In a speech this afternoon, Donald Trump accused Hillary Clinton of being “unstable” and “reckless.” By all appearances, he wasn’t trying to be ironic.
Indeed, projection at this point seems to be one of the foundations of Trump’s campaign pitch. When he’s accused of being overly cozy with Vladimir Putin government, the Republican accuses Hillary Clinton of being too friendly with Russia. When Trump is accused of racism, he calls Clinton a “bigot.” When the GOP nominee’s temperament is questioned, he lashes out at Clinton’s temperament.
Four years ago, we talked about Mitt Romney and Republicans playing a bizarre game of “I’m rubber and you’re glue,” but Trump is taking the same dynamic to strange, new levels.
Arguably the most striking aspect of this is Trump’s insistence on focusing on “corruption” as a central campaign theme, despite his unfortunate record of corruption. The New York Times reported today:
Mr. Trump’s payment of a $2,500 penalty to the Internal Revenue Service over [his improper campaign contribution to Florida’s Pam Bondi] amounted to only the latest slap of his wrist in a decades-long record of shattering political donation limits and circumventing the rules governing contributions and lobbying.In the 1980s, Mr. Trump was compelled to testify under oath before New York State officials after he directed tens of thousands of dollars to the president of the New York City Council through myriad subsidiary companies to evade contribution limits. In the 1990s, the Federal Election Commission fined Mr. Trump for exceeding the annual limit on campaign contributions by $47,050, the largest violation in a single year. And in 2000, the New York State lobbying commission imposed a $250,000 fine for Mr. Trump’s failing to disclose the full extent of his lobbying of state legislators.
Writing in the Washington Post yesterday, Paul Waldman added, “[T]he truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has.” Waldman put together a list of 12 corruption-related controversies surrounding the Republican presidential hopeful, each of which include credible allegations of serious wrongdoing.
In July, New York’s Jon Chait added that Trump “may actually be the most corrupt presidential candidate ever.”
Trump’s entire business career reeks, beginning with his early associations with organized crime and proceeding through a career of swindling. “No other candidate for the White House this year has anything close to Trump’s record of repeated social and business dealings with mobsters, swindlers, and other crooks,” reports David Cay Johnston. Trump is not merely comfortable doing business with criminals and thugs – his habits of manipulating bankruptcy laws and swindling his partners have left him reliant upon, let us say, unconventional sources of investment, many of whom are the scum of the Earth.
It’s against this backdrop that Trump, without a hint of humor or shame, insists that Clinton is “Corrupt Hillary” – despite the fact that there’s no evidence of actual wrongdoing in any of the assorted “scandals” Clinton’s detractors have tried to pin on her.
Trump is confident he can pull this off because much of the media has already agreed upon the prisms through which the presidential campaign are seen: Trump is the demagogic racist who doesn’t understand government or public policy, while Clinton is seen as the dishonest one with ethics “issues.”
It led Waldman to conclude persuasively, “[I]t means that to a great extent, for all the controversy he has caused and all the unflattering stories in the press about him, Trump is still being let off the hook.”