After the Trump Foundation scandal (below) was breaking news all over the cable networks Thursday night, Twitter troll Trump decided to do what he always does, distract the feckless media villagers with the bright shiny object of one of his patented “Tweetstorms.”
As the Washington Post’s conservative blogger Jennifer Rubin explains, Donald Trump failed the “3 a.m. test.” Donald Trump’s 3 a.m. moment:
Hillary Clinton might want to dig out of the vault her “3 a.m. phone call” ad from 2008, wherein she argued that the then-freshman senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, wasn’t prepared to deal with international emergencies.
The question now may be: Do you want Donald Trump up at 3 a.m. tweeting crazy stuff? That’s precisely what he did (starting with a 3:20 a.m. tweet):
“Anytime you see a story about me or my campaign saying ‘sources said,’ DO NOT believe it. There are no sources, they are just made up lies!”
“Wow, Crooked Hillary was duped and used by my worst Miss U. Hillary floated her as an ‘angel’ without checking her past, which is terrible!”
“Using Alicia M in the debate as a paragon of virtue just shows that Crooked Hillary suffers from BAD JUDGEMENT! Hillary was set up by a con.”
“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?”
His invitation for Americans to go look at a “sex tape” is beyond bizarre and may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back of his campaign. This is plainly a man unhinged, unable to accept his defeat in the debate and — tweeting in the middle of the night — lacking any impulse control.
It’s impossible to imagine that this won’t dominate the news for at least a few days and come up in the next debate. The Clinton camp’s best course here is to be very, very quiet as Trump self-destructs.
Actually, Ms. Rubin, the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA already launched a variation of the “3 a.m. call” ad used to attack Barack Obama in 2008. In Dangerous President a red phone rings continuously while a President Trump sits idly by on Twitter.
“The world is a dangerous place,” a narrator says as the ad opens with a shot of the White House at 3 a.m. “At any hour, our president could be called on to act calmly, decisively, intelligently.”
Meanwhile, the Trump character is sitting nearby scrolling through his Twitter feed.
“How great is Twitter? Boom. Just zinged another loser. Hit him with double exclamation. Bam!” says an actor portraying Trump. “Will someone get the damn phone? How annoying. Who is calling me at 3 a.m. anyway? Total loser.”
Rubin’s colleague, Aaron Blake adds, Donald Trump proved Hillary Clinton’s point about his temperament:
While you were probably still sleeping, the 2016 Republican presidential nominee encouraged all of us to check out a “sex tape” and offered a baseless conspiracy theory about his opponent helping the woman from the alleged sex tape get citizenship so she could take him down.
And in doing so, Donald Trump did everything Hillary Clinton could have hoped he would, drawing out a now-week-long story about Alicia Machado, making things up and — above all — reinforcing all those very real questions about whether he has the temperament to be president.
The Post’s Greg Sargent, however, cautions that “Some are suggesting that Trump’s crazy tweetstorm this morning is meant to distract from [the Trump Foundation scandal]. But let’s stop assuming that every crazy thing Trump does is a fiendishly clever distraction plot.” Point well taken.
Trump’s bizarre behavior will lead to more media analysis of this unhinged candidate. Benjy Sarlin writes at NBC, Analysis: Trump’s Alicia Machado Tweet Storm Points to Deeper Problems:
Donald Trump, always at least knee deep in the fever swamps, is now drowning in them.
Still reeling from Monday’s widely panned debate performance, the Republican nominee has found refuge in a fringe media environment where his victory is assured, his setbacks are the result of shadowy plots, and his critics are humiliated by sordid revelations.
On Friday, he let loose with an early morning Twitter outburst against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, escalating a feud with her that began at the debate over his past criticism of her weight — criticism he repeated on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Did Crooked Hillary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?” Trump tweeted.
Machado responded on social media herself, accusing Trump of “trying to revive defamation and false accusations about my life” and adding that she became a citizen “because my daughter was born here and I wanted to exercise all my rights, among them, voting.”
Set aside for a moment the politics of a candidate already losing women and Latino voters by large margins then smearing a Venezuela-born actress over her sexual ethics and questioning her citizenship. (Yes, that again.) Set aside the hypocrisy of Trump — who once called venereal disease “my personal Vietnam” and has a long history of crude rhetoric and adulterous behavior — questioning Machado’s personal life. Even set aside the questions Trump’s behavior raises about his impulse control, which has become a central line of attack for his opponent Hillary Clinton.
Instead, let’s consider the voices to which Trump is listening.
The alleged Machado “sex tape” Trump cited appeared to be a hoax widely promoted in fringe pro-Trump outlets like Infowars. Other sites like Drudge Report have spread grainy stills of a love scene from a reality show Machado starred in. Radio host Rush Limbaugh called Machado “the porn-star Miss Piggy” this week. And Trump, desperate for encouragement after his debate, is huffing these sycophantic fumes like never before.
This is nothing new. Trump has a long history of championing conspiracy theories that target his opponents and turning to wacky supportive sources to confirm them — from birtherism to falsely tying Sen. Ted Cruz’s family to the JFK assassination.
Since the debate, though, his tendency to cocoon himself in an alternate reality of fawning commentary has both worsened and infected the rest of his campaign, creating a political crisis less than two weeks from the second presidential debate.
In recent days, Trump has accused plotters of rigging his microphone to undermine his debate performance. He’s accused Google of “suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton,” a debunked story that originated on a Russian propaganda site. And he’s obsessively pushed non-scientific fan surveys at sites like Breitbart to prove he won the debate, which his campaign insists are more reliable than rigorously conducted polls showing he lost the debate by a wide margin.
At the same time, Trump stopped doing press conferences two months ago and has largely confined himself to interviews with friendly conservative outlets, which further insulates from outside views. Even then, he seems unable to help himself: His post-debate rants about Machado’s weight this week came during easygoing interviews with Fox News hosts.
Meanwhile, campaign aides are left gently pleading with Trump via the press to come in from the cold and begin to acknowledge the damage he’s done.
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Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway told the hosts of The View on Thursday that she had reprimanded Trump for his language toward women even as she defended his behavior toward Machado.
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Trump, well aware of the campaign within his campaign to force him back to a more conventional message, lashed out against the press on Friday.
“Remember, don’t believe ‘sources said’ by the VERY dishonest media,” he tweeted. “If they don’t name the sources, the sources don’t exist.”
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In the meantime, while Trump listens to fans tell him his misogynist attacks on Machado are on the verge of breaking through and winning him the election, the Clinton campaign seems all too eager to continue the conversation.
“What kind of man stays up all night to smear a woman with lies and conspiracy theories?” Clinton tweeted on Friday.
What kind of man, indeed.