By David Thornton
Donald Trump had a bad week last week. When we look back after the election, it may be that the last week of September will be the week that decided the campaign. What can be said for certain is that last week was a case study in why candidates without political experience are not a good bet for an important race.
The disastrous week began on Monday with the first presidential debate. Trump started strong and then veered off course. During the debate, he invited China to invade North Korea and suggested that Iran could help rein in the Kim Jong Un, said that not paying taxes made him “smart,” and was rattled by Hillary Clinton’s ambush with the story of Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe, now famous for being called “Miss Piggy” and Miss Housekeeping” by Donald Trump. At one point, the NRA-endorsed Trump even agreed with Hillary Clinton on gun control.
On Tuesday, the blowback from the debate began. Trump and his surrogates began attacking moderator Lester Holt even though Trump had complimented Holt immediately after the debate. The Alicia Machado story, previously unseen, gained ground in the wake of Trump’s extremely defensive reaction. Trump did not deny the accusations.
On Wednesday, the Daily Dot reported that the snap polls after the debate that Trump had touted as showing him the winner were manipulated by Trump supporters. Pro-Trump groups on Reddit and 4Chan spammed about 70 online polls. Trump supporters were given instructions on how to cast multiple votes in order to skew polls. A more experienced candidate would have known that online polling is not scientific or reliable.
On Thursday, Newsweek broke the story that Donald Trump’s company had violated the US embargo on Cuba. In 1998, Trump Hotels illegally spent $68,000 on a business trip to Cuba. At the time, doing business with Cuba was illegal for Americans with very few exceptions. Building hotels was not one of them.
A few months later, as Trump was considering a run for president on the Reform Party ticket, he told voters, “As you know—and the people in this room know better than anyone—putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba. It goes to Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer. He’s a killer. He’s a bad guy in every respect, and, frankly, the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down.”
The same day, the Washington Post broke the story that the Trump Foundation had never obtained the proper legal certification in New York to solicit money as a charity. Trump has reportedly contributed very little money to his own charity, instead relying on outside donations. The Trump Foundation may have to return third party funds since it was not legally able to request donations.
Early Friday morning, while most Americans were sleeping, Donald Trump was awake and tweeting about Alicia Machado. The series of tweets posted between 2:20 and 4:30 a.m. included one alleging that Machado appeared in a sex tape, apparently a reference to a scene from a reality TV show.
Several hours after Trump’s tweets, the news that Donald Trump himself had appeared in a Playboy softcore porno set the internet on fire. “Before you go ‘eewwwww’ at the notion of Trump and porn in the same sentence,” said the New York Daily News, “he poured [champagne] over a Playboy logo during a benign segment of a 2000 video of a national Playboy Playmate tour that featured a stop in New York.” Trump remained fully clothed.
On Saturday, the New York Times published Trump’s 1995 tax returns which showed a $916 million loss from the mismanagement of his Atlantic City casinos and his purchases of the Eastern shuttle airline and the Plaza Hotel in New York. Tax experts said that the loss could have been used to avoid paying taxes for 18 years. Trump had previously refused to release his tax returns.
On Sunday, apparently deciding that his campaign had suffered enough for one week, Trump rested.
The lesson for Republicans in Trump’s rough week is that it all could have been avoided. Donald Trump was the only candidate who had never mounted a campaign. For the most part, the other candidates had all mounted and won successful campaigns for office. They knew how to debate. They knew how to answer policy questions and not be baited. Their backgrounds were thoroughly vetted by both Republicans and opposition researchers.
Trump was the only candidate whose past had never been vetted for skeletons in the closet. In spite of his obviously checkered past and shaky conservative credentials, the extent of his corruption and incompetence were not known throughout the primary. Since he accepted the Republican nomination, one scandal after another has broken, all damaging his campaign further.
Trump is undoubtedly the only candidate whose ego and temperament would not let him follow the directions of his advisors. No other candidate would have refused to practice for the debate and ignored the tips offered by his strategists. Trump is the only candidate who would be posting angry tweets in the wee hours of the morning.
Trump is probably the only Republican who could lose to Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, Republican voters considered political experience to be a negative. This outlook begat Donald Trump. After this years’ experience with Trump, it seems likely that a dependable, experienced nominee would be a better choice.