Trump Being Trump: General Election Style (Week 23)

Week 23 was Donald Trump’s own sabbati horriblis en route to this election’s Battle of Stalingrad. The characters in the play shifted yet again, and the final month may come down to who can shift the opponent’s character into the worst role possible. At this point, Hillary Clinton has the higher hand.

The Crook, Continued

Several new episodes unfolded in the “Hillary the crook” saga.

First came the news that as part of an immunity agreement with the FBI, several of Hillary Clinton’s top aides like Cheryl Mills got to destroy their laptops. This immediately had people questioning if the FBI had ever treated anyone it was investigating in the way it treated Hillary Clinton. Looked more like a banana republic than the United States of America, didn’t it?

Second came news that the Clinton Foundation was apparently hacked by Guccifer 2.0, which showed a curious coincidence of TARP funds seemingly donated to Democrats. Then there was a folder titled “Pay to Play,” which makes me question the authenticity of the whole thing.

Then it turned out that while New York Attorney General Erich Schneiderman went on a crusade against the Trump Foundation for not having the proper permits to operate in the state, the Clinton Foundation also had issues with the required disclosure of its donors according to state law, putting egg on his face. Disclosures also left out foreign donations during her time as Secretary of State.

Then there were more emails related to the Clinton Foundation and the State Department.

But none of this is going to be decisive enough to move the needle. We all know Hillary Clinton is a crook. She needs to be worse than that.

Result (for Trump): Minor Victory

Drone Assange?

Last week, an email was released wherein Hillary Clinton reportedly said of Julian Assange, “can’t we just drone this guy?”

Later Hillary Clinton said she “couldn’t recall” if she said that (the liar’s tell, as Scott Adams would say).

It’s in things like this where you realize that the “trigger happy” linguistic kill shot Donald Trump concocted last month has so much power, and it truly is a persuasion mistake that he hasn’t been using it.

Result (for Trump): Minor Victory

“The Craziest Thing”

As the week went on, it appeared that Bill Clinton was back to sabotaging Hillary again, with this quip about Obamacare.

Doesn’t speak highly of the last eight years, does it? He also attacked Bernie Sanders. Not the best thing for a candidate for the Democrats with low enthusiasm, is it?

Result (for Trump): Victory

Pence Smacks Kaine

Last week also saw the first and only Vice Presidential debate.

Last week, I predicted that the calm, cool Pence would contrast well with the yapping beta male Tim Kaine, who would try too hard to get one over on the said cool guy. That’s exactly what happened.

Mike Pence maintained his frame, Tim Kaine’s body language was terrible (he looked like he was going to explode throughout the entire thing), and he annoyed everyone. You could tell that the media was in cognitive dissonance mode because the line that started to percolate was that “Mike Pence wouldn’t defend Donald Trump.”

The Vice Presidential debate quickly became forgotten, and the ratings were low, so it didn’t do anything on its own, but it did allow Donald Trump to see how he should act in his own debate.

Result (for Trump): Minor Victory

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

September’s jobs report came out last week, showing a mediocre gain of 156,000 jobs. This isn’t good for either party.

Result (for Trump): Neutral

The Central Park 5

Things began to unravel on Friday when a story came out about the infamous Central Park 5, which he took a full page ad on. It said that Donald Trump still thought they were guilty even though DNA evidence proved their innocence in the rape of a jogger in Central Park.

This was an idiotic thing to say, since it would add more confirmation bias to “racist” at the worst possible time. But this would pale in comparison to what would come out hours afterward.

Result (for Trump): Defeat

Email Dump

Another Wikileaks email dump came out on Friday, featuring Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta. Excerpts from her infamous Wall Street speeches were leaked, where Hillary Clinton said she wanted a hemisphere-wide open border area, where “you need to take a public and a private position,” where she mentioned she didn’t really know the struggles of the middle class, and where Wall Street could regulate themselves, among other things.

This stuff really hurts with Bernie’s people.

Other emails suggested more shady dealings. One suggested that Hillary Clinton admitted to the inability to properly vet “refugees” from dangerous areas. Another seemed to mention she knew the Saudis were spreading jihadism. Another mentioned the problems with mass Islamic immigration into Europe, with women in Germany being referred to as “German whores” by the new arrivals.

All of this would have been far more seriously damaging if something else hadn’t been strategically timed to be released on the same day.

Result (for Trump): Victory

“Grab E’m By the Pussy!”

You’ve seen and heard this tape by now, and it was devastating. I didn’t think much of it at first, but upon further reflection, I realized how damaging it was. Compared to the emails, this tape was way worse, here’s why:

  1. The tape is instantly memorable. It’s a simple “scandal” where Hillary’s is complex. It was also a direct audio – AKA, sensory information, where the emails are something you need to read. “Grab her by the pussy” is also just more viscerally emotional than anything Hillary said. It serves as a perfect one-liner for attacks.
  2. The tape was immediately related by Hillary’s side to an identity (“women”) whereas the best the emails have thus far done is “the middle class” which isn’t as immediately identifiable. Identity plays are always the strongest, to quote Scott Adams, and “women” is probably a stronger identity than “the middle class” especially in this day and age.
  3. What Trump said was unambiguous. It wasn’t an engineered outrage that gave any plausible deniability and focused attention on an issue like most of the others, which makes sense because it was said privately 11 years ago.
  4. Even though everyone knew Trump was like that in private anyway, the tape came as a big surprise. We’re used to Hillary-related email leaks and scandals by now.

So even though reason tells us that Hillary’s emails and speech transcripts to very influential people are probably more worthy of attention in a presidential race, our emotions pay attention to the tape, and that’s all that matters according to a persuasion-centered worldview.

I’m sure that Hillary’s side was holding this in reserve, and they successfully pre-seeded the debate with a stronger card than Trump’s side held (the emails). His side’s radio silence after the leak instead of going immediately on a counterattack furthered the pre-suasion play.

The biggest danger isn’t that this will move the needle with women voters (this didn’t change any woman that was voting against him and the ones that committed to him don’t think it’s important), rather, it can move the needle with some men, especially those who are inclined to virtue signal, and Trump needs men a lot. At this point even a 1% move could be devastating.

Result (for Trump): Decisive Defeat

Stalingrad Begins

The release of that tape was the opening bombardment that signaled the election has now entered its Stalingrad phase. It is total warfare, complete and absolute savagery from here on out. The side that bleeds their opponents to death (like at Verdun, another famously savage battle) and inflicts the most losses is the likeliest to win. It’s now total attrition, and no laws of warfare will be observed.

After the most withering bombardment from Hillary Clinton’s side yet, the GOP establishment did what it always does – surrender without firing a shot in return. I said to a friend last night that it would be akin to the French surrendering the entire war after the first massive bombardment of millions of shells that signaled the opening of the Battle of Verun in 1916 (a battle the French would eventually win).

The GOP establishment thus proved themselves to be exactly what their grassroots, populist critics, most infamously among them the dreaded Alt-Right, have accused them of being – spineless sacks of shit that would rather virtue signal than actually fight for what they say they value. This is going to take a toll on the party in the future. The grassroots are livid. But for the short term, this is very bad for Donald Trump, especially when it comes to money raising and spending, and ground game efforts. Already there were signs that the GOP establishment was deliberately sabotaging Donald Trump even before the tape leaked.

Nevertheless, Donald Trump was defiant, passing the Thutmose Test and appearing as the champion of his supporters at an impromptu gathering at Trump Tower on Saturday.

This was all leading up to the second debate, when the troop movements would begin.

Second Debate

Donald Trump crushed Hillary Clinton on Sunday, winning the pre-suasion battle and the debate itself. He seeded the debate with several of the women that Bill Clinton is alleged to have assaulted and even raped, along with the 12-year-old rape victim that Hillary Clinton supposedly laughed about.

Now everyone went into the debate thinking about Bill’s victims to contrast with the Trump tape and ask themselves which was worse. Windbag pundits like Hugh Hewitt said talking about Bill was a bad idea, but the establishment at “Conservatism, Inc.” once again showed how terrible they are at persuasion.

Donald Trump’s frame was totally on point. By seeding and bringing up Bill’s accusers earlier, he immediately diffused the tension about his tape, and the Clintons were very nervous. Hillary did not pursue the matter further. He then hammered her on everything from domestic to foreign policy to her emails. He framed her as a dangerous warmonger. His quip about putting her in jail was a big shout to his base, and the audience, which was supposed to remain silent, seemed to love it. His ridiculing of Hillary’s comparison of herself to Abraham Lincoln was the secondary kill shot of the night, inevitably drawing a famous line in your head – “Hillary, you’re no Abraham Lincoln.” Donald Trump refused to buy into the media’s frame, and was great at focusing attention where he wanted to focus it on.

And then there was that fly that landed on Hillary’s face just to make the perfect visual microcosm to remember the entire night by, though I was in a standing room only bar watching it with some friends so I didn’t see it at the time.

Donald Trump was at his best last night. This was certainly the best debate he’s ever had. Even a girl I approached and talked to later who turned out to be an intern for the Clinton campaign thought so.

He did exactly what he needed to do in the second debate – take the focus off of his tape and put it back on Hillary and all of her shadiness. In response to his framing and visual language, she did what Scott Adams said she would do – revert to policy and facts and reason, which are inferior. From the persuasion angle, Donald Trump crushed this debate, and there’s no debate about that.

Donald Trump Hillary Clinton second debate

Result (for Trump): Victory

Whether the debate turns things around from that catastrophic tape remains somewhat doubtful, but it was a good and necessary start. It showed that Donald Trump is at his best when his back is against the wall, and it certainly is now. According to the persuasion standpoint, Hillary Clinton still has the higher hand now and will win at this rate. The characters on stage have become the crook that sometimes looks like she’s sick vs. the man with an uncertain temperament that treats women like shit at the very least, and men have an innate tendency to defend women, and Trump needs men badly.

All the world’s a stage. If you don’t learn how to be an actor molding your character, you’ll probably find yourself losing. Read Stumped to learn how to create your character.