Sunday, October 9, 2016

Let's Get Real

-----Special Pre-Debate Blog Post-----

In the Netflix tv political drama "House of Cards", featuring the ruthless political animals Francis and Claire Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright), the Underwoods firmly believe that there is a solution to every political problem. That solution is usually to be playing offense rather than defense to solve that problem.

Donald Trump's political future is on the line tonight. Speaking more broadly, his entire business brand may also be on the line. There probably has never been an event that has been potentially more consequential for a Presidential candidate than what will transpire tonight for Trump.

He would I advise Trump on what to say tonight if he asked me?

First, he needs to be on the offensive without being offensive. That is not an easy task for anyone and most particularly for Trump. The best way to do it is to smile as much as he can and keep his voice in a conversational tone as much as he can. He cannot afford to look stern or threatening in him manner.

Second, he needs to accept responsibility for his actions and move on. He cannot afford to be defensive and try to explain himself. If he should have learned anything from the last debate is that he was too defensive and too prone to try to explain things away.

Third, he needs an overarching theme to the night. Something like when Reagan said to Jimmy Carter over and over in 1980, "There he goes again." My suggestion to Trump would be to use the line "Let's get real." Why? Because Hillary's biggest negative is her honesty and trustworthiness and Trump's greatest strength with voters is his willingness to "tell it like it is" without worrying about political correctness.

How might this play out?

I would advise Trump to take on the limo tape issue right at the top of the debate irrespective of the first question with something like this.

I imagine almost everyone in the world has by now heard my stupid and insensitive remarks about women that I made a decade ago. I can't tell you how humbling that it is to me to hear those words played back to me. It is inexcusable but who among us has not said something they should not have said sometime in their life? Or for that matter, more than a few times. (laughs and points at himself). 
However, let's get real here tonight. This election is not about talk, it's about results. I am not a politician. I have not spent my entire lifetime taking great care with every word I have spoken so as to not to offend anyone. I have not spent my entire lifetime saying one thing in private and another in public. That is what politicians do. I have spent my lifetime on achieving results. I have not spent my lifetime thinking about whether every utterance might keep me from being President of the United States.
Politicians seem to like to be judged on their words. Their great speeches. Their great campaign slogans. For example, does anyone remember something called "Hope and Change?" How has that worked out? The world I come from is one that you are judged by results. Creating something real. Building great buildings. Creating tens of thousands of jobs. 
Let's get real. I didn't decide I wanted to run for President in the 8th grade like most people who end up standing on this stage do. I wanted to develop and build a business. I created one of the greatest businesses and brands in the world today.  I don’t need this office to live in a palatial house and have access to aircraft dedicated for my use 24/7.  I already have all of that. I am not running to provide something for myself.
I am running because I sincerely love this country and its people. I am tired of America losing. Losing jobs. Losing in trade deals. And losing respect around the world. I am running because, my fellow Americans, it is time to get real. It's time to quit focusing on words. We simply can’t afford letting the same people who have been given the opportunity to fix the same problems for the last 30 years be given yet another chance. It is time to start looking to results. Who can deliver and who can't.
Over my lifetime, I have shown that I get results. Isn’t it time you had someone getting results for you? Isn’t it time you had someone that was willing to fight for you?  

I would then have Trump be ready to use that "Let's get real" as a rejoinder every time he wanted to pivot to go on the offensive with Hillary.

A few examples of how that might be used.


"Hillary, let's get real. You don't even want to call it Radical Islamic Terror. In fact, you even said that Muslims have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism."

"Hillary, let's get real. Your economic plan is essentially identical to the same plan we have been following for the last eight years. Higher taxes. More regulation. Killing traditional energy. Killing manufacturing. Open trade and open borders that kill American jobs.


"Hillary, let's get real. You called the TPP the 'gold standard' of trade deals when you were Secretary of State. Your husband was responsible for NAFTA. Leaked emails that came out on Friday (laughs--if anyone noticed while they were hearing about me) indicate that you said to some of those that paid you $250,000 or more for an hour of your time was that your dream was a hemispheric common market with open borders and trade. "
It will not be easy. Trump needs to thread the needle to do it. However, it can be done. Ronald Reagan could have done it. I am sure Abraham Lincoln could have. Tonight we will see if Donald Trump can do it. If he can, he lives to fight another day. If he cannot, you will hear more calls for him to step down.

Some have asked me if the last few days who could the GOP replace Trump with if he somehow became convinced that he needed to step aside? (there is no way that the GOP can legally force him from the ticket). I doubt that Trump would ever come to that conclusion unless he believed that by continuing he was risking the Trump business brand that is his legacy to his children. Therefore, it would probably only be his children that would have enough influence to make him quit.

I think Mike Pence is the only viable option for the GOP.  He is already on the ticket. He was selected by Trump. He has acquitted himself well on the campaign trail so far. If the GOP tried to insert anyone else (Ryan, Cruz, etc) it would be met with deep distrust by Trump supporters.

The VP pick to replace Pence would be an example where the GOP would have to be capable of threading the needle. They would need to find someone acceptable to the Trump supporters but also credible with those at the RNC (who would actually make the choice). The chosen candidate also should be fairly well known to the public since the time is so short until the election. Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie come to mind as those that might fit that bill.

Finally, a lot has been made of the fact that it is too late to remove Trump from the election ballots across the country. In fact, early voting has already started in a number of states. However, remember that in our system when a vote is cast for Trump/Pence at the ballot box it is really a vote for Presidential electors who will be those who actually determine the vote for President.

In my state of Ohio, there are 18 Presidential electors that have already been chosen by the Trump campaign (with approval of the state GOP committee). Even if Trump steps aside and is replaced, those electors will vote in the electoral college if the GOP ticket wins on election day. Keep that in mind as we together see what promises to be real political theatre that might be a real "House of Cards".

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