How Trump is Jumping Sharks, Cruz and Clinton

January 7, 2016

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Evidence is amassing that Donald Trump knows exactly what he’s doing. Consider two new cases in the billionaire’s run for The White House:

Jumping the Senator  With the Iowa caucuses only weeks away and polls confirming Ted Cruz’s lead, Trump has aimed his psycho-babble at a simple vulnerability of the junior Texas senator – that he was born in Canada. “I’d hate to see something like that get in his way…,” The Donald deadpanned.

The play is a birther-style ping that Cruz’s candidacy is illegitimate. Kind of like how republicans have come to dog-whistle Barack Obama’s secret Muslim faith. I don’t know if he’s a Christian…

Screenshot 2016-01-06 20.39.33No inference from Trump can be ignored. He controls the game, regardless of Cruz’s surge. So countering the ping is necessary and necessarily tricky. Cruz knows better than to pass or pause. Left un-checked, questions of birthright can have the effect of a very different play, the label. So the ever-clever Cruz has tossed the red herring, the diverting strategy that sends detractors off course. Adding humor to mask his misdirection, Team Cruz has likened Trump’s insinuation to the ageless jump-the-shark meme that’s social shorthand for desperation.

Diverting plays have brief, confounding power: They leave opponents red-faced but often increase their resolve to track and trap their prey. Accordingly, Trump will run more plays to weld Cruz to Canada. He’s so evasive, one can hear Trump musing. Just like Hillary.

Jumping the Spouse  Speaking of Hillary, other forms of destruction seem to loom as Trump is poking the sacred cow of Bill Clinton’s serial infidelity. It was Hillary Clinton’s Dec. 19 debate prediction — that Donald Trump is ISIS’s best recruiter — that made him pick up his prod. He was suddenly bloodied.

Trump punched back in a bizarre flurry that included his disgust for Hillary’s infamous bathroom break but, more important, a new signature musing that in 2008, “[Clinton] was favored to win and she got schlonged, she lost, I mean she lost.” Trump’s play was a peacock, thanks to the colorful, sexist and vaguely racist language.

Screenshot 2016-01-06 20.00.57Thinking, perhaps, she had him cornered, Clinton then said to The Des Moines Register, “[It’s] not the first time he’s demonstrated a penchant for sexism.” Wham, Trump’s trap was sprung. Sex, after all, is a shortcut Hillary’s long-held secrets and her marriage to Bill. It was left for Trump to issue a surgical tweet, that the real sexist is her husband. When questioned, Trump claimed, justifiably, that Bill Clinton’s sex life is fair game.

Seeing where this can go, Hillary has retreated to a kind of campaign no-fly-zone, pledging a policy of disengagement from The Donald. Her play is a deflect, a cousin to the red herring and a member of the diverting family of influence strategies. Just like the herring, however, deflects are only good for buying time. Watch for more attacks, timed to Bill Clinton’s stump speeches, each one daring Hillary to wrestle.

Whether it’s Cruz’s claim on citizenship or Hillary’s dodge on adultery, Trump is expertly twanging the nerves of two formidable rivals. To stop him, they’ll be forced into scorched-earth debates that could amount to a kind of mutually assured destruction of all participants. Which is Trump’s calculation – that no one will go so far. If they do, the billionaire barker might be killed but not before he cripples the candidacies of his top foes.

Bernie Sanders, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie should be so lucky.

Post by Alan Kelly