Trump on Defense

There are 59 days until the election, and Trump is on defense. That’s unusual in a presidential election; usually the Republicans are on offense and Dems are on defense. This is a good sign.

In spite of Trump’s being on defense, not many Republicans not drawing paychecks from the White House or his campaign are defending him.

AMID ALL THE FURIOUS responses to the Atlantic article alleging that President DONALD TRUMP had called American troops “suckers” and “losers,” one thing leaps out: You didn’t see Republican members of Congress leaping to defend the president’s character.

SOME OF THIS may be the late summer recess talking. But I’m told telephones and the internet still work outside of Washington — and Trump’s closest allies on Capitol Hill did not exactly rally to his defense. Sen. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), for one, managed to praise the president for saving the military publication Stars & Stripes, but said nothing directly about the big story White House aides and loyal alumni were scrambling to discredit. Other prominent GOP members ignored the subject altogether.

The GOP has positioned itself as the champion of military glory since the end of World War II. Trump has been accused of doing the most unforgivable thing a Republican POTUS can do, which is trash the troops. High-level Republicans aren’t defending him because they realize it’s probably true. If they go out on a limb for him a tape could turn up, or John Kelly might speak out.

It’s rare to find an analysis of the race that doesn’t include a big, fat disclaimer that nothing is set in stone and either Biden or Trump could win. Yet the signs point to some serious floundring on the Trump side. For example, the AZ Mirror reports that the Trump campaign canceled an ad blitz in Arizona, a state they probably will need and in which they are currently behind.

On Thursday, records filed with the Federal Communications Commission by Phoenix-area television stations showed that the Trump campaign cancelled all of its ads between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14. The air time totaled approximately $580,000 in the Phoenix media market, which includes most of the state except for the areas surrounding Tucson and Yuma.

A campaign spokeswoman confirmed Trump was suddenly going dark in a state where he has consistently trailed Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the polls — a state that has only voted for a Democratic presidential candidate once since 1948.

The excuse is that the campaign is going to focus its ad buys on early voting states and will resume ads in Arizona at a later date. But $580,000 seems a small amount given the hundreds of millions Trump has raised. He won Arizona in 2016 and, given that his only hope is to squeak out another Electoral College win, he can’t afford to lose it.

I couldn’t find anything at Open Secrets to suggest the Trump campaign is having money trouble. But then he’s been burning through campaign funds to pay legal bills.

In New York, Mr. Trump dispatched a team of lawyers to seek damages of more than $1 million from a former campaign worker after she claimed she had been the target of sexual discrimination and harassment by another aide. The lawyers have been paid $1.5 million by the Trump campaign for work on the case and others related to the president.

In Washington, Mr. Trump and his campaign affiliates hired lawyers to assist members of his staff and family — including a onetime bodyguard, his oldest son and his son-in-law — as they were pulled into investigations related to Russia and Ukraine. The Republican National Committee has paid at least $2.5 million in legal bills to the firms that did this and other legal work.

In California, Mr. Trump sued to block a law that would have forced him to release his taxes if he wanted to run for re-election. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have paid the law firm handling this case, among others, $1.8 million.

Mr. Trump’s tendency to turn to the courts — and the legal issues that have stemmed from norm-breaking characteristics of his presidency — helps explain how he and his affiliated political entities have spent at least $58.4 million in donations on legal and compliance work since 2015, according to a tally by The New York Times and the nonpartisan Campaign Finance Institute.

It’s not unheard of for a presidential campaign to run up some legal bills, but $58.4 million worth of legal bills is off the charts. And someday we’ll probably learn that some astonishing amount of all those donations was paid to the Trump family business, somehow.

It’s also the case that none of his campaign messaging appears to be working for him. If he did get any bounce from the convention, it’s gone now, per the FiveThirtyEight forecast. After a week of attempting to terrify Americans of the Coming Democratic Anarchy, all that law and order messaging isn’t moving the needle for Trump. Polls show that more voters think Trump is just making the chaos worse, and more voters prefer Biden on race relations and public safety and think Biden would do a better job of unifying the country.

Dan Balz at WaPo has a good analysis of the race right now.

Trump has tried many things over the past months in an effort to avoid becoming a one-term president. So far, nothing has proved to be the magic potion the president seems to believe is out there.

Trump has claimed Biden is mentally challenged. He has gone after Biden’s son Hunter as corrupt. The president has accused Biden of being a radical leftist, a socialist. He says the former vice president is weak. He says his challenger is soft on China. He has said Biden supports violent protesters and doesn’t support the police. Oh, he’s also said Biden’s 1994 crime bill was too tough on crime (and by implication, therefore, on the side of the police).

And now he’s moved on to law and order and terrifying suburban housewives into thinking that a vote for Biden is a vote to give their neighborhoods over to scary housing projects. So far, nothing. The polls are remarkably stable.

Trump’s mistakes, record and history plague his candidacy. He paints his record in glorious superlatives: “The greatest economy in history.” Or, “No one has done more for (fill in the blank) than I have.” The reality is something else, and it shows in how people continue to view him: negatively in terms of his job approval and distrustful of what he says about the coronavirus pandemic.

A real leaders would be speaking frankly to the American people about the problems we’re having and what he intends to do about it. But not Trump.

The pandemic is far worse and more deadly because of how he handled it in the early stages and how he is still handling it. He speaks about it as if it is almost history. He mocks Biden for wearing a mask. He predicts the readiness of a vaccine by late October, a scenario that he obviously sees as a lifeline to his political resurrection. This rosy outlook runs contrary to the assessments of medical experts. Meanwhile, one forecast of the covid 19 death toll by early next year has been revised upward to 410,000.

See also White Voters Are Turning Away from Donald Trump at Washington Monthly. Barring an unforeseen event, Trump’s next chance to change the trajectory will be the first presidential debate, scheduled for September 29.

In other news: A Trump boat parade on Lake Travis outside Austin appears to be in big trouble; several boats are sinking. No idea why.

President Donald Trump arrives for a news conference the White House on September 4, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

13 thoughts on “Trump on Defense

  1. "The Silence of the Generals."

    tRUMP's fate may very well depend on whether Kelly and/or Mattis confirm Goldberg's Atlantic story, or stay silent.

    I know both Generals have given us a lot already.

    But please, we beg you!

    Just ONE thing more!!!!!

    Say something.

    Say SOMETHING, lest he torch the US Constitution on national TV, right after his evil heathen hand leaves the Bible on Inauguration Day!!!!!!!




  2. Perhaps if Trump had not so anointed himself in superlatives and exaggerations every time he opened his mouth beginning from Day 1, he would have a little room at this point in the race, when candidates typically tout their successes. There's nothing for him to do but attack. Its what happens when you squander everything, you go bankrupt in the end.

    I doubt if Kelly will come out of the smoke and clarify what Trump said. I don't think he's spoken about personal conversations with him, and in the past has said he abides by executive privilege.

  3. I'm not sure what Trump is planning. He knows he's behind or he wouldn't be trying to get his cult to vote twice.  I'm not at all convinced that the strategy will be effective. Most people can figure out that showing up to vote in person after casting a ballot by mail certifies your intent to commit fraud. 

    Trump loves winning by legal trickery, even when it's expensive. He'll try to throw the election into the courts if he can. That can't work in a single state – he's going to have to tie up the results in up to a half-dozen states. 

    Trump has refused to change spots and reports of Trump prepping for the debate don't suggest Trump is. He believes in his 'gut.'  My 'gut' says this will work out like Custer at the Little Big Horn. Trump will trot out the same lies that Biden can study up on. Refuting Trump and Biden daring real-time fact-checking before the end of the debate will be devastating. 

    Harris will chew up Pence.  

    "Nothing succeeds like success." I interpret that to say the impression of winning makes it easy to continue winning. But the reverse is devastatingly true. Trump has screwed up the pandemic, jobs, the economy and the gallery of significant former WH staff aligned against Trump is formidable. Trump won as an outsider with a claim of business genius that was all TV hype. That's gone – people who were Obama conservatives who could not stand HRC are revolted by Trump. They gave him a chance and he screwed up. 

    Trump may have an idea of how many crimes he committed. McGann may have told Trump repeatedly that if this or that comes to light, he could be charged. I don't know but Trump might. That means he'll do anything – I mean anything. 

    The vigorous denials about insulting the troops has been examined on the basis of lost votes but if Trump was counting on calling out the troops to defend him if Biden wins the election… They won't go for it. Trump threw Mattis and Kelly under the bus and derided them for their service. Why would any career military person risk it all on Trump in a military coup in violation of the Constitution? 

    I think Trump saw that option evaporate yesterday.

    Were any USN submarines doing exercises near Austin?


      Sinking not due to submarines.  Lacking direct evidence and reliable sources, I can only rely on the characteristics of Trumpanistas and my gut instinct.  So these multiple boat sinking were probably due to a group of boats who drew footprints on the deck with Sharpies.  Then, after a few Lone Stars, the got out their guns and ammo and did some target practice on the footprint they drew earlier to sharpen their political skills while waiting for the parade to start.  Hopefully they flew their Trump flags upside down in the international signal of distress when they started taking in water.

    • I grew up around boats and water (the Great Lakes) and saw the photo of boats on Lake Travis. It looks to me like the small boats sank because the larger boats were creating huge wakes.  This happens all the time – the small boats get tossed around by the behavior of the big guys.

      The scary thing is the sheer number of boats out there, although 1) it is Labor Day and 2) Texas in the summertime.  Bloody hot weather.

    • I wish we lived in the kind of country where the likes of Donald Trump could go to prison, but we don't. He's not getting charged and he's not going to jail.

      At the risk of trying to analyze what's going on in Trump's mind (which I have previously compared to opening a carton of chunky, horrendous-smelling milk and trying to figure out whether it went bad two weeks ago or three), what really scares him about losing is what scares any other domestic abuser — the prospect that we'll stop talking and thinking about him.

      He's tried "Haven't I always provided for you, baby?" At the convention it was "You'll never survive in this world without me." His entire presidency has been "Stop talking to your friends and relatives." The only thing left is to start hitting. And that's coming, make no mistake about it.

  4. Always remember that the GOP blocked troop pay raises and benefits multiple times over the past twenty years, even during the Iraq war:


    With President Bush’s popularity scraping bottom in opinion polls, with U.S. casualties rising in Iraq in a force surge that has stretched soldier tours to 15 months, the Bush administration July 10 said it “strongly opposes” key military pay and benefit gains tossed into their fiscal 2008 defense bill.

  5. HARRIS WILL CHEW UP PENCE.  I hope she doesn't get indigestion or worse throw up on the stage. Pence may have to have his wife on stage with him to hold his hand.  He is such a mealy mouth toady.

    • I really think this is going to be among the most memorable TV of 2020. It's the one show I want to watch live (I normally skip the debates and just read/watch summaries). Go Kamala!!

  6. Yeah, the boat thing is simple.  A bunch of boats in a concentrated area, many probably overloaded, probably some drinking gong on, and the bottom line is all these people are of the opinion that laws shouldn't apply to them, like speed laws and regulations designed to reduce wakes that could (and did) swamp other boats.  That leaves the only potential source of order a feeling of community where you are looking out for the other guys.  Naturally that isn't a go.  So you've got rich guys in big boats speeding along not caring even about their political fellows.

    Result: big wakes and bow waves inevitably swamp smaller nearby, likely overloaded, boats.


    Bottom line: they're incompetent and tend (at least) toward sociopathic.

  7. Trump has been accused of doing the most unforgivable thing a Republican POTUS can do, which is trash the troops.

    Correction: That's the most unforgivable thing a Democratic POTUS can do. There's nothing a Republican POTUS can do that would be "unforgivable" in Republican circles. 

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