Trump Being Trump: General Election Style (Week 20)

Week 20 was an extremely busy one with many moving parts. Donald Trump won the week, but it also demonstrated his numerous weaknesses attempting to bubble up to the surface. He needs to be extremely careful in steering away from them.

Aggressive Iran

The week began with Iran showing signs of aggression against American airplanes. As I’ve said multiple times now (almost seemingly every week at this point), any sign of Iranian intransigence will help Donald Trump because the Obama administration invested so much political capital in the deal with Iran. Iran won’t be enough to win this election, but it’s just a little more tar for Trump to use.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Sick Hillary

After her 9/11 collapse, Hillary Clinton took most of the week off to recover from “pneumonia.” During that time, she and her family only provided more fodder for the fact that this wasn’t, in fact, pneumonia, and that she’s sicker than that, by virtue that this has happened before, among other things.

Ever heard of the fourth law of power (always say less than necessary)? Apparently the Clintons haven’t.

But I suppose this doesn’t compare to the potential fact that Hillary Clinton was poisoned by those dastardly Russians, for real. And I thought The Donald was the one that “trafficked in conspiracy theories.”

Result (for Trump): Decisive Victory

Fire With Fire

Last week, the media tried like hell to minimize the fallout from Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment by using it in a persuasive way – as a presuppositional question. As mentioned in the second chapter of Stumped, presuppositional questions give you vast power over the people you seek to influence because they basically force the human mind to implicitly accept what you want it to believe. So in this case, asking someone if your supporter is “deplorable” implicitly forces you to accept the legitimacy of the “basket of deplorables” comment and operate within its frame. This was done early in the week with Mike Pence, who disavowed David Duke but refused to call him “deplorable,” and that was all that mattered. Gleefully, Hillary’s side on social media lit up.

And then the next day, Mike Pence turned it around. His time with Donald Trump must have rubbed off well on him, because he used the perfect counterattack that Mike Cernovich often talks about – when subject to an SJW attack, draw attention to what you want to draw it to, not what they want. Mike Pence did just that, turning the attack around to asking if Hillary Clinton will call her various supporters like the Islamist father of the Orlando shooter Omar Mateen “deplorable.” This defused the attack instantly, and showed the way forward. If you have to disown your worst elements, so do your opponents. This was a one-way street from the left for decades, and now finally with the Trump campaign, the right is getting the picture. This incident by itself was relatively neutral, but for the purposes of long-term persuasion, it was a win.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Crooked Kerry?

Last week, information came to light that corruption at the State Department might not have been limited to Hillary Clinton. John Kerry’s daughter leads a “nonprofit foundation” that appears to have received funds from the State Department. While this revelation was quickly overtaken by other news from the week, it’s just one more piece of confirmation bias that the entire apparatus is corrupt and needs to be toppled.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Childcare vs. Frogs

In the middle of the week, while Hillary Clinton’s campaign was ranting about evil cartoon frogs, Donald and Ivanka Trump rolled out a…dare we say, “progressive” childcare plan in the pivotal state of Pennsylvania.

Ivanka is always great to have around, and the policy was quite specific. This essentially allowed Donald Trump to own the issue of families and children while Hillary Clinton’s campaign was appearing more and more delusional in her illness. I have a feeling that when you ask which candidate has a real childcare plan, people will now say “Trump.” Space dominated, and not in a divisive way that creates controversy, but in a unifying way that looks great for all Americans. So Hillary’s side is now stuck with arguing facts instead of using rhetoric, and facts are far less useful.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Trump Foundation

Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York, launched a probe into the Trump Foundation last week. I’m familiar with Schneiderman in my line of work, and he has a penchant of doing things for publicity or partisanship. But most people don’t know that, and in any case, it’s a negative story for the media to focus attention on. It won’t be enough to stop Donald Trump because the crook Trump beats the crook Hillary, but it’s still a stumbling point.

Result (for Trump): Defeat

Wikileaks Strikes Again

At the same time, the best friend of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, Wikileaks, struck again with a new email dump. A particular topic of focus was Colin Powell, who said bad things about both candidates. Aside from calling Donald Trump a “national disgrace, (something we’re used to at this point)” he said he preferred not to vote for Hillary Clinton if he didn’t have to, saying that “she kind of screws everything up with hubris.” He said that Bill Clinton was still “dicking bimbos.” It was also leaked that the Clintons refer to President Obama as “that man” in an email which revealed that Hillary “might not make it” and that she views the presidency as “the prize she’s wanted.”

It also came to light that big donors to the Clinton Foundation received ambassadorships in line with their contributions, which isn’t entirely new, but it still looks quite…crooked.

Drip drip. Drip drip.

Result (for Trump): Victory

No One For Her

If you want to see how in-demand someone really is, don’t pay attention to the polls. Rather, pay attention to how much that candidate sells. Numerous people have mentioned that the political candidate that sells the most merchandise is usually the one that wins (check Google Trends for a quick rundown). Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine released a book called “Stronger Together,” appropriately enough. But…the book couldn’t reach the mark of 3,000 copies sold in its LAUNCH WEEK. There were a lot more people than that just at Trump Tower for the Crippled America launch last year. I should know, because I was one of them.

I know how hard it can be to sell books, but for a person as well-known as Hillary Clinton, much less a presidential candidate with the entire establishment behind her, this is utterly embarrassing. I can’t emphasize that enough. It goes to show you just how little support or enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton there really is. This fact was also on display last week when Bernie Sanders, who often drew crowds of well over 10,000 people wherever he went in the primaries, couldn’t even draw 200 in Ohio and not much better than that at a university, which should be his most fertile ground of all.

As some smart disqus commenter said in response, “no one wants a shit sandwich no matter who sells it.”

Bernie Sanders Ohio 150 people Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders Kent State University Ohio

Result (for Trump): Decisive Victory

Trump Cut Off

Continuing his outreach efforts, Donald Trump visited a church in Flint, Michigan. When he talked about his opponent, the pastor cut him off. He was measured and respectful in his response, but said she was “nervous” the next day, which we know is Trump-speak for a linguistic kill shot. This was the first warning sign of the week for me, and it was the tale of two Trumps in one incident.

Result (for Trump): Neutral

The Dr. Oz Appearance

Last week, Donald and Ivanka Trump appeared on the Dr. Oz show. It was a brilliant appearance on multiple levels.

  1. It kept Hillary Clinton’s health in the spotlight without ever attacking her directly. The clear contrast did the job on its own. Dr. Oz praised Donald Trump’s health records, showing what our unconscious minds are already telling us – he’s in extraordinary condition for his age while his opponent looks like she won’t make it to the end.
  2. Dr. Oz’s primary audience is women, particularly stay-at-home moms. He is trusted by them. The social proof Donald Trump built up with this key demographic shouldn’t be underestimated. Him and Ivanka laying out the childcare plan again was a clear benefit being communicated to that group with the seeming endorsement of someone that group trusts.
  3. Used his humor to deflect negativity such as his “comments toward women.” He remarked that he’d have been boring if he thought he was going to run, but that he’s just a guy that likes to have fun with his friends. This could be projection bias on my part, but I think most Americans now realize that the Year Zero revolutionaries in our midst have been trying to remove fun from everyday life in the name of political correctness, so this could be key. Ivanka also backed him up, which is always good.

The Border

Last week, it was revealed that DHS is sitting on a report apparently mentioning that far more people are crossing the border than generally thought.

What’s the response to this? Build the wall.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Thieving Hillary?

Hillary Clinton’s campaign has come under fire from Wells Fargo’s fraud department for overcharging small donors.

Drip drip.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Fat-Shaming Left

The political left is usually the faction that decries “fat shaming.” But this week, Harry Reid did it, seeming to suggest the finality of the “brand reversal” that Scott Adams was talking about.

Result (for Trump): Victory

Media Gets Trolled to The End of the Universe

As I’ve been saying for months, the fear factor is the absolute best play that Team Hillary has against Donald Trump. They need to keep him in the role of the lunatic in this grand drama of a play. If they cannot, they will lose.

But Donald Trump’s conduct over the past month is very quickly evaporating that character. As the final act of this play is close to dawning, Trump’s character is looking more and more like a blowhard that, despite his penchant for shooting from the hip, generally has good intentions.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton’s character is just looking more and more crooked with a steady stream of new information to trigger confirmation bias week in and week out, and now looking sicker and sicker too, culminating in her 9/11 collapse (talk about bad timing). She’s also now looking more like a blowhard, because while she’s calling 20% of the electorate deplorables and gets trolled into talking about cartoon frogs, Donald Trump is rolling out policies that appear presidential. This is the role reversal Scott Adams has been talking about.

In addition to that, her twitter account has basically taken to talking to itself. And well, posting this…

In short, she’s running out of bullets, and you can see how terrified her side is becoming. If you can’t, you are hypnotized.

So the media brought back an old controversy over the past few days, the “birther” thing, whose profile Donald Trump raised. Hillary and her team demanded an apology! They wanted to know if Trump thinks that Obama was born in the United States!

So, he puts out a press release. Originally, I thought this was, despite its tactical brilliance, an operational mistake, because he affirmed the media’s frame, talking about what his opponents wanted to talk about instead of what he wanted to.

Then he said he was making a “major announcement.” It was quickly apparent he would be talking about the “birther” thing, just like Hillary’s side wanted. I thought he was making a major mistake.

But, at the opening of his new hotel in Washington D.C., he brought out a whole slew of veterans. He started off by hugging two Medal of Honor recipients. I knew immediately that he was taking advantage of the primacy bias of memory and was likely using the tactics in Robert Cialdini’s new book Pre-Suasion (I haven’t read it yet so I can’t confirm for sure). But it got better than that.

The whole thing was basically 30 minutes of veterans, American warrior heroes, and national security experts lauding Trump, giving him strong as hell social proof. Meanwhile, as this was all going on, CNN had the “TRUMP TO ADDRESS BIRTHER CLAIMS” headline on the bottom of the screen. I nearly fell out of my chair laughing.

At the end of the conference, Trump repeated what he said in his earlier press release – saying that the rumors started with Hillary (dragging her into the mud), gave the media what they wanted to hear by saying Obama was born in the United States, and ended it.

What you saw was a master class in trolling. Trump trolled the media into thinking he would finally grovel and “address the controversy that he has to address.” He sort of did, but your memories of this event are going to be irrevocably wrapped into the veterans, heroes, and military personnel giving Trump their support. In short, he did it on his terms, not theirs, and the resultant butthurt was a nuclear shockwave.

But there’s another dimension to this as well. Trump gave them what they wanted. They wanted him to confirm, for a long time now, that Obama was born in the United States. So now they have it, but as Scott Adams predicted, the talking heads exploded again into cognitive dissonance. Immediately, they began to say things like “it was only two sentences!” My laughter only grew.

In short, he gave the media what they wanted all the while building up social proof. Now the media are going to make themselves look like idiots by trying to dissect and disagree with him doing what they said they wanted him to do. They’ve already started. Cognitive dissonance is on overdrive.

Also look for the claims about the Ted Cruz “birther” issues last winter to pop up, as Scott Adams just blogged. The strongest persuasion factor with the whole “birther” thing was that it’s somehow racist. But he used the same tactics with Ted Cruz. The cognitive dissonance there is that he claimed Ted Cruz was born in Canada, which your head-movie may tell you is an uncivil thing to say, but it doesn’t tell you it was “racist.”

Watch for these two things to clash with each other so fiercely that they’ll explode in a nuclear fireball.

In short, Trump built up his social proof, took one more bullet out of Hillary Clinton’s dwindling magazine, put Hillary Clinton on the defensive with the “birther” claims instead of him, and promoted his new hotel all at the same time. The trolling was so masterful that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is putting out his own press releases that associate her with “birtherism” in their own email blasts while trying to defend her!

The birther issue is dead now.

Result (for Trump): Decisive Victory

A Tale of Two Tonights

Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton appeared on the Tonight Show. The results were like…night and day.

Result (for Trump): Decisive Victory

A Key Endorsement

Last week, the Fraternal Order of Police, one of the largest law enforcement organizations in the country, endorsed Donald Trump. If you’ve read Stumped, you know my skepticism toward these kinds of endorsements since they often follow rather than dictate polls, but in terms of narrative warfare, this was a clear marker.

Result (for Trump): Victory

“See What Happens to Her”

At a rally last week in Miami, Donald Trump made his first major gaffe in a month, saying that Hillary Clinton’s Secret Service detail should disarm themselves the way that she wants to disarm Americans, and then “see what happens to her.” Obviously he was trying to highlight the supposed hypocrisy of Hillary Clinton benefiting from armed security while “she wants to prevent the American people from defending themselves” (or so the standard argument goes), but the media took the least charitable interpretation and tried to twist it into “a call for violence.”

Donald Trump needs to be careful. His opponents have little left to use against him but the bullets that he himself gives them. This was an unnecessary gift for no gain. Less is more at this point.

Donald Trump Miami see what happens to her Les Deplorables
This backdrop was persuasive as hell, though.

Result (for Trump): Defeat

Twitter Feuds

Donald Trump went back to twitter feuds, however lightly, last week, feuding with Robert Gates and Maureen Dowd. On the one hand, you have a “respected” foreign policy figure and on the other a rag columnist. This won’t do much by itself, but it was an unnecessary distraction. The damage of all of these incidents was limited by the events that rounded out the last week.

Result (for Trump): Defeat

Syria Gets Hot in the Cold

Arguably, this was the biggest and yet most under-reported news of the week. A tepid truce has been negotiated in Syria between the Russian-backed Assad government and American-backed “rebels.” But after the truce, American planes, claiming to have been targeting ISIS positions, attacked a Syrian government outpost, which seemed to have allowed ISIS to overrun the position. This prompted Russia to call an emergency UN meeting, raising the specter that is more or less a barely-concealed secret – the United States government is backing ISIS.

Meanwhile, American soldiers were lampooned and humiliated by their supposed “rebel” allies that the US government has been arming for years.

Syria really hasn’t gotten the attention it deserves in this election, barring the flood of migrants from the country. It’s a proxy war between the United States and Russia that is far hotter, more compact, brutal, and ultimately dangerous than any seen in the Cold War. Donald Trump, for all his bluster, is in fact advocating a coherent foreign policy based on realism. Syria is simply not a vital strategic interest for the United States in the way it is for Russia, and many have remarked that it is beyond foolish to take so many risks in treating it as such. Perhaps he stumbled onto it, or perhaps not, but Donald Trump is currently the only realistic path to ending the Syrian conflict, through a rapproachment with Russia. Hillary Clinton will only continue it, and it is far from out of the question that she’ll escalate it to extremely dangerous levels like trying to impose a no fly zone, which would necessitate shooting down Russian planes.

It’s just a guess at this point, but I think people understand that Donald Trump is better on this issue. No one outside the beltway wants to escalate tensions with Russia or cares about Assad. This would be a magnificent issue for him to hammer her on in the debates – war vs. peace.

Result (for Trump): Inconclusive (but implicitly more favorable to him than her – it depends on what he does with it)

Weekend of Terror

The week ended with a series of terrorist attacks on American soil. Fortunately, no one was killed. Several bombs went off in Seaside, New Jersey. Hours later, an explosion in a dumpster went off in Chelsea in New York City, followed by the NYPD finding another device a few blocks away that resembled a pressure cooker bomb (of the kind used in the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013). The two incidents were quickly found to be connected, despite the media spin that began early on. At the same time, there was a mass stabbing in a Minnesota mall, where a Somalia-born man asked his victims if they were Muslim. Islamic terrorism was then found to be behind the New York City and New Jersey bombings as well, and at the beginning of Week 21 (as I’m writing this), multiple suspects are in custody with more bombs found in Elizabeth, New Jersey (not far from where my uncle’s family lives). One of them is an Afghanistan-born man who was shooting at police and cars.

Controversy quickly began that Donald Trump called a bomb a bomb…but Hillary Clinton also called the Chelsea explosion a bomb in a press conference in which she looked like a zombie.

Donald Trump’s response afterward was somewhat muted, but still warned with some shades of sensationalism that the current policies were making America unsafe, while he would.

The denialism from the Clinton campaign and the media, spouting off the same stuff, plus how terrible and weak she looked in the press conference afterward, don’t inspire much confidence. The situation is poised for a Donald Trump victory, but it will backfire on him if he looks too eager to take advantage of it, since it will just add more confirmation bias that he’s a dangerous, racist demagogue. Less is more at this point. If he just gives condolences for the wounded, thanks heaven that no one was killed, and stresses the need for vigilance, he will walk away with a victory. It all depends on him. The sale is already made. He just needs to not, to quote Scott Adams “sell past the close.”

Result (for Trump): Inconclusive

Ultimately, week 20 showed the two paths in motion. The Hillary Clinton campaign is out of bullets. Donald Trump needs to make sure he doesn’t give them any, which he strayed dangerously close to doing. If he follows the course he’s set for the past few weeks, he will win. If he doesn’t, he’ll probably lose.

It’s all up to him.

Over the past few weeks, events have almost perfectly aligned with my general election prediction outlined in the final chapter of Stumped (it just took some time for him to get there). If you want to find out what will likely happen next, you might want to read it.