The Towering Trumpferno
Meltdown or Misdirection?
By Ray Cunneff
In the last week, there's been a great deal of speculation, especially following his disastrous performance at Monday night's debate with Hillary Clinton, that Donald Trump had gone into "meltdown mode".
His surrogates have transitioned from a whiplash-inducing spin machine to a fact-free, wrong-is-right alternate reality echo chamber. And the candidate himself has moved from excuses to paranoia, spewing blame, plots and countless systems, primaries, polls, conventions and potential elections all "rigged" against him.
But Trump has a long history of promoting conspiracy theories that target his opponents and turning to wacky, fringe sources to confirm them, from "birtherism" against Obama to falsely tying Sen. Ted Cruz's father to the JFK assassination.
This week, Trump accused plotters of rigging his microphone to undermine his debate performance and accused Google of "suppressing the bad news about Hillary Clinton," a debunked story that originated on a Russian propaganda site.
And he and his surrogates have relentlessly cited non-scientific fan surveys at sites like Breitbart in an attempt to prove he won the debate, "polls" which his campaign insists are more reliable than rigorously conducted polls showing he lost the debate by a wide margin.
Since the debate, Trump has tended to "cocoon himself in an alternate reality" of fawning commentary that has created conflict within his campaign and precipitated a political crisis less than two weeks from the second presidential debate.
Trump stopped doing press conferences two months ago and has largely confined himself to interviews with friendly conservative outlets, like "Fox & Friends" which further insulates him from outside views.
Are these signs of meltdown or a cunning strategy?
In just the past week:
- It was discovered that the Trump Foundation failed to properly register to legally become a charity and to raise money from donations.
- It was reported that Trump's company secretly pursued business deals in Cuba during the 1990's in violation of the U.S. embargo.
- It was revealed that Russian investments and possible indebtedness have dominated Trump's asset portfolio since at least 2008 and may be the reason he refuses to release his tax returns.
- It was reported that Trump told managers at his California golf club to fire hostesses that Trump found "not pretty enough".
- In the wee hours early Friday, reportedly against the wishes of his campaign managers, he went on a xenophobic, racist, and sexist tirade on Twitter against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado.
But due to the shallow sensationalism, the "Dancing With The Stars"-type coverage that mostly dominates the 24/7 news cycle, Trump dodges more bullets.
In terms of media manipulation, Trump's 3:30 am Tweet-storm against Ms. Machado is dominating the news coverage while questions about Cuba, Russia, tax returns or his unregistered foundation are pushed to the back-burner.
He may be crazy but he's not stupid.
Trump is not just a showman, he's a media-savvy magician, using a misdirection to get you looking in the wrong place. He knows the other issues are far more potentially damaging to his campaign than calling a former Miss Universe "Miss Piggy".
Meltdown or not, he's nonetheless playing everyone, but most of all the media.