Donald Trump’s lips were moving again Tuesday night — and you know what that means. For what seemed like forever, but was really about an hour, the Republican front-runner treated America to another primary-night victory speech that was self-absorbed, belligerent and, well, sporadically factual.
Among his more obvious whoppers was this boast: “If I get to go against Hillary, polls are showing that I beat her. And some of the polls have me beating her very easily.” No: Only two reputable national polls this year, one taken for USA Today and one for Fox News, have shown Trump leading Clinton, both times within the margin of error. She’s up by more than six points in the RealClearPolitics average.
Still, those numbers should be cold comfort to Democrats eyeing a matchup between Clinton and Trump, and not simply because they don’t capture what people would think when confronted with an actual choice between the two, rather than a hypothetical one.
The real imponderable is what would happen if Trump trained his verbal guns on the former secretary of state, and her alone, and fired them like this:
“You know our country doesn’t win anymore. When was the last time — like, 1991, when we beat the Soviets, and that guy Saddam in Kuwait? We were on top of the world and everybody loved us and wanted to copy our system and it was really special. That was what, 25 years ago? These college kids who voted for Bernie weren’t even born yet.
“Ever since, it’s been lose, lose, lose. And you know when it started, people? I’ll tell you: It started in 1994, with that stupid NAFTA. That was her husband Bill’s idea. He sounded all high and mighty about markets and democracy, but he was really listening to lobbyists and taking their money, and he let Mexico rip us off.
“And then he had another genius idea: Renew most-favored-nation trade status for China — can you believe it! He promised not to do it in the 1992 campaign, but the lobbyists and Henry Kissinger got to him. He made it permanent his last year in office so China could join the World Trade Organization. He said that would help sell U.S.-made cars in China! And now he says she’d be a great president.
“Somebody told me the other day about this economist at MIT — Author? Auto? Yeah, David Autor. He figured out trade with China explains about a fifth of the manufacturing job loss in this country between 1990 and 2007 — like 1.5 million jobs! Bill should have kept his campaign promise, but he never was too good with vows, if you know what I mean.
“So, after 9/11, we sort of had a comeback. I mean that day was horrible — horrible — but at least for a while we were all united and the rest of the world supported us. And then that idiot George W. Bush, I mean, he even makes his brother look smart, he blew it all by starting the war in Iraq. Totally destabilized the Middle East, discredited our foreign policy — and she voted for it in the Senate!
“She voted for that stupid, stupid war and then five years later we have total financial meltdown, and Bush wants to bail out the banks — and she votes for that, too! Everything the last 25 years has her fingerprints on it, people. Libya! What a disaster! Even Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg the other day ‘it didn’t work.’ His words — I would have used stronger ones, believe me. Either way, that was on her watch as secretary of state. She wanted to do that terrible, terrible Trans-Pacific trade deal, too, until she wimped out for the campaign.
“I know, I know. A lot of Republicans voted for these things, too: Most of ’em were bipartisan, in fact. That’s my point, people. They’re all the same. Say what you want about me — okay, so I was kinda for TARP at the time; maybe I did tell Howard Stern we should attack Iraq. At least that was just talk. I was nowhere near that mess in Washington. She was knee-deep in it.”
Like all Trump pitches, this one would be over-the-top, tendentious, totally oblivious to valid countervailing considerations and arguments.
Unlike many of them, however, it would have a relatively high fact content — just true enough to be effective, especially with the apparently large percentage of Democrats and Republicans who regret the Iraq War, abhor Wall Street and distrust trade deals.
Hillary Clinton, either personally or by association with the past two Democratic administrations, has been involved in many of the most fateful, and controversial, policy decisions of a difficult quarter-century. Trump may be the Republican best positioned to turn that history against her. She better be ready.