If Trump Were a Clinton Plant, What Would He Do Differently?

Bill Clinton, Donald Trump
Bill Clinton and Donald Trump  Photo credit: Matt Johnson / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) and Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Last July, the conservative Washington Post columnist George Will asked the question,

“If Donald Trump were a Democratic mole placed in the Republican Party to disrupt things, how would his behavior be any different?”

At the time, he was talking about the effect Trump would have on the upcoming first Republican debate. The eventual Republican nominee, in Will’s words, might say “something hideously inflammatory.”

“The debate gets hijacked,” Will said in his comments about Trump in July. “The process gets hijacked.”

Here’s an example of Will’s mole theory at work: Earlier this month, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who had just endorsed Trump, held a press conference in an impoverished part of Washington, D.C., trying to gain attention for a GOP plan to fight urban poverty. But the media did not cover his plan to help the city’s poor.

It focused instead on a question asked by a reporter about Donald Trump’s verbal attacks on the ethnicity of Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over a fraud case against Trump University. The headlines, rather than naming any of Ryan’s policy proposals, were all about his response:

“Claiming a person can’t do the job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.”

George Will

George Will Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

An Unforced Error

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With high profile Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and frequent Trump apologist Newt Gingrich, denouncing Trump’s comments as racist, it becomes worth asking George Will’s question again.

Is Donald Trump, who spent most of the past few decades as a Democrat and personal friend to the Clinton family, trying to drive the Republican party into a ditch?

Simple logic would suggest he is not — a Trump presidential campaign that goes down in flames would put him in a place of deep dislike among much of the American people, and the effect on his brand, businesses, and celebrity would be bad enough for him personally that he probably would never attempt such an elaborate scheme, even to help his closest friends.

But as George Will pointed out, it matters little what Trump’s original intention was. His campaign is turning into exactly the kind that someone would run if they wanted to deliberately hand the election to the Democrats.

Trump has already gone out of his way to offend several important groups — women, a war hero, the mighty media, Mexicans, and again, Mexicans..

Trump’s racist comments about Judge Curiel weren’t a mere gaffe. He was not caught off guard by a question about it. Instead, Trump deliberately brought up the judge’s heritage seemingly out of nowhere at a rally, and has only doubled down when asked about it.

An article published by Bloomberg highlighted just how much Trump’s vendetta against the judge flies in the face of good campaign strategy. On a conference call with campaign surrogates — including high-ranking Republican elected officials who planned to speak for Trump in media appearances — Trump began to yell about a memo that his PR team had sent out trying to tamp down discussion of Trump’s comments.

He lashed out, saying that the campaign needed to defend itself against journalists. “The people asking the questions — those are the racists,” Trump was quoted by Bloomberg. “I would go at ’em.”

Trump’s combative strategy not only hurts any attempts at party unity; it also highlights the acrimony that seems to be brewing within the Trump campaign apparatus.

As quoted in the Bloomberg article, Trump even attacks one of his own staffers when he tells his campaign surrogates: “You guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren’t so smart.”

Trump Podium

Trump Podium
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Deliberate Fumbling?

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The very existence of this article is a sign that Trump’s campaign is eating itself from the inside. The information in the Bloomberg article came from two Trump supporters, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Leaks are usually a sign of trouble in an election campaign. In 2008, for example, numerous staffers working with vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin spoke candidly to the press about their frustrations with the Alaska governor. It has become a time-honored tradition for those on a sinking ship to bad-mouth the captain in the hopes of salvaging their reputations for future work.

But we’re still five months away from the general election. If these leaks are coming out of the Trump campaign now, then what can we expect over the next few months?

Numerous media outlets covering the Trump campaign have reported that it is understaffed, overtaxed, and chaotic, without strong day-to-day leadership. The operation is said to be plagued with constant discord between loyalists to Trump’s original primary team — led by campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and press secretary Hope Hicks — and the new hires brought on board by strategist Paul Manafort.

Rick Wiley, who was hired by Manafort to be the campaign’s national political director, was fired just six weeks into his new job, purportedly over clashes with state directors loyal to Lewandowski.

And The New York Times reported that people in the campaign “have told associates they believe that their Trump Tower offices in New York may be bugged.”

All this chaos comes from a campaign staff of only 73, compared to the Clinton campaign’s more than 800. Trump has been reluctant to spend money on his campaign, not wanting to dip further into his personal fortune, and not showing any affinity for traditional fundraising. He has worried many Republican strategists with his outright refusal to invest in a data analytics team, which is usually helpful in get-out-the-vote efforts and ensuring that the right message reaches the right voters.

A more robust data operation might have dissuaded Trump from spending his campaign’s meager funds contesting New York, a state that went to President Obama by a nearly 30-point margin, and which had been represented by Hillary Clinton as its senator during its darkest hour, in 2001.

Trump claims that his spartan campaign is more versatile and less wasteful than a full-scale national operation, and that he was able to win the primary against well-seasoned opponents based solely on the strength of his singular personality.

But the task of earning the more than 60 million votes needed for the general election poses very different challenges from winning 13 million votes to secure the Republican nomination.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton  Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Missed Opportunities

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Trump’s lean-and-mean staff was well suited to a primary where he was up against 16 competitors, and was able to stand out from the crowd because of his celebrity status. His Twitter account, with more than 8 million followers, was better positioned to drive the conversation than a slew of barely-charismatic senators and governors jockeying with each other for attention while initially ignoring the buffoonish reality-TV star.

But in the general election, Trump is up against one of the most famous women in the world. The media will likely cover both of them on a near constant basis, undercutting  Trump’s ability to generate media-space with salvos of crude insults.

A general election media strategy usually depends on keeping good news about your candidate and bad news about your opponent in the headlines. A well-run campaign fights back against negative news by ensuring that something positive replaces it in the news cycle.

The Trump campaign has so far proved inept in fighting back against Clinton in news coverage.

On May 25, the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General filed a report deeply critical of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State. The smart response from the Trump campaign all week would have been…nothing — allowing the media to stay focused on a story that hurt Clinton.

But instead, the political press became focused on Trump’s dismissal of Wiley, before focusing on his over-inflated claims of donations made to veterans’ groups.

On June 2, a Clinton speech attacking Trump’s temperament and ability to handle important foreign policy and national security matters received coverage from numerous major media outlets. Once again, the Trump team did not come up with a helpful response to take media attention away from Clinton. The only Trump news in this period was the aforementioned attacks on Judge Curiel’s Mexican lineage.

Dismal Approval Among Minorities

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The hubbub over Judge Curiel highlights perhaps the most important way in which Trump has refused to adjust to the difference between the primary and general elections. Exit polls of the Republican primary showed more than 80% of voters were white. In the coming general election, demographic projections suggest that 31% of eligible voters will not be white.

And blacks and hispanics have shown deeply unfavorable views towards Trump in polls.

Trump’s whites-only strategy flies in the face of the Republican party’s own plan for how this election would pan out. In the wake of Mitt Romney’s loss to Barack Obama in 2012, the Republican National Committee commissioned a report, called the Growth and Opportunity Project (also informally referred to as the “autopsy” report), figure out how the party could turn things around in 2016.

A major recommendation of the report called for broadening the GOP’s base beyond white voters, with an especially enthusiastic outreach towards Hispanics.

“If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn’t want them in the United States, they won’t pay attention to our next sentence,” wrote the report. “It doesn’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies.”

Trump’s campaign has seemingly taken the opposite approach, calling Mexican immigrants “rapists,”  repeating ad infinitum his vague plan to build a wall on the border, claiming a sitting federal judge cannot judge him fairly because he is of Mexican heritage.

And counting a taco bowl he ate on Cinco De Mayo as outreach”.

This was exactly the kind of thing George Will was talking about. Republican leaders wanted a candidate who could expand the party and stop Hispanics from becoming lockstep Democratic voters. Among the many candidates who ran for the Republican nomination were Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, who had both successfully made inroads with Hispanic voters in their native state of Florida.

That Puzzling Phone Call

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In December, Jeb Bush  tweeted, “Maybe Donald negotiated a deal with his buddy @HillaryClinton. Continuing this path will put her in the White House.”

Bush had a point. Clinton and Trump had known each other for decades before the mogul decided to run for president. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton attended Trump’s third wedding at his Florida estate in 2005. Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton, the daughters of the two candidates, have shared a longstanding friendship. In a 2012 interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren, he called Clinton “a terrific woman” and praised her tenure as Secretary of State.

“I think she really works hard and I think she does a good job,” he told Van Susteren in 2012. “I like her.”

The Washington Post reported last summer that shortly before entering the race, Trump talked with Bill Clinton on the phone and discussed his role in politics.

It is hard to resist wondering what the two talked about in that phone call. For Trump to actually be running with the direct intention of getting his old friend into office would be among the most outlandish and crazy things ever to have happened in the history of American politics.

But so many things about the 2016 campaign have defied conventional wisdom and expectations. And as a possible conspiracy theory, it benefits from having a shockingly small amount of people who would need to keep quiet.

If Trump planned on wrecking the Republican party to make Hillary Clinton president, the only three people who would have had to be in on it were the Clintons and Trump himself.

Speculating about the secret inner thoughts of Donald Trump is a game you cannot win. But Will’s question remains difficult to answer. “If Donald Trump were a Democratic mole placed in the Republican Party to disrupt things, how would his behavior be any different?”

Hillary Helper

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We are in the midst of Hillary Clinton’s second attempt and Clinton’s limitations as a presidential candidate have become clear.

In her own words, she is “not a natural politician.” She is an awkward campaigner, has trouble relating to voters, is widely seen as untrustworthy, and is attacked from both the right and the left. She has been dogged by a scandal that brings into question her ability to be trusted with information sensitive to national security. In poll after poll, she has record-breaking unfavorability ratings.

But the dislike Americans feel toward Clinton is dwarfed only by their ill-feelings towards her opponent. After a brief bump in polling when he locked down the Republican nomination, Trump has been falling in head-to-head matchups with Clinton. She has become the overwhelming odds-on-favorite among bookmakers.

Some might see George Will’s slyly provocative question as the ultimate in conspiracy theorizing. What does Trump have to gain from giving Hillary a leg up to the White House? A Get-Out-of-Jail card after the Trump University verdict comes down?

In the end, who can say what goes on beneath that famous excrescence of hair?

But one thing is for sure: If Hillary Clinton becomes president, a big part of the reason will be her old friend Donald Trump.


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Donald Trump Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) and Bill Clinton (White House / Wikimedia)

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31 responses to “If Trump Were a Clinton Plant, What Would He Do Differently?”

  1. SPQR_US "The Deplorable" says:

    I hope Lyin Ryano the traitor leaves…

  2. Suzan says:

    Ha Ha.

    And now we hear that Paul Ryan is getting out.

    Good job.

  3. ccbcco says:

    1) There is no question that the Clintons encouraged Donald to run. The only question is the extent of the encouragement.
    2) There is no question that the Clintons are the smartest shrewdest operatives on the political landscape.
    3) The Clintons knew Trump’s propensities and tendencies personally, and also knew most of the Trumps’ friends for years before encouraging him to run. Given #2 above, the Clintons KNEW IN ADVANCE what the effect of his candidacy would be on the GOP and on the electorate. 4) It was widely known and reported that the Clintons considered Trump their preferred election opponent.
    4) The Clintons’ objective is to split and weaken the GOP and its brand and win the election.
    5) Trump’s candidacy HAS split and weakend the GOP dramatically and Clinton is now a heavy favorite to prevail in the election.

    Need I say more?

  4. David King says:

    Could this have actually begun in 2008 when Donald began his fake Birther-ism campaign? And, then re-started in 2012… To bring on a full force crazy storm for 2016. (Conditioning the Republicans, and preparing them for full-on crazy)… Donald has been a Clinton friend for many years (and a Democrat for many more than that).
    And, y6ou know who is making the most money off this??? The media: The discourse between the parties brings in campaign contributions… Then all those billions of dollars are spent on buying media ads!!!

  5. bilding says:

    Intelligent, reasonable discourse during the primaries was whitewashed out by Clinton’s corporate media friends, and so she is still in the race, just barely, and will become the DP nominee thanks to the bought and paid for crony politicians and lobbyists many Americans rail against.

    Trump was well aware going into his run for the Presidency that speaking to pet social evils and party dogma would just put him in a pack of like sounding GOP banner carriers. The only question left was how to out-GOP the dyed in the wool GOPer.

    My take is that he answered that question in spades, but the really hard part has only just begun. Selection of his VP was the first of many trip wires in the minefield that is the GOP convention, all the while needing to make the most cynical about him believe what he wants them to believe.

    It is not just the journey that matters, but the prize awaiting should he get there.

  6. Robert Serabin says:

    There is no logical reason to believe Trump can sustain a victorious march to the Oval Office. Only poor voter turnout would make it even a close race. Not even Karl Rove would challenge that HRC will win by a 10 point landslide

    • bilding says:

      Just as there was no logical reason to believe he would have dispatched his opposition as readily as he did.

  7. joe_smith says:

    The Donald wanted to run for the Oval Office since the late 1980s. The Clintons didn’t put him up to it. Bill might have encouraged him to run when The Donald called, but Trump was going to run regardless of what Bill’s view was on the matter.

    In 2014, he ordered a hapless aide to listen to hours of conservative talk radio peddling right- wing conspiracy theories as research for his outlandish talking points in the campaign. If he knew what kind of nonsense some Republican voters & the poorly-educated in the far right believe in, then he could shape his message to accommodate them & win them over.
    It’s just pure luck that Hillary has to face off against the 70 year old vulgarian with a bad spray tan, instead of low-energy Jeb! or Little Marco – both of whom have a better chance of defeating her than the businessman whose narcissisn is off the charts!

    The mostly liberal media made it possible! They helped him win the primaries by giving him unprecedented air-time to voice his demented platform, whilst providing very little coverage on his rivals. Sad! they wanted him to be the GOP nominee to ensure Hillary’s victory. The Donald also got help from the conservative media whose apocalyptic & pessimistic view of the country, the government & the future made so many voters susceptible to his unrealistic & simple ideas.

    This whining & self-absorbed & thin-skinned cry-baby isn’t a Manchurian candidate for the Clintons. he’s at the right place at the right time. So many factors come into play to ensure that he’s the instigator of the GOP’s doom.

  8. JakeLee says:

    Donald Trump is 100% a Trojan Horse! out will pop HRC!

    I got a questionnaire in the mail from the DNC. I didn’t fill it out, instead wrote “I will not vote for HRC” and mailed it. Basically she is 10x the Neocon that Obama is (I voted and supported him), continuing all of Bush’s policies. He governs right of center, she is even farther right. I’m a Bernie supporter, but it doesn’t look like he has what it takes, he needs to be more like the others and take what he wants. He can do this by joining the Green Party and have Jill stein as his VP.

    • artemis6 says:

      I did the same, because The DNC betrayed the voters. Clearly, they actually despise democracy. They should be stripped of their name.

  9. BostonApu says:

    I don’t think it’s possible to ever know if this is true. If after Trump loses he says its true would you believe him? It’d be just as easy to believe to said it to protect his winning ego. I’ll tell you one thing, if he gets blown out (which is likely) he’s going to say its true. Only thing I’m sure of with Trump is he’ll protect his ego at all costs.

  10. MOPstr says:

    If you look at expected return on political investment (ROPI)
    Clintons pay off at a far higher rate than that which Trump would ordinarily expect from a real estate investment.

  11. Red Rider says:

    I have believed since Hillary lost to Obama in the primary in ’08 that if she entered the ’16 race, she would only do so if she had been given the green light from the “powers-that-be!” I still maintain that she will be the next POTUS. Trump is the distraction she needed to accomplish this goal. He has done his job well so far.

  12. artemis6 says:

    I have ALWAYS believed, Trump’s sole purpose in this race was to make the other candidates(by that I especially mean Hillary) look good, to a certain kind of voter – the mostly rational voter that still wants to believe that the system is not a total rigged farce. That suspicious email supports my claim. Also, the fact that whole documentaries have been made about Trump and his rampant corrupt shenanigans and they are simply not being used against him…… ?! Please. If they were not in collusion Trump would have been ruined by now. The media saved a place for him as the Republican nominee, and have consistently handled him with kid gloves. Sickening. Otherwise this Makes no sense. I thank goodness for whowhatwhy. At least I am not the only one who noticed the weird, twistings of a political system in its death thrash.

    • James says:

      And now that he is the sole candidate, and Hillary’a policies are being aired in the background, with Trump’s lewd behavior being brought into the light, this theory suddenly gains even more traction and plausibility.

  13. Bill says:

    Sorry Trump’s comments on the judge can’t be racist since Hispanic and Mexican aren’t races.

  14. Ken Boe says:

    If Jack Ruby could be made to shoot Oswald, Trump could be made to bring down Bush. Nut from the start, he seemed confident he could capitalize on a dormant but loaded festering of white right-wing hatred. But if so, there are a few other people that know some part of it. Bless their hearts, I hope the Clinton’s New World Order is better than the one envisioned by the Bush clan. God save the queen.

    • artemis6 says:

      You speak as if Bushs and Clintons are actually separate and distinct, in stead of henchmen of the elite……tools of the same master agenda.

  15. hifibrony says:

    There are a couple of holes in the theory.

    1. How did the Clintons/Trump think, a year ago, that Trump could win the nomination? ALL of the smart/big money was on Jebthro. Trump looked among the longest of long shots. Not Santorum/Paul but close to that.

    2. A former Trump insider wrote not long ago that his intentions were to get 15-20% of the vote, stir up some anti-establishment muck and make his point. Not even Himself expected what happened to happen. Maybe now he has a taste for it.

    I am wondering if either Bonnie or Clyde a/k/a Hilly and Bill, double-crossed him somewhere along the line and he is just being Trump, by trying to get even in a big way in the largest of all public forums. He’s been dragging skeletons out of the Clintons’ closet – and there’s an army group of them – with gleeful enthusiasm.

    If the story is ever written truthfully it will make engrossing reading, that’s for certain.

    • Bryce says:

      #1…. big time. A Trump nomination was neither probable nor conceivable back then. It’s truly a black swan event.

    • artemis6 says:

      Actually the real question is how could he NOT “win” the nomination? He got vastly more free media coverage than any other candidate. Prove me wrong, please.

    • bilding says:

      With respect, for almost 30 years, Trump has been up close and personal with Presidential candidates, observing closely how the racket is run, and as always when dissatisfied with the outcomes, very Trumplike with his opinions. When pressed over the years to run, he was steadfast in his conviction that there are those better suited. I challenge objectively minded readers to come up with the name of any person that met his simple requirement in 2014 who could have gotten through the rigged process and would actually be the Commander In Chief most Americans could admire. This is not to say Trump is one of them either, but at his age, believing the time had come for him to run is understandable.

  16. (Comment by reader @kevinforronpaul) interesting take but the same suspicious examination should also be done on “presstitute” George Will.

  17. (Comment by reader @MaryKathryn2082) That jerk is too self-centered to do any such thing as be a Clinton plant …and why and where is one?

    • MOPstr says:

      ‘Why ?’ is easy – an enormous pay-off so he will have the amount of money that he claims to have. Easily done by a Clinton presidency.

    • artemis6 says:

      Xactly. Nothing else makes sense.

  18. (Comment by reader @stevematic) the crazier he acts, the more credible this theory

    • Frank von Winkhorst says:

      Or maybe he’s just a sociopath. Remember, the only qualification for sociopathy is lack of a conscience. Can anyone give me a single example where Herr Drumpfen Fuhrer showed signs of having a conscience?

      Comment editor’s note:
      ‘Herr Drumpfen Fuhrer’ – ‘Trump’ is an anglicized version of ‘Drumpf’, the original surname of Trump’s ancestors.

    • artemis6 says:

      They are ALL sociopaths. It’s their club and you and I aren’t in it. Where does it say that sociopaths do not make long term plans for massive gains? They sure as hell do, that is WHY they join large hierarchical power structures. They MUST collaborate to get to the top, THEN they can axe the competition…. Just as Hitler wiped out the men who carried out the Kristallnacht murders, to cover his behind. Pity such a repeated pattern is NOT taught in history. Of course it would never be allowed…….

    • artemis6 says:

      I have to admit, if this was the plan, it is a pretty solid plan. Would LOVE to see it scuttled…..