Hillary Clinton currently is tied with Donald Trump in some polls and leads in others. The Democrats should have an advantage in the electoral college, although this is no longer clear with Clinton doing poorly in battleground states and independent voters. If the general election is between Clinton and Trump, the contest might come down to which of the two is disliked less, and whether Trump’s attacks on Clinton are as effective as they were against his Republican opponents.
The New York Times has a report on how Trump is expected to attack Clinton:
Donald J. Trump plans to throw Bill Clinton’s infidelities in Hillary Clinton’s face on live television during the presidential debates this fall, questioning whether she enabled his behavior and sought to discredit the women involved.
Mr. Trump will try to hold her accountable for security lapses at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and for the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens there.
And he intends to portray Mrs. Clinton as fundamentally corrupt, invoking everything from her cattle futures trades in the late 1970s to the federal investigation into her email practices as secretary of state.
Drawing on psychological warfare tactics that Mr. Trump used to defeat “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz, “Little Marco” Rubio and “Low-Energy” Jeb Bush in the Republican primaries, the Trump campaign is mapping out character attacks on the Clintons to try to increase their negative poll ratings and bait them into making political mistakes, according to interviews with Mr. Trump and his advisers.
On the surface, I have my doubts as to whether this will really work but, on the other hand, who would have thought that Trump could have eliminated Jeb Bush from competition by calling him “low-energy?” Still, much of this looks like the typical overreach which has worked to the advantage of the Clintons in the past. Rather than attack the Clintons with factual criticism, Republicans tend to mix in a tremendous amount of fiction with their attacks, leading many to discount the large amount of legitimate criticism.
I really have my doubt that there is any benefit in bringing up ancient history. People already have their opinions about Bill’s affairs and the impeachment–with his popularity increasing tremendously in response to Republican over-reach with impeachment. Clinton has received criticism even from some feminists for the manner in which she treated women who have made accusations against Bill, but Trump is hardly going to benefit from feminist criticism of Clinton considering his record.
Trump could benefit from criticism based upon the fortune Bill and Hillary made from their political positions. The question here is whether voters will see the person who pays out money for political influence as being any better than those who receive money by influence peddling. Personally I see them as just two sides of the same bad coin, but Trump might be able to turn this to his advantage if he can be seen as someone exposing a dirty system.
There is plenty to work with regarding the email scandal. While mishandling of classified information is receiving the most talk these days, Trump might be better off concentrating on other aspects of the scandal. It is best to wait and see what happens with the FBI investigation. If there is any type of adverse report coming out of this, that will be more significant than anything Trump says. If nothing comes out of this, there is no point in making it an issue. I suspect that there will be no prosecution based upon Clinton’s position, even if others at lower levels have been prosecuted for less.
Trump should stick with criticism based upon violating government regulations regarding government transparency, influence peddling, and simply acting foolishly. Of course Trump has hardly been acting like an open-government advocate himself.
The email scandal could help Trump make the argument that Clinton is dishonest. Factcheckers have repeatedly demonstrated that Clinton has been lying on the facts, with Factcheck.org and Jake Tapper at CNN recently showing yet again that Clinton is lying when she claims that what she did was allowed (video above). Of course Trump will have the problem that the factcheckers consider him to be even more dishonest than Clinton.
Benghazi has been repeatedly investigated and there is little there. The major accusations don’t hold up at all. While systemic errors might have increased the risk, the various right wing conspiracy theories regarding the attack have been debunked. There is no reason to think that the outcome would have been different if someone else had been Secretary of State at the time. This whole scandal has now been reduced to discrepancies between what Clinton told her family and others regarding the cause of the attack. Whether this was an attempt at pre-election spin versus errors made during the fog of war, this is hardly enough to justify further talk of Benghazi. Similarly, many of the other lines of attack coming from right wing sources do not hold up.
Rather than using Benghazi, Trump would be much smarter to campaign against Clinton’s policy on regime change in Libya, as well as her support of military interventionism in Syria and Iraq, along with her overly belligerent attitude towards Iran and Russia. A vote for Clinton is very likely a vote for wars, and for reigniting the Cold War with Russia. Clinton’s hawkishness could cost her the election if Trump could manage to sound coherent on foreign policy, bit it is questionable if he can handle this.
While these major lines of attack from Trump all have problems, Clinton’s strategy looks absolutely out of touch with reality. Greg Sargent interviewed Clinton’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson. He suggested that a major strategy of the campaign will be to argue that Trump has “been in it for himself.” The counter-attacks from Trump regarding the conduct of the Clintons are obvious considering the fortunes they made by capitalizing on their political positions. I’d suggest that Clinton obtain a new strategist, as a campaign based upon the lines outlined by Berenson would greatly increase the chances of a Trump victory in November.
In contrast, Bernie Sanders could easily campaign on the line that Berenson recommends for Clinton. Plus he would not have Clinton’s problems with dishonesty, money in politics, and foreign policy. Nominating Bernie Sanders would be the best way for Democrats to defeat Donald Trump.