The media narrative about what has happened in this presidential election is that, since his abysmal performance in the first debate, Donald Trump is having “a bad week.” The implication is that the Republican nominee could bounce back into this race if he can manage to pull off “a good week.” It also suggests that having “a bad week” is what happened to Trump – rather than it being something he created. All of that is total nonsense.
It’s true that Trump performed horribly in the first debate. But to have watched the candidate over the last few months should have given us a clue about what was coming. As many have noted, Trump has been feeding off the frenzy of the crowds who attend his rallies. In a debate where the audience is restrained and there to observe, he had none of that to draw from. So we got to watch him go one-on-one with Hillary Clinton. Of course she baited him into showing his true colors. But his reaction simply demonstrated that he has no self-control. He has three choices about how to handle subsequent debates:
- Repeat his loss of control from the first debate,
- Try to go toe-to-toe with Clinton on a discussion of policies, or
- Attack viciously.
None of those are likely to go well for the Republican nominee.
But something bigger happened that led to the wheels coming off the Trump campaign. As many people (including me) suggested, he made a huge mistake when he Rick-rolled the press by teasing them with the idea that he was going to make a major announcement about his birther views and then using their coverage to sell his hotel as well as his own candidacy. That incident not only exposed the lies he’s been telling about things like his role in birtherism, it gave the media pause in how they were covering this campaign…and they switched gears.
Up until that moment, the press continued to cling to their both-sider-ism. Remember that many of them were feverishly trying to find something nefarious about the operations of the Clinton Foundation while Donald Trump’s business practices as well as his own foundation were getting pretty scant attention. The Public Editor of the New York Times even defended all of that. In addition, major media outlets were shy about using the “L” word when it came to Donald Trump. All of that changed when he decided to toy with them.
What we’re witnessing right now is that publications like the NYT went on record to say that they would call out Trump’s lies. As a result, we saw an explosion of stories that chronicled them. And reporters are tripping over themselves trying to uncover the next bomb-shell about his business and charitable practices. We’ve seen stories about his business losses and failure to pay any taxes, his violation of U.S. laws related to the Cuba embargo, that his foundation never obtained a state license for soliciting charitable donations, that he did business with an Iranian bank U.S. officials have charged with having ties to terrorism and several stories about his sexism towards employees. The latest revelation comes from Rebecca Berg, who documents that Trump used foundation funds for his 2016 presidential run.
That check is one of at least several donations to suggest Trump used his private foundation, funded by outside donors, to launch and fuel his political ambitions. Such contributions, if they were made solely for Trump’s benefit, could violate federal self-dealing laws for private foundations.
From 2011 through 2014, Trump harnessed his eponymous foundation to send at least $286,000 to influential conservative or policy groups, a RealClearPolitics review of the foundation’s tax filings found. In many cases, this flow of money corresponded to prime speaking slots or endorsements that aided Trump as he sought to recast himself as a plausible Republican candidate for president.
While the candidate is the one responsible for losing his cool in the first debate and continuing the meltdown afterwards, Trump has a point when he blames the media for their role in his demise. He may have been able to play them all the way through mid-September. But since then they’ve started telling us the real story about Donald Trump. It’s not a pretty picture. That’s not simply a matter of a bad week. It is about America learning that one of their presidential candidates is unfit for the office he seeks.