Josh Barro thinks the debates should be a piece of cake for Hillary Clinton:
My main take-away from watching Wednesday's Commander-in-Chief Forum on MSNBC ... was that Hillary Clinton will not have much trouble inducing errors by Donald Trump in their debates.
Trump did especially badly on Wednesday when he was repeatedly pressed about stupid things he had said in the past: For example, that he knows more about ISIS than the generals do, or that Vladimir Putin is "highly respected within his own country and beyond" and is "getting an A" for leadership.
Trump is incapable of disavowing such statements or effectively changing the subject. Instead, he doubles down.
By aggressively pushing back, interrupting and correcting when Trump is in the wrong, Clinton can rattle and annoy him, drawing out responses that escalate in both anger and stupidity.
Citing Trump's answers last night when asked about his "secret plan" to defeat ISIS and his past praise of Putin, Barro writes:
In both of these series of questions, Trump got more rattled, more adamant, and more bizarre as the questioning went on. And that was just under aggressive questioning by an interviewer. Imagine how he's likely to react under pressure from a political opponent.
I'll leave it to you whether Matt Lauer's questioning of Trump qualifies as "aggressive." But please note: Clinton, according to Barro, should breeze through the debates if she challenges him (yes, her job) and corrects him (some responsibility for which should fall on the moderator). Piece of cake!
Remember, during the primaries, Trump allowed himself to get baited in to bragging about the size of his penis on a debate stage. This is not a man with discretion or self-control.
Yes, and also remember: Acting like that won him the Republican presidential nomination, and got him to within a few points of Clinton in general election polls.
Barro does introduce a note of caution:
When I tweeted that Wednesday's forum showed Clinton should be as aggressive as possible when debating Trump, my MSNBC colleague Irin Carmon responded that this is a risky strategy for a female candidate.
But then he throws caution to the winds, as men are wont to do in such discussions:
Ordinarily, I would say that's true. But Trump's response to Clinton's aggression is likely to be be so overaggressive and undirected as to make her focused aggression seem measured and presidential. Plus, aggression from Clinton will help to combat Trump's charges that she lacks the "strength and stamina" to be president.
No it won't. If Hillary Clinton reaches 3 or 4 on an aggression scale of 1 to 10, she'll be called shrill, hectoring, castrating, a witch, a bitch, a cu... well, I'm not going to go any further. By contrast, even if Trump gets to 9 or 10, whatever he says is just going to be called "tough talk" or "blistering rebuttals." And aggression on Clinton's part won't put the health questions to rest -- Trump and his surrogates will just start questioning her mental health ("Crooked Hillary seemed really unhinged last night"). Fox and Matt Drudge and Breitbart and Reince Priebus will be an amen chorus for that line of attack.
Too much of America considers Trump attractive when he's enraged -- and too much of America considers women deranged when they're merely expressing justifiable anger in a measured way.
Besides, this isn't what rattles Trump. Two people have genuinely rattled Trump, and they've done it by lulling him and then pouncing, but still in a quiet way. I'm thinking of Barack Obama's birth certificate/White House Correspondents Dinner one-two punch and David Letterman's sneak attack on Trump as an outsourcer. Everything else just gives him the opportunity to huff and puff and seem like the Big Man to the disturbingly large number of Americans who think trash talk equals toughness. And both required a lot of advance planning and a team of gag writers.
So how about asking the debate moderators, and the rest of the press, to do their job instead of assuming Hillary Clinton will do it?
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog