I was Wrong about the First Debate

Upon watching Monday’s debate, I didn’t think that there was anything specific from the interchange that was going to have substantial legs for the press to dwell on into the next week (and least not of the type the Trump helped generate from the Republican convention). However, I totally underestimated the degree to which Trump would be willing to make Alicia Machado a week-long news story.  I noted his initial willingness to double-down on the topic on Tuesday, but was still surprised to see how willing Trump was to keep the story alive, culminating in his early morning tweets on Friday (via the NYT):  As America Sleeps, Donald Trump Seethes on Twitter

The tweets started around 3:20 a.m. on Friday. Inside Trump Tower, a restless figure stirred in the predawn darkness, nursing his grievances and grabbing a device that often lands him in hot water.

On his Android phone, Donald J. Trump began to tap out bursts of digital fury: He mocked Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe and a popular Latin American actress, as a “con,” the “worst” and “disgusting.”

In a final flourish, before the sun came up, the Republican presidential nominee claimed — without offering any evidence — that she had appeared in a “sex tape.”

While this particular set of self-destructive activities is not quite as bad as his multi-day attacks on the Khan family, they are just another example as to why his line about his temperament resulted in spontaneous laughter on Monday night.

The bizarre thing (well, one of the bizarre things) about this whole scenario is that Trump needs to bolster his position with Latinos and with women, but his impulse is for petty attacks rather than for pursing his own long-term self-interest (yes, nothing new, but something that it worth continually point out).

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Quick Takes, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Hal_10000 says:

    This is exactly why Clinton raised the Machado thing at the end of the debate, when he didn’t have a lot of time left to respond. She, or someone on her staff, knows that Trump can not let anything go. By hitting him with it late, she set him up to have a meltdown. And Trump quickly obliged.

    The thing about Trump is that he’s a bully. You could see that in “The Apprentice”. He’s used to getting his own way and bossing people around. And he’s very thin-skinned when anyone pushes back. This is a terrible personality trait for someone in government. And now we’re seeing it again. You can argue that a model who puts on 50 lbs is not doing her job. Fine. But Trump bullied her, humiliated her, degraded her, drove her to an eating disorder. Bullying behavior. And now that she’s hitting back, with the eager help of the Democrats, he can not stand it.

    It will be interesting to see how Trump responds in the next two debates. He’s been patting himself on the back all week for not bringing up Bill’s affairs (as if not being a jerk is praise-worthy). I don’t think he’ll let it go a second time. And I’m sure Clinton has had a response ready since Labor Day.

  2. @Hal_10000:

    This is exactly why Clinton raised the Machado thing at the end of the debate, when he didn’t have a lot of time left to respond. She, or someone on her staff, knows that Trump can not let anything go. By hitting him with it late, she set him up to have a meltdown. And Trump quickly obliged.

    While on the one hand I am not truly surprised, I have to admit to some level of wonder that the man is this stupid as to take the bait.

    But yes, there were a number of such traps laid for him throughout the debate and Clinton scored on this one.

    The whole thing is just incredible.

  3. M. Bouffant says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I have to admit to some level of wonder that the man is this stupid as to take the bait.

    I don’t think “stupid” is the right word here. It’s more an indication of psychological issues than intelligence.

  4. Scott says:

    @M. Bouffant: My thoughts exactly. What is wrong with this guy?

  5. @M. Bouffant: There is clearly something wrong.

  6. Ratufa says:

    The usual amateur psychiatrist diagnosis of Trump is that he has narcissistic personality disorder.

  7. @Ratufa: From a layman’s POV, this seems reasonable. I try and avoid too much pop psychology and hence my inelegant usage of “stupid” for lack of a better term.

  8. Andre Kenji says:

    Hillary gave a rope to him,] and he hanged himself.

  9. Mister Bluster says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:..lack of a better term.
    My thesaurus has a plethora of better terms for stupid

    unintelligent, ignorant, dense, foolish, dull-witted, slow, simpleminded, vacuous, vapid, idiotic, imbecilic, imbecile, obtuse, doltish; informal thick, dim, dimwitted, dumb, dopey, dozy, moronic, cretinous, pea-brained, halfwitted, soft in the head, brain-dead, boneheaded, thickheaded, wooden-headed, muttonheaded, daft.

    Not to say that any of them apply to Citizen Trump.

  10. stonetools says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I don’t think he’ll let it go a second time. And I’m sure Clinton has had a response ready since Labor Day.

    It’s going to be a thing of beauty when Clinton unleashes that haymaker sometime early in the second debate, which is when Trump will launch his attack.

    Really, do you want a President who is so predictable in his lack of self control that you can set up these simple traps for him to fall into? Sadly, it appears 40 per cent of the country does.

  11. Mikey says:

    If anyone else was fortunate enough to have seen last night’s SNL cold open with Alec Baldwin’s hilarious send-up of Trump, one of the best moments was Baldwin launching into a Trump-style rant while on the other side of the split-screen Kate McKinnon (who does a great Hillary) was pantomiming reeling in a fish. It was just so perfectly representative of what actually happened.

    Right before that, the moderator tells her “You have two minutes to respond” and she replies, “that’s OK, he can have my two.”

    Watch the whole thing… https://youtu.be/BgLoB-42oSE

  12. gVOR08 says:

    but his impulse is for petty attacks rather than for pursing his own long-term self-interest (yes, nothing new, but something that it worth continually point out).

    That, to me, is the big takeaway. He has a right to defend himself, but do we really want someone as prez who has a history of defending things stupidly?

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: Do we really want someone in the presidency who can be so easily manipulated by (deep breath) Clinton, the Democratic party, Putin, the Chinese, the Mexicans, the North Koreans, the Iranians, the Israelis, everyone else in the Mideast, anyone who posts on the internet….

    Have I missed anyone?

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    @Mikey:..
    Apparently the Green Beans and the Libertines sabotaged that clip. Here’s one that worked this AM.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-nQGBZQrtT0

  15. al-Alameda says:

    Trump just can’t help himself.

    He’s remarkably thin-skinned; he cannot resist lashing back and attacking people over any, that’s right … any, perceived slight or criticism. A person could say to him, ‘you know, that tie doesn’t quite go with that shirt and suit’ and he’d probably berate that person.