Team Trump's Big Fail in Clinton Counterattack
Policy + Politics

Team Trump's Big Fail in Clinton Counterattack

Joshua Roberts

Efforts to get Donald Trump to at least try to run something approximating a normal U.S. presidential campaign may be bearing some fruit, as evidenced by Team Trump’s effort to provide “rapid response” pushback to Hillary Clinton’s critique of his economic proposals on Tuesday. However, what it really demonstrated is that the presumptive Republican nominee’s operation has a lot of catching up to do.

One hallmark of a good rapid response program is that it looks effortless. It gives the impression that an opponent’s claims are so easily debunked that it almost isn’t worth the time. A properly functioning one has slick email blasts teed up and ready to go in response to an opponent’s points. Live-tweeting is on-point. And the candidate usually stays well above the fray.

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The Trump campaign’s attempt at rapid response Tuesday looked more like a frenzied effort to throw as much muck at the wall as possible in the hope that even if none of it stuck, the sheer amount of it flying around would distract reporters enough to blunt Clinton’s message. And Trump was right there in the middle of it, launching a storm of tweets that brought his grasp of both economic policy and basic grammar into question.

For example, in the middle of Clinton’s speech, the Trump campaign sent reporters an email with the title, “Clinton's Policies Helped Create The Mortgage Meltdown; Her Immigration & Economic Plans Wages Next.”

What does that mean? Who knows? But it was pushed to hundreds of journalists by a major party presidential candidate.

As for the body of the message, well, anybody with even a passing familiarity with the mortgage markets probably stopped reading when the email mentioned the non-existent company, “Freddie Mae.” But those who soldiered through were treated to more borderline gibberish. “Hillary Clinton has called for the nearly complete suspension of immigration enforcement and the decline of wages for U.S. workers that have followed.”

For the record, that one sentence includes: 1) a lie about Clinton’s immigration policy, 2) a lie about Clinton calling for the “decline of wages for U.S. workers,” and 3) evidence that someone in the Trump organization is deeply confused about the temporal relationship between cause and effect.

Another email consisted largely of quotes from a book by former uniformed Secret Service agent Gary Byrne with lurid claims that Hillary Clinton committed acts of domestic violence and abused White House employees. It might have been better to go with that on a day when all of Washington had not been treated to a Politico story in which Byrne’s fellow USSS officers eviscerated his claims.

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It goes on and on. The campaign sent one email accusing Hillary Clinton of funneling State Department money to her husband, the former president, through Laureate Universities, a company that paid him millions to serve as chancellor. But half the press release was dedicated to relitigating the question of Trump University, the now defunct “educational” institution whose former students are suing Trump for fraud. Not the sort of thing you voluntarily bring up when trying to discredit your opponent.

Another email claimed that an analysis of Trump’s economic plan by the Tax Foundation found that it would boost GDP by 11 percent in the long run. But it included a link to the report warning that Trump’s plan would add between $10 and $12 trillion to the national debt in the next decade. And that 11 percent GDP growth? The Tax Foundation report said that it would happen only if Trump’s massive tax cuts were paid for, which they are not.

In 2016, a capable rapid response operation is a fundamental core competency of any presidential campaign. The fact that Team Trump’s is so bad at its job should have Republicans even more worried than they already are.