Greg Sargent has a piece up on how the Clintons plan on going after Donald Trump in the general. Given how close the polls are in Iowa and the fact that Nate Silver is currently giving Bernie Sanders a 91% chance of winning New Hampshire, this conjecture about a Clinton/Trump general election may strike you are premature.

That doesn’t mean we can’t discuss it, however.

Now, the one thing that I really like about the proposed plan is that it uses the old Rovian playbook of going right after your opponent’s greatest strength. If Al Gore is Clinton without the perjury, then paint him as a serial liar. If your guy went AWOL in the Alabama Air National Guard and your opponent is a decorated war hero, then trash your opponent’s medals and question the legitimacy of his hero status.

Of course, the Clinton scenario doesn’t suffer from the same galling distortion and unfairness. Donald Trump really has gone into bankruptcy four separate times. His casino empire really did completely implode in massive, epic failure. Even his massive net wealth isn’t all that impressive:

[Trump] often says he is worth $10 billion, though most analysts say that is exaggerated. Bloomberg News closely studied his 92-page financial disclosure report and concluded that he is really worth $2.9 billion.

That may sound like a lot of money. But don’t forget that Trump inherited a lot of money, too — about $40 million in 1974. In 1978, his net worth was estimated by BusinessWeek at $100 million. The Post’s Wonkblog calculated that if Trump had gotten out of real estate, put his money in an index fund based on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index and reinvested the dividends, he’d be worth twice as much — $6 billion — today.

National Journal noted that Warren Buffett was also worth $40 million in 1974 — and he managed to turn that into $67 billion today.

And let’s not forget that Trump University was a complete fraud and a failure, that Trump Airlines was an idiotic idea that went bust, that no one (except a couple of Israelis) wanted to drink Trump Vodka, or eat Trump Steaks.

If you haven’t read about the complete failure of Trump’s Taj Mahal and his reliance on junk bonds (after promising the New Jersey legislature that he would never use them), you really should get on that. And then send a link to all your crazy Trump-supporting friends and family in your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

If Donald Trump were a contestant on The Apprentice, he’d have to fire himself at the end of every episode.

Which leads me to a second point. Trump doesn’t like to get slighted, and there’s nothing more important to him than his reputation as a brilliant and successful businessman. If you begin to take that away from him, he will lose his mind. He will go berserk. He will either lash out like a cornered animal or retreat like a whipped dog.

This doesn’t mean that I disagree with Greg Sargent that the Clintons need to be mindful that Trump has tapped into a deep discontent with the status quo and to have some answers for meeting the electorate where they are, not where they might wish that they are. On Friday, I made much the same point. Donald Trump should not be underestimated. He should be treated as seriously as a heart attack.

But, just because he’s very famous and has a couple of billion dollars doesn’t mean that he’s a great businessman. He’s got a record of ludicrous ventures, outright scam operations (like Trump University), and a ratio of success to failure that is simply too risky for the nation to accept in a president.

The Clintons should go after this so hard that the whole country has to reevaluate what they think they know about Donald Trump. If they do that, they’ll not only take away Donald Trump’s greatest strength; they’ll take away whatever it is that substitutes for his soul.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at