‘Foreign Policy for Campaigns is Like an Unexploded Landmine’

Chris Riback spoke to political scientist Dan Drezner on Political Wire Conversations about social media and the impact of foreign policy on the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Trump Stumbles Into Another Ill-Advised Fight

Rick Klein: “Among the ways Donald Trump is breaking with conventional politics? He’s not even really pretending that he won the debate. He is insisting that he won, of course – but he’s also complaining about the moderator, the questions, and even the microphone he used at Hofstra. (As his opponent pointed out, winners don’t complain about the equipment.) And in the debate’s aftermath, he is also adding fuel to a two-decade-old feud with a former Miss Universe whom he attacked for gaining weight. This is the Trump that the Trump campaign had been trying to disappear – and the Trump that Hillary Clinton’s campaign insists is the only true Trump to exist.”

“That’s what’s behind Clinton’s masterful strategy from Monday night: She set traps for Trump to fall into – or, rather, she pressed a whole bunch of buttons knowing that something would set him off. Clinton got the result she wanted. Trump’s reaction, meanwhile, took would could have been a partial victory or a split decision and turned it into a solid loss. The Clinton camp got a debate win, and then a parting gift.”

First Read: “Trump’s ill-advised feud with Machado fits into a pattern we’ve noticed throughout the campaign: When Trump is in a bad period like this, he makes it worse for himself by refusing to back down. Particularly in the face of poor reviews (remember the Khan fight after his convention message was panned by pundits?), Trump has a tendency to spiral downward for a few days until he’s convinced to stop lashing out or punching down. Our question is: how long does bad stretch for Trump last?”

Trump’s Response Made the Machado Story Work

Jonathan Chait: “You can easily see why Clinton’s campaign decided this was the perfect anecdote to display his grotesque personal qualities. It contains several elements all at once. There is Trump’s lecherous habit of creeping around beauty contestants, which is its own deep vein of gross behavior. There is the cruel reduction of women to their appearance. And there is the anti-Latina racism.”

“But what truly made the set piece work was Trump’s response, which Clinton could not have scripted better if she tried. Unlike the previous allegations, he did not deny them, but instead burst out — three times! — ‘Where did you find this?’ I have seen villains in Disney movies presented with damning evidence react this way, but I have never seen an actual human being do it, until now.”

What Trump Did During Debate Prep

A great anecdote from the New York Times:

There were early efforts to run a more standard form of general election debate-prep camp, led by Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News chief, at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. But Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings… That left Mr. Ailes, who at the time was deeply distracted by his removal from Fox and the news media reports surrounding it, discussing his own problems as well as recounting political war stories, according to two people present for the sessions.

How Clinton Laid an Elaborate Trap for Trump

Vox explains how Hillary Clinton’s mention of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado at the first presidential debate had been planned weeks in advance.

Cosmopolitan is out today with a long feature story on Machado headlined ‘Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado Won’t Be Defined by Donald Trump’s Fat-Shaming.’

The author of the story, Prachi Gupta, is the person who conducted a devastating interview with Ivanka Trump earlier in September. The Machado article includes photographs that were taken a week ago, making it clear that the groundwork for the debate moment was laid some time ago…

It turns out Machado also set up an interview with the Guardian’s Lucia Graves, apparently embargoed for post-debate release; the New York Times also has a fresh Machado story based on interviews.

The Clinton campaign also pushed out a video on social media after the debate ended.

First Read: “The personal nature of Trump’s attack, the relatability of a woman’s struggles with body image and the additional allegation that Trump referred to the Latina Miss Universe as “Miss Housekeeping” makes us think that this story isn’t going away soon.”

Democrats Much Less Likely to Vote This Year

Gallup: “Amid the news frenzy leading up to the first general election debate of 2016, fewer U.S. adults rate themselves highly likely to vote for president than did so in September of each of the past four presidential election years.”

Key takeaway: “The 65% of Democrats saying they will definitely vote is well below their average for the prior four presidential elections (77%), whereas the 76% of Republicans saying they will definitely vote is only a bit lower than their prior average (81%).”

New Trump Debate Strategy Will Stress Practice

“Campaign advisers to Donald Trump, concerned that his focus and objectives had dissolved during the first presidential debate on Monday, plan to more rigorously prepare him for his next face-off with Hillary Clinton by drilling the Republican nominee on crucial answers, facts and counterattacks, and by coaching him on ways to whack Mrs. Clinton on issues even if he is not asked about them,” the New York Times reports.

“Whether he is open to practicing meticulously is a major concern, however, according to some of these advisers and others close to Mr. Trump.”

“A delicate approach to the candidate is now in the works. Before his advisers can shape Mr. Trump’s performance for the next debate, on Oct. 9 in St. Louis — which, contrary to speculation, he does plan to attend, a top aide said — they need to convince him that he can do better than he did in the first one and that only a disciplined, strategic attack can damage Mrs. Clinton with voters.”

Democrats Ramp Up Attacks on Gary Johnson

“Democrats panicked by third-party candidates drawing support away from Hillary Clinton are ramping up their attacks against Gary Johnson and warning that a vote for a third party is a vote for Donald Trump,” The Hill reports.

“Liberal groups are passing around embarrassing videos of Johnson and running ads against him warning about his positions on issues like climate change that are important to young voters and independents.”

Arizona Republic Endorses Clinton

The Arizona Republic endorsed a Democrat for the first time since the newspaper’s founding in 1890.

Clinton retains her composure under pressure. She’s tough. She doesn’t back down.

Trump responds to criticism with the petulance of verbal spit wads.

That’s beneath our national dignity.

When the president of the United States speaks, the world expects substance. Not a blistering tweet.