Friday February 28, 2020

US presidential election: Hillary runs a temperature, Trump takes a run at temperance

This is arguably the cleanest, most exact manifestation of a “pivot” yet, writes Siobhán Brett

12th September, 2016

Hillary Clinton has a cold.

Okay, she has pneumonia. She is resting at her home in Chappaqua, New York. After yesterday leaving an event to commemorate 9/11 in New York City before it ended, the presidential nominee was filmed seeming to falter roadside while waiting for a car to her daughter’s apartment near Madison Square Park.

Detractors were giddy at the development. Martin Shkreli, the CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical and so-called industry bad boy” who last year increased the price of a potentially lifesaving anti-parasite tablet to $750 from $13, rushed to Chelsea Clinton’s building and waited outside until he could shout abuse at Clinton, streaming the sorry proceedings from his phone.

By afternoon, her doctor released a statement explaining Clinton had been prescribed antibiotics and advised to change her schedule. Clinton will not now be in California for planned fundraisers this week. It remains to be seen whether she will continue on to Nevada, midweek.

The rhythmic clip of the Sunday news cycle quickened to something like whirring into the evening, each outlet parsing word of Clinton’s ill health in different ways.

The doctor’s statement was received with glee by the supporters of Donald Trump who would brandish it as confirmation of the infirmity and weakness they had been alleging for months.

Bloomberg deemed it “another landmine for suddenly vulnerable markets”. The Economist said the episode looked like “a giant gift to Donald Trump”. By 9:25 p.m. New York time, the Times had published a post: “Hillary Clinton Has Pneumonia: What That Means”.

The concessions to illness have already led to much copy from conservative commentators keen to promote themes like dishonesty, secrecy, and lack of transparency. For the more strident or militant among the critics, like Matt Drudge, there is an even simpler drum to beat.

Throughout, to now, her opponent has remained silent on the subject.

A more temperate Trump

It took willpower, or firm intervention by an aide, or both, for Trump to have avoided issuing so much as a single tweet about Clinton’s abrupt exit, or her newly-dashed plans.

He’s not going to say anything, according to sources briefed who spoke to Bloomberg

. This is arguably the cleanest, most exact manifestation of a “pivot” yet.

Late on Friday, Clinton told an audience, prefacing it with a caution that she was going to be “grossly generalistic”, that half of Trump’s supporters could be put into what she called “the basket of deplorables”.

“Right?” she replied to gentle cheers and applause. “The racist, sexist, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it. “He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks, they are irredeemable. But, thankfully, they are not America.”

Trump responded, as he is wont to do, on Twitter. Not, though, with the reflexive, exclamatory response to which his followers and much of America has grown accustomed. No. It read as follows: “While Hillary said horrible things about my supporters, and while many of her voters will never vote for me, I still respect them all!”

As sentimental expressions go, it was not the most sincere. But nor was it aggressive, negative, or taunting. Trump left the pursuit of an apology from Clinton to his running mate, Mike Pence, and his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. On Saturday afternoon, their requests were met: Clinton released a statement in which she called her own words “wrong”.

Even if mute, Trump will be found in the news. September 11 brought with it an opportunity to dredge up an ill-advised media appearance from the annals (in which Trump treats the attack as an opportunity to talk about the new dominance of one of his buildings on the Manhattan skyline).

If he can now rely on a small number of lieutenants to effectively represent him and advocate for him, Trump must also understand that he relies on another small number not to put feet wrong.

Last night, his son, Donald Jr., was criticised for reposting a white supremacist meme to Instagram. Roger Stone, who NBC calls an “informal adviser”, posted the same image to Twitter.

The problem lies with “Pepe the Frog”, a garish cartoon character who has been adopted by the alt-right movement and twisted into an unlikely vehicle for a variety of racist and white nationalist viewpoints (in ways best described in this piece by Olivia Nuzzi at the Daily Beast).

At the time of writing, the Trump campaign had not made a comment.

Additional reading:

There’s another kind of silence that might suit Donald Trump very well, writes Albert R. Hunt

Last Monday, the New York Times carried a column about media coverage of Clinton by one of economics columnist, Paul Krugman. It has since been described a “subtweet” pertaining to the approach of Times itself

Benjamin Wallace-Wells wrote a quite warm but thoughtful assessment of Clinton’s candidacy and its relationship with national pride for the New Yorker

Not reading, but this is an exquisite GIF of Ted Cruz (during a simpler time for the campaign) shared by Gawker writer Ashley Feinberg

Similarly, this is not reading, but if you are (a) living in Dublin and (b) interested enough, Jim Carroll’s discussion series, Banter, is hosting a US presidential election edition next Tuesday night on Abbey Street and it is a promising panel

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