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.
Here are the tweets, over a 16-minute span between 5:14 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Eastern time:
There are certainly aspects of Machado's past that no campaign would like for its surrogates to have; specifically, she was accused in 1998 of driving the getaway car in a murder plot and then of threatening a judge. But Trump is once again playing fast-and-loose with the facts.
There have been plenty of rumors of a "sex tape," and Machado has been described as a "porn star" by some. But, according to Snopes (some censored yet still NSFW images at that link), this is based on nothing more than Internet rumors and some grainy, non-explicit footage of Machado apparently having sex under the covers while she was a reality show contestant.
Then there's Trump's peddling of the theory that Clinton helped Machado "become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate." This doesn't make sense, given Machado became a U.S. citizen in August and the application process generally takes at least six months. So Clinton would have had to hatch this plot in early 2016 — to know just as the primaries were beginning that she would face Trump in the debates and that Machado would figure into them. (But, again, we're applying facts to a conspiracy theory that's apparently based upon nothing.)
More than anything, though, here we have the Republican presidential nominee, less than 40 days before the election, doing the very same things that have led voters to severely question his temperament.
And however well Trump is doing in the head-to-head polls — and no matter how much he says that his temperament is great — it's a very real concern for voters.
A New York Times/CBS News poll earlier this month showed just 31 percent of registered voters say Trump has the "right kind of temperament and personality to be a good president." Fully 64 percent said he did not. That's almost two-thirds of the electorate.
As much as the media gets attacked for not being hard enough on Trump, it's clear that a strong majority of Americans have processed the many controversial things he's said, including his comments about women and his tendency to get drawn into petty feuds. Some people can get past it and are still voting for him, yes — but it's a clear liability.
And it's a liability the Clinton campaign seems to be intent on driving home in the final weeks of the campaign — apparently with the able assistance of Trump himself.
Clinton said at the Democratic National Convention two months ago: "A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons."
Whether you trust Trump with nuclear weapons is one thing. But what's become clear as day over the past week is that Trump can indeed be baited. The Clinton campaign has done it repeatedly — on Mark Cuban, on taxes, etc. -- and he's taken it, hook, line and sinker. We're now on Day No. 5 of the Machado story. That's in no small part due to Donald Trump.