scheduled appearances on the Sunday morning network news talk shows.

Leaving loyal attack dog Rudy Giuliani to fill in and embarrass himself by trying to spin Trump's bragging about sexual assault as playful "locker room banter."

But there's arguably no bigger sign of the epic split within the Republican party than House Speaker Paul Ryan's announcement this morning via private conference call that he will no longer make any campaign appearances to support Trump and will instead turn the focus of the party establishment towards protecting the GOP majority in the House for the upcoming November elections.

He stopped short of telling Republicans not to vote for Trump, but he effectively wrote off Trump's chances to win and shrewdly committed to making a series of nationwide campaign stops to support Republican Congressional races; a last-ditch effort to sever Trump's toxic reputation from the party establishment before he costs the GOP majorities in both the House and the Senate.

In doing so Ryan kept his own 2020 presidential ambitions alive while simultaneously cutting Trump off from campaign funding from the party's major donors; many of whom have long since turned their spigots of cash towards tight Senate races in places like New Hampshire.

So if a presidential candidate has had a crappier four weeks in his life in the history of American politics, I'm not sure what it is.

Two consecutive nationally-televised debate losses, a moronic petty Twitter feud with a former Miss Universe contestant whom he fat-shamed when she was only eighteen, the revelation that he hasn't paid federal taxes in at least eighteen years, and the release of the 2005 tape of him bragging about sexual assault.

Oh, and earlier this morning Trump's Taj Mahal Casino finally closed in Atlantic City after 26 years, sadly resulting in over 3,000 people loosing their jobs; Trump once bragged that it was the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

So much for his "genius" as a businessman.

As my friend Geoff the Economist text'd me earlier today: "Well at least we don't have to worry about having to call Donald Trump Mr. President."

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