So far, so not bad. (Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images)
Hillary Clinton teed one up for Donald Trump on Friday night when she said that half of his supporters were racist, sexist, homophobic and/or Islamophobic. (She later backed off the "half" part.)
And on Monday, Donald Trump took full advantage attacking Clinton's comments ina very well-crafted and well-delivered response. It was Trump having a good script and sticking to it.
As with all things Trump, this should not be taken as evidence of a completely reformed man who is suddenly disciplined and will continue to be so.The "pivot" died a thousand deaths a very long time ago. But for now, at this moment, credit where credit is due.
Let's take it piece-by-piece, via the transcript from Trump's speech in Baltimore:
I was thus deeply shocked and alarmed this Friday to hear my opponent attack, slander, smear, demean these wonderful, amazing people who are supporting our campaign by the millions. Our support comes from every part of America and every walk of life. We have the support of cops and soldiers, carpenters and welders, the young and the old, and millions of working class families who just want a better future and a good job. These were the people Hillary Clinton so viciously demonized.
These were among the countless Americans that Hillary Clinton called deplorable, irredeemable and un-American. Nobody's heard anything like this. She called these patriotic men and women every vile name in the book; she called them racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamophobic. She called half of our supporters a "basket of deplorable" in both the speech and an interview. She divides people into baskets as though they were objects, not human beings.
Akey difference between Clinton'scomment and Mitt Romney's "47 percent" comment four years ago whichdrew plenty of comparisonsover the weekend was that Clinton was clearly only talking about people who were already voting for her opponent. The shrapnel of Romney's comment, meanwhile, might have hit people who were Romney supporters or potential Romney supporters and also paid no federal income tax or relied on government assistance, as many Republicans do.
Trump acknowledges here that Clinton was talking about his supporters, but then he attempts to get other working-class Americans to sympathize with their neighbors and their friends being called racists and xenophobes. He's making the case that Clinton doesn't just think many Trump backers are "deplorables," but that she thinks many working-class Americans are "deplorables."
It should be noted that Clinton, while making her self-acknowledged "grossly generalistic" comment about "half" of Trump supporters, also acknowledged the real economic hardship that many other Trump backers were feeling. But those comments largely got lost thanks to her inartful choice of words.
Hillary Clinton made these comments at one of her high-dollar fundraisers on Wall Street. She and her wealthy donors all had a good laugh. You heard them; they were all laughing. Good, good solid laugh. They were laughing at the very people who paved the roads I mean, and these are the roads that she with all of her security, drive on paint the buildings she speaks in, and importantly, all of the other functions.I mean, if you think all functions in life, including this auditorium and its maintenance.
I tweeted Saturday morning about this, noting that Clinton's comments were particularly unhelpful given the eventat whichthey occurred a high-dollar New York City fundraiser at which none other than Barbra Streisand performed.
Any more appropriate place for Clinton to make her "basket of deplorables" comment than at a fundraiser with Barbra Streisand?
Aaron Blake (@AaronBlake) September 10, 2016
Trump has somewhat amazingly attempted to seize the populist mantle in this race despite his status as a billionaire andClinton's comments that appear dismissive of a large segment of the American population delivered at a New York City fundraiser could aid him in that cause. The idea of a bunch of wealthy liberals laughing at flyover country is a very powerful one that Republicans have seized upon again and again in recent years.And Clinton's comments, if nothing else, gave Trumpfodder to make that argument.
Here's the final piece from Trump's Monday speech:
Hillary Clinton is an insider supported by powerful insiders attacking Americans who have absolutely no political power. Hillary Clinton spoke with hatred and derision for the people who make this country run. She spoke with contempt for the people who thanklessly follow the rules, pay their taxes and scratch out a living for their family; a hard-earned living, too. While Hillary Clinton lives a sequestered life behind gates and walls and guards, she mocks and demeans hardworking Americans who only want their own families to enjoy a fraction of the security enjoyed by our politicians.
After months of hiding from the press, Hillary Clinton has revealed her true thoughts -- that was her true thoughts. She revealed herself to be a person who looks down on the proud citizens of our country as subjects for her rule. She views it as her rule.
This is where Trump really lays it on thick. Again, he's trying to extrapolateher comments so that Americans whom she wasn't talking about see themselves in her criticisms. And then he basically suggests she wants to be the queen of the United States that she views the presidency as her right, and that she'll insult anybody who gets in her way.
If you're not familiar with this caricature of Clinton, have a look at this "Saturday Night Live" sketch.
"Citizens, you will elect me!" says Kate McKinnon's intense, overly entitled version of Clinton. "I will be your leader!"
It's a caricature, yes, but it's a caricature that Clinton helped to color in by attachingan overly specific number to her claim that many Trump supporters are in one of those "baskets of deplorables" however many Trump supporters you think actually belong in those baskets.
In that way, it's similar to how Democrats responded to the "47 percent" comment. Trump is essentially arguing that Clinton dismisses the many people who would dare to oppose her as racists and sexists.
It was the right message. We'll see if it actually has any effect on the race.