A group of Hofstra University students stand in front of a CNN trailer with images of Hillary Clinton, 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, and Donald Trump, 2016 Republican presidential nominee, ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate at Hofstra University, Sept.25, 2016, in Hempstead, N.Y.
Photo by Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty

Team Trump wants credit for all the wrong reasons

During this week’s presidential debate, when the discussion turned to race relations, Donald Trump explained that he opened a golf resort in Palm Beach that doesn’t discriminate against racial or religious minorities. “I have been given great credit for what I did,” the Republican boasted, adding, “I’m very, very proud of it…. That is the true way I feel.”

It was a reminder of one of Trump’s worst habits: he wants credit for doing the things he’s supposed to do anyway. In July, for example, the GOP nominee bragged about complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the construction of his buildings – failing to note that he didn’t have a choice.

It’s as if Trump effectively likes to tell voters, “Look at me! I routinely do what laws and basic human decency require of me!”

The same dynamic applies to the Trump campaign’s post-debate boasts. The Republican and his aides are incredibly impressed by the fact that Trump didn’t bring up Bill Clinton’s infidelities – as if attacking a woman over her husband’s affairs is a perfectly normal thing to do, but Trump is too nice and chivalrous for such boorish behavior.
Donald Trump doesn’t think he’s gotten enough credit for not talking about Bill Clinton’s history of sexual misconduct in Monday’s debate.

Just ask his son, Eric Trump, who said it took “a lot of courage” for the Republican nominee not to attack the former president. Or his campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who told MSNBC on Tuesday that Trump showed “presidential virtue” by not talking about the Clinton scandals.
Eric Trump couldn’t stop raving about this, characterizing it as some kind of moral triumph. “That was a big moment for me,” he told an Iowa radio station yesterday, adding his father’s reluctance to attack a woman over her husband’s adulterous past “will be something I’ll always remember.”

This is more than a little bizarre.

Right off the bat, let’s note that a candidate doesn’t get credit for refraining from making an attack on Monday if his campaign proceeds to make that same attack, over and over again, on Tuesday and Wednesday. “Let’s talk all about Bill Clinton’s affairs while bragging about remaining silent on Bill Clinton’s affairs” is an inherently nonsensical sentiment.

For that matter, there’s nothing especially virtuous about failing to condemn Hillary Clinton over Bill Clinton’s personal misconduct. The very idea that the public should blame a wife if a husband strays is absurd.

As for Eric Trump, if the candidate’s son seriously believes this is a great example of his father’s “courage,” that doesn’t exactly make Donald Trump look good.

But even if we put all of that aside, perhaps the strangest thing of all is the fact that Donald Trump is himself an admitted adulterer. The Republican nominee doesn’t exactly have the moral high ground when it comes to extra-marital affairs – and he’s on especially shaky footing when trying to go after Bill Clinton’s wife, rather than Bill Clinton himself.

Indeed, here’s the question Team Trump may want to consider while launching this coordinated attack about ’90s-era sex scandals: Hillary Clinton could have brought up Trump’s adulterous past during the debate, but she didn’t. Did that take “a lot of courage,” too? Is Clinton also getting too little credit for her generous graciousness?

Was Clinton’s reluctance to bring up Trump’s affairs a moment her daughter should “always remember” as a classic example of Clinton’s towering magnanimity?

Postscript: Rep. Marsha Blackburn told MSNBC yesterday. “I find it so interesting that there continues to be this conversation about what [Trump] has said when you look at what [Hilllary Clinton] has done: Gennifer Flowers, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky. My goodness.”

My goodness, indeed. Could the far-right rhetoric on this issue become any more ridiculous?

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

Team Trump wants credit for all the wrong reasons