In Gettysburg, Pa., on Saturday, Donald Trump delivered what was billed by his campaign as a “groundbreaking contract for the American voter.”
It was nothing of the sort. In fact, these were the same ideas he has been spouting for weeks and months. About the only new and noteworthy things, in fact, were:
- His threat to break up media companies.
- His promise to sue the women who have accused him of sexual assault and other misconduct — after the election.
“Every woman lied when they came forward to hurt my campaign,” Trump said. “Total fabrication. The events never happened. Never. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.”
Yes, Trump's big, new pitch to voters is that he's going to fight the media and sue people. Yuge.
Trump is losing by a sizable margin, which even he seems to recognize at this point. But instead of changing things up, he seems defeated and out of ideas when it comes to how to change his fortunes. As The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson wrote Friday, Trump seems almost resigned to his fate, even musing about what a waste it would all have been if he loses.
His threat to sue the women who have accused him was the big news to come out of Saturday's rally. But as with many of his threats of litigation, it begs for a large dose of skepticism.
Trump also threatened to sue 10 days ago, when the New York Times broke a story about two Trump accusers. His campaign put out word that it was drafting a lawsuit even that evening.
A lawsuit is being drafted now by Trump against the NYT. Very possible it could be announced tonight, though discussions ongoing.
— Robert Costa (@costareports) October 13, 2016
Apparently those discussions are still “ongoing,” because Trump hasn't filed the lawsuit. Even as the Times responded by puffing out its chest and essentially telling the campaign to bring it on, there is still no lawsuit, 10 days later.
At the time, many reports were skeptical of the lawsuit threat — in large part because it would open up Trump himself to on-the-record questions about his sexual past.
There is also the fact that, as Reuters reported, Trump has repeatedly threatened to sue newspapers over the past three decades, but he hasn't actually filed lawsuit since 1984 — one that was later dismissed. Trump's lawyer also suggested unrealized legal action could be coming when the New York Times reported in early October on Trump's previously secret 1995 tax return, which showed him claiming a $916 million loss that would allow him to avoid paying federal income taxes for years afterward.
All of which is reason to be even more skeptical of his newly threatened lawsuit.
Another reason to be skeptical is that he's threatening to sue the women after the election. While the Times threat was immediate and the lawsuit was supposedly imminent, Trump isn't even bothering with saying he'll file these lawsuits quickly, for some reason.
He waited 10 days from the first accusations to make this threat, and now he's saying he'll do it after the election — at a time that, if he reneges on his promise/threat again, few people will probably notice or even really care (assuming he has lost the presidency, of course).
The threat to break up media conglomerates is also new, but it's also actually sort of old. It's unites two long-standing planks of his campaign — populism and hating the media. But again, Trump has already served notice just how anti-media he is. Upping the rhetoric on that doesn't really bring any new voters into the fold. And, also, he's, um, not going to break up the media companies.
In the end, this is the same Trump we've seen since the primaries, running a campaign that appeals to the base and does nothing to expand from there. In recent weeks, while facing a torrent of unhelpful revelations, he has chosen to do the very same things that helped him win the GOP nomination but made him the most unpopular presidential nominee in the process.
And the “groundbreaking” proposals he put forward come from the same tired, ineffective playbook that made him competitive but never really gave him a good chance to win.