Josh Marhsall sees what Hillary Clinton is doing to drive Donald Trump bonkers.
Trump is in so many ways the perfect anti-Clinton. By a mix of temperament and chastened experience on the public stage, Clinton is controlled, wary and planned. To her disfavor, she is hard pressed to be spontaneous or unrehearsed in the moment. With Trump, what little preparation or strategy there may be seldom survives first contact with the emotion, intuition, aggression or the perceived opportunities of the moment. The most salient thing we’ve learned about Donald J. Trump over the last year is that he is unable to control himself and his myriad mercurial, even manic impulses. He may want to ‘pivot’. But he can’t. The crazy follows him because it emanates from him. And because he can’t, he says he doesn’t want to. He probably believes it too.
But after two rallies and a flurry of interviews there’s no question Clinton has gotten to Trump in a big way. As she said, he is very thin skinned. (Emphatically denying that you’re thin-skinned is not a credible rebuttal.) Given who he is, being denigrated by a strong woman must cut deeply. Underneath the angry talk, he appears befuddled and uncertain about just how to respond. That is mainly because even before her assault he’d maxed out his invective. She was crooked, a liar, untalented, a lightweight, a sexual predator by proxy. How exactly do you escalate from there?
As Clinton and her team certainly anticipated, hitting him hard as mentally unstable and unfit for the presidency has placed Trump in a sort of Chinese finger puzzle of his own creation. The only mode of response he knows – an escalating and bellicose round of personal attacks with increasingly hyperbolic accusations – only confirms Clinton’s diagnosis. The harder he fights the tighter the charge sticks.
Take it from someone who has dealt with bullies for all of his life, the easiest way to beat them is by mocking them with their own words and boasts. Name-calling brings you down to their level, but if you hit them back with their own bullshit, all they can do is splutter and make it worse.