The Corner

Why Announce Your Debate Lines of Attack Now?

Is this the best possible debate strategy for Donald Trump?

Donald J. Trump plans to throw Bill Clinton’s infidelities in Hillary Clinton’s face on live television during the presidential debates this fall, questioning whether she enabled his behavior and sought to discredit the women involved.

Mr. Trump will try to hold her accountable for security lapses at the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and for the death of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens there.

And he intends to portray Mrs. Clinton as fundamentally corrupt, invoking everything from her cattle futures trades in the late 1970s to the federal investigation into her email practices as secretary of state.

Even if these are the best areas of attack, why is Trump announcing he will make these attacks in the debate now, in mid-May, in the pages of the New York Times, when the first debate will be in September? (Occam’s Razor: Donald Trump is talking about how he’ll attack Hillary in the autumn debates because he feels like talking about it.)

The latter two areas — Benghazi and personal corruption — sound like fertile ground, and hopefully Trump will elaborate on the last argument, connecting the dots between donations to the Clinton Foundation and changes in U.S. State Department policy under Clinton. But accusing Hillary of enabling Bill’s infidelities seems a lot riskier. (Ask the House Republicans of 1998 whether Americans cast their ballots based upon disapproval of Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior and lying under oath.) Hillary will undoubtedly claim to be victimized by Trump’s attack, and probably claim it’s an attack on every spurned spouse. Or she may point to Trump’s boast in The Art of the Deal, “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.”

Or she may revert to the trite deflection, “arguing about nonsense like this doesn’t help one struggling family with an unemployed parent find a job, or pay for their medical bills…”


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