Basket Case: How Trump Beat Hillary’s Deplorable Attack

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Hillary Clinton is, if nothing, careful. Her supporters will tell you that this is the crucial characteristic that she and other women in spotlights are required to exhibit. They are held to a higher standard by dint of sexism. Link that to the age-old tradition of right-wing Hillary hunting and, presto, you get your embattled, opaque candidate.

But Clinton is cunning, too, and last weekend she ran a play that seemed off-the-cuff but bears the markings of a deliberate playmaker. Speaking to an LGBT fundraiser, which included the press, she said these now famous words:

“You know, just to be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people, now have 11 million. He tweets and retweets offensive, hateful, mean-spirited rhetoric.”

Her strategy was a clever mixture of plays from The Standard Table of Influence: Fiat: She was making a statement, sans spin. Label: She was pigeonholing her virulent opposition. Bait: She was daring The Donald to say it ain’t so. Finally, she finished with this kicker, a Recast that she figured would work as a kind of rhetorical escape pod from the inevitable blowback: I didn’t say all of you…?

“Now some of those folks, they are irredeemable,” Clinton added. “But thankfully they are not America. They don’t buy everything [Trump] says, but he seems to hold out some hope that their lives will be different. Those are people we have to understand and empathize with, as well.”

By this four-pack of stratagems, Clinton was forcing Trump lovers to face a false choice: Be deplorable and irredeemable or simply desperate. It was high-risk, but to expose Trump’s essential bigotry was apparently worth it. She’d set herself up to debate an inarguable point, and she’d set a trap for Donald to deny that his base is deplorable…and that his quips have set the example (think Mexican rapists, a ban on Muslims, incitement of violence, praise for Putin, etc.).

But then she out-smarted herself. The careful Clinton took over as she quickly issued a statement that, oops, she didn’t mean the part about “half” of Trump folk being deplorable. (Presumably she meant it was less.) Clinton’s concession amounted to a play called the Disco, a strategy of Parliamentary debaters that seeks to tap dance one’s way out of an awkward premise.

But unless regret is fully expressed, Discos can incite more than placate a rival. Sure enough, Hillary was targeted not only for her insults but her waffling. Sensing weakness in her resolve, this Trump statement came in hot:

“How can [Hillary] be President of our country when she has such contempt and disdain for so many great Americans? Hillary Clinton should be ashamed of herself, and this proves beyond a doubt that she is unfit and incapable to serve as President of the United States.”

What Clinton didn’t anticipate — and could have — were two important developments. First, the media’s incurable use of the Filter play, the strategy that edits and omits. The headlines her attack generated never read “half” baskets of deplorable, thus leaving the impression she’d called all Trump fans deplorable. Second, she succumbed to her pneumonia…which is another matter altogether, but one that largely prevented her from engaging in her planned tit-for-tat…or defense thereof.

But for the best laid plans, Hillary Clinton lost this round. A planned offensive played into the hands of her opponent who with little effort positioned her comments as condescension and some proof of her core elitist values. And, oh yeah, he proved his prophecy, that Hillary is sick. Big league.

Post by Alan Kelly

Graphics credit: Playmaker Systems, LLC

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