Presidential Campaign

Hillary should debate Trump’s manhood and cowardice

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Hillary Clinton goes into Monday’s first presidential debate with high expectations. This is not a good thing for Clinton. High expectations in presidential debates are never a good thing.

In this debate, ironically, Clinton’s greatest strength, experience, is her greatest weakness. In this election year, experience is an albatross. Her experience ties Clinton to the status quo, and there are millions of voters who believe the status quo sucks.

{mosads}As an activist lawyer, First Lady of Arkansas AND First Lady of the United States, a twice-elected U.S. Senator from New York, a former Secretary of State, Clinton reeks of the quo.

Her opponent? A developer of mostly mediocre properties who made a small fortune (very small) with his daddy’s money. He has stiffed subcontractors and tenants, hired undocumented workers, went bankrupt on three casinos (hard to do).

He was a reality TV performer, but when it hemorrhaged ratings, he jumped ship to run for president. He is the owner of a for-profit university that allegedly bilked students of millions, that was forced to close by the Justice Department and that is now facing trial for racketeering.

That said about this scam artist, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president who, going into this debate, is in a virtual tie with Hillary “Quo” Clinton for President. If ever the times, the politics and the mood of the country came together to make the unimaginable possible, it is in 2016.

The unimaginable, of course, is Donald Trump being a serious candidate for president. Some credit is due to Trump for seizing the anti establishment mood of the country, but most of his success can be attributed to pure luck.

He entered a crowded GOP field of 17, which included very established candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Ohio Gov. John Kasich who faced a very anti-establishment Republican electorate of mostly disenfranchised white men. The other candidates were not ready for primetime.

In 2016, Trump, with his outsized ego, his anti-immigrant and anti-trade positions, coupled with barely disguised racism and deep-seated sexism and a willingness to lie whenever it suited him, was a near perfect fit.

On the road to the GOP nomination, Trump earned the reputation as a good debater by slandering and bullying his opponents, knocking them out with cheap shots and lies. On a crowded stage, Trump got away with these deplorable tactics.

Now Trump faces only one opponent, who has experience in dozens of debates. The problem for Clinton is those previous debates were against adults who played by the rules and hewed mostly to the truth. Clinton now faces a very different opponent. An opponent who plays by his own rules. An opponent willing to lie and cheat, with a press corps unable or unwilling to expose this later day Joe McCarthy. An opponent who will minimize Clinton’s debate experience

Yet, Hillary Clinton will not debate Trump unarmed. Her vast political experience and the depth of policy understanding that comes with it may in fact be a great asset particularly against a lightweight like Trump. Clinton’s experience, standing alone before the public, may be a liability, but when judged against Trump’s complete lack of experience or understanding of the most basic policies, may yet be her strongest asset. In the debate, she will need to provoke the comparisons by drawing Trump out and setting him up.

Many good journalists have attempted to confront Trump about his many lies and failures, and have failed. Hillary Clinton has an advantage over the press. She does not have to sound unbiased and she does not have to let Trump avoid a follow-up. She can use one of the oldest debate tricks; go after Trump’s major vulnerabilities, whether the moderator brings them up or not, by raising them herself.

Trump plays by no rules and she shouldn’t either. Example: Clinton should ask Trump why he is hiding his tax returns, then answer the question herself. “Don says he can’t release his tax returns because he is being audited. Well, Don, the IRS has said you can release your taxes, audit or no audit. You will be the first candidate for president in the modern era to hide his taxes. Even Richard Nixon released his taxes while under an audit. So Don, what are you hiding?”

Trump has hundreds of bogus policies, but when confronted with the failure of his policies, Trump runs like a scalded dog. Here Clinton has a powerful tool. She should say, “Few people believe you can do what you say. Well Don, it’s time to be a man and tell the American voters exactly what you intend to do specifically.” Trump of course will duck, lie and dodge. To this, Clinton should say, “The public doesn’t believe you, and I don’t believe you. The time has finally come — MAN UP DON.”

It will drive him nuts.

Years ago, with some political skill and lots of luck, I convinced Fritz Mondale to use “Where’s the Beef” in a debate. Now I’m asked if there is a line Clinton can use against Trump. I don’t have a line, but I do have a tactic: Challenge Trump’s manhood and call him a coward.

Tough, but it is 2016 after all.

Bob Beckel is a political analyst for CNN, and a Contributor for The Hill.


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags 2016 presidential election Debate Democratic Party Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Republican Party United States

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