When Trump is challenged about one or another of his outrageous statements, he counter attacks by insulting the questioners: they are stupid, not very nice, don’t know anything, desperate, disgusting, I’ll sue you, etc. If pushed, he changes the subject, often by angrily demanding answers to a question having little to do with the prior matter, and the tables are turned. He’s very good at it.
One of his most effective tactics is to call someone a nasty name, assert some heinous act or motive, or claim a ludicrous fantasy as fact, and it becomes the issue that must be addressed rather than anything else. In the meantime, he will be off on some other tangent, leaving the flustered behind to argue about something he has also left behind. He’s very good at it. Consider the recent headline that Speaker Ryan has decided that he will find a way to come to terms with Trump. Who won that one? Not the Speaker, that’s for sure. Trump doesn’t care one way or the other whether Mr. Ryan comes to terms with him. He simply expects that it will happen on his terms and goes on about whatever is next on his target list. None of his primary opponents ever figured that out.
In the early days of the campaign, Bernie was very effective at telling interviewers, in plain ordinary English, that their questions were unimportant or irrelevant to the weightier issues at hand, and he refused to play their games. He lost it somewhere along the way, but he started out well. The point is that Bernie’s method worked in part because his interviewers were reasonable people, and the unimportant issues they raised were often real issues just the same. Trump is a different case; a harder case. But I believe that a candidate with nerves of steel, who cannot be rattled, and who sticks with the early Bernie’s method could do well against him. It’s hard to argue if no one will argue with you. It’s hard to bait someone into a defensive posture if they see it for what it is and don’t fall for it.
Apparently we shall see if Bernie can reclaim his earlier panache on June 7 when he and Trump are scheduled to “debate.” Who will be put to the test. He? Trump? Neither? What about Hillary? No doubt we will have an opportunity to find out. Maybe her coaches are drilling her on it by confronting her with every disrespectful, outrageous, libelous thing they can come up with, over and over again. They won’t let up if they are any good. After the sessions are over they will rudely blindside her in the hallway, send nasty texts, and generally be a Trumpy as they can at her most vulnerable moments. A designated Trump should be her constant companion. Jack Nicholson could do it.
What a shame that a presidential race has come to this. A slapfest worthy of small town carnival wrestling, when the nation has truly important matters to discuss, which it should be doing like mature adults. If we are going to have media events passing themselves off as debates between the nominated candidates, I suggest very small panels of no nonsense journalists who are strong enough to refrain from engaging in conversation with them, and simply stick to the questions that need to be asked. Gwen Ifill comes to mind. As for me, I’m not looking forward to the next six months. However, we shall endure.