What Was This?

Donald Trump, Garbage Candidate, Speaks in Front of a Wall of Garbage

So much for being ‘so presidential that you’ll call me and you’ll say, “Donald, you have to stop that.”’

It’s good that Donald Trump fired Corey Lewandowski, because everything’s been going so great for him since then.

Let’s review. Trump fired Lewandowski on Monday, June 20. The next day, he met with evangelical leaders in New York, which seems to have been a huge dud. That’s where he said “we don’t know anything about Hillary in terms of religion,” which competes for being the stupidest thing he’s said in the last year, because the rest of us know a lot about Hillary Clinton in terms of religion, but Trump, who doesn’t read anything that isn’t about him, didn’t know that she’s religious, and as with any clinical narcissist, until he knows a fact, it doesn’t exist.

Also that day, eight polls hit, and Clinton led in seven. In the eighth, they were tied—not nationally, but in Ohio. In the succeeding days, polls came out showing the following: Clinton +5 in Arizona; Clinton +4 in Ohio and Pennsylvania; Trump, to be sure, ahead in a few states, but generally speaking by margins smaller than they ought to be for a Republican (+8 in Texas, +11 in Arkansas); and Clinton leading every one of the eight national polls released in the last week, by an average of 7 points.

So much for the post-Corey bounce.

There was also no post-Orlando terrorism bounce. The Washington Post/ABC poll released Sunday showed that Clinton had increased her advantage over Trump on terrorism, meaning that the dominant piece of media conventional wisdom of the post-9-11 era, that terror attacks help the Republican, is perhaps not dead and buried, but is certainly no longer automatic, as I observed in The New York Times.

Let’s see. Oh, yes, then he gave that speech about Clinton and national security, which had one or two cogent moments, being kind, but was also full of absurdly grandiose claims about the amount of blood on Clinton’s hands and was, as usual, packed with lies, lies exposed as all the lamer in the wake of this big stinking fart of the House Benghazi report. It’s not like there wasn’t legit material on that topic. He’d have been better off just reading from the IG’s report on Clinton’s emails. But instead he chose to swing at pitches way out of the strike zone, and he sounded like a mendacious fabulist.

After that speech, he went to Scotland. Now. This is an interesting one. He’s a golf-course developer, and he’s certainly entitled to traipse about the world unveiling his golf courses. But why would he choose to go to Scotland on the very day of the Brexit vote? Was there no one around to tell him, “Donald, you’re going to be asked about nothing but that vote, so why don’t you do this at a less electric time?” And if someone did tell him and he said “hey, all the better!”, why wasn’t there someone to tell him, “Well, okay, sir (or—Dad), but if you insist on going on this day of all days, you maybe ought to learn a thing or two about the vote. Like, Scotland, where you’ll be, is going to vote overwhelmingly in favor of remaining in Europe, so maybe don’t send out any rash tweets suggesting otherwise.”

But Trump made a fool of himself again, with that tweet saying Scotland was “going wild” and “they took their country back.” They’re in the process of taking it back by leaving the UK. You didn’t have to be some expert on UK politics to have known this. You literally had to read one news article on Scotland’s likely position on the Brexit. Not even an article. A headline. He can’t even read a headline, if it doesn’t have the word “Trump” in it.

On and on its gone, until yesterday’s Big Economic Speech. At least it made sense to make an anti-free trade speech in western Pennsylvania. But that backdrop. Wow. That was the single most insane, bizarro piece of presidential theater I’ve ever seen in my life. At least with Mike Dukakis and the tank, you understood the intent. Understood what he was going for. But what was this?

Okay, the plant takes recyclables and makes sheet metal. Fine. So stand in front of some finished sheet metal. But who in the world chose the clangorous trash? Think about it. Somebody showed up there in Monessen, Pennsylvania, walked around that plant, looked at all the visual possibilities, and concluded: Yes. Let’s put our candidate for president of the United States, who happens to be in a pretty bad trough right now, being thought of as a person who will demean the institution of the presidency, in front of a wall of garbage.

My favorite tweet that I saw was from a conservative, a #NeverTrump #NeverClinton guy, who tweeted:

It’s been mind-boggling. Why has it been happening? Do you think it might have something to do with the fact that he’s refused to hire a staff? Because he thinks he can win a general election the way he won the primary, with right-wing hate-baiting and name calling promoted by free media? I will bet you that Trump is in freak-out mode right now, because he is realizing that he can’t, for two reasons:

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One, the other Republicans had limits on how far they’d go in attacking him, because they didn’t want to alienate his voters in the hope of picking them up if Trump left the race, whereas Clinton and the Democrats harbor no such reservations.

Two, the media have turned on Trump, feeling they got played in the first half of 2016 by a charlatan. This is not the same thing as liberal bias. It’s the media saying to a liar and a nincompoop, “you’re a liar and a nincompoop, and we’re not going to help you lie and nincompoop anymore.”

Or it might be, with respect to the garbage, that someone from the Republican National Committee, which has been forced into the position of doing a lot of campaign grunt work because Trump hasn’t hired enough grunts of his own, set him up. Wouldn’t shock me at all if we learn that in some Game Changey-style book some day.

In the meantime, it may be the case that Lewandowski, who fulsomely praised the garbage speech from his compromised new perch at CNN, is doing the campaign more good out of it than he had in it. But that doesn’t mean the campaign is better off without him. That statement assumes that he was the problem. But the problem isn’t the guy with the crop. It’s the guy at the top.