With 26 days left in an election campaign he now has a minuscule chance of winning, Donald Trump is in full black-helicopter mode.
The Republican nominee let loose a fusillade of anger and blame-shifting invective Thursday in his first speech since several women came forward to accuse him of touching them without their consent. His targets: Everybody.
He slammed a political establishment he described as clinging to power and a subservient “corporate media” — blaming both for the spate of stories detailing strikingly similar allegations of unwanted groping from a number of women over several decades.
“The Washington establishment, and the financial and media corporations that fund it, exists for only one reason: to protect and enrich itself,” Trump said. “The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election.”
“The corporate media in this country is no longer involved in journalism. For them, it's a war,” Trump railed in West Palm Beach. “Anyone who challenges their control is deemed a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and morally deformed.”
At no other point in his campaign has Trump been so publicly humiliated by the accumulating, damning allegations about his own past behavior. While his campaign has rebounded from countless controversies sparked by his thin-skinned derision — of a war hero who was captured, of a reporter with a disability, of a federal judge of Mexican heritage, of the parents of a fallen Muslim soldier — Trump’s personal brand and future net worth may be irrevocably diminished by his videotaped admission of sexual assault and a slew of allegations validating it.
At no other point has it been so clear to the candidate that he is almost certainly not going to be elected president. Most election forecasts now show Clinton’s odds of winning the election next month around 90 percent.
And at no other point has Trump, who has habitually dismissed realities that did not comport with his own version of events, offered such a clear and vociferous declaration of all-out war.
Trump specifically blasted the “failing” New York Times for printing two women’s accusations in a story that seemingly triggered Wednesday evening’s avalanche of similar, damaging reports. Trump said he was preparing a lawsuit against the Times and vowed to discredit the stories “in an appropriate way and at an appropriate time.” And he disparaged his accusers, seemingly suggesting that they weren’t attractive enough to warrant his alleged advances.
“Take a look. You take a look. Look at her,” Trump said of one of the accusers. “Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don’t think so.”
And he embraced the conspiracy theories that drive the alt-right and white nationalist movements, declaring: “We’ve seen this first hand in the WikiLeaks documents, in which Hillary Clinton meets in secret with international banks to plot the destruction of U.S. sovereignty in order to enrich these global financial powers, her special interest friends and her donors. So true."
The hints of anti-Semitism were strong. Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, advised the Trump campaign to desist. “@TeamTrump should avoid rhetoric&tropes that historically have been used ag. Jews & still spur #antisemitism. Lets keep hate out of cmpgn,” Greenblatt tweeted.
Entering the last month of a campaign that has always wielded the politics of grievance and victimization to devastating effect, the billionaire reality television star-turned-GOP nominee, facing a barrage of bad press and dimming electoral odds, currently sees himself as the biggest victim of all.
Trump has spent months attacking and delegitimizing the cornerstone institutions of American democracy: the voting process, the media, the political "establishment," even pollsters. But this is different.
“These vicious claims about me of inappropriate conduct with women are totally and absolutely false,” Trump said. “And the Clintons know it, and they know it very well. These claims are all fabricated. They’re pure fiction, and they’re outright lies. These events never, ever happened and the people that said them meekly fully understand.”
While dismissing the women’s stories, Trump unabashedly focused on his own victimhood, emphasizing his personal and financial sacrifice, and informing his supporters that the attacks on him extend to them, too.
“This is a conspiracy against you,” Trump said of what he termed a “corrupt, criminal” club “colluding” against him.
Trump’s speech bore the unmistakable imprint of Breitbart News, the “alt-right” website whose chairman, Steve Bannon, became his campaign CEO in August.
“I never knew it would be this bad, that it would be this vile, that it would be this vicious,” Trump said. “Nevertheless, I take all of these slings and arrows gladly for you. I take them for our movement so that we can have our country back.”
Even before Friday’s report that unearthed the 2005 video of Trump bragging that his celebrity enables him to get away with grabbing and kissing women, which triggered Sunday night’s debate denial of such behavior that has seemingly encouraged the women to come forward, Trump’s presidential hopes were fading.
After a poor performance in the first debate two weeks earlier and his decision to spend the ensuing days insulting a former Miss Universe who’d gained weight, Trump’s standing in national and battleground polls had dropped by several points, re-establishing Clinton as the electoral favorite.
To Trump, however, the conspiracy theory is more convenient. The polls, he told supporters, are rigged. “The polls are showing us in a dead heat,” Trump said, even though the most recent national poll shows Clinton 7 points ahead of him.
He also suggested the damaging stories that have emerged in recent days are a result of collusion between Clinton’s campaign and the corporate media to elect her so a President Trump doesn’t disrupt the status quo that benefits them.
“Now we address the slander and libels that was just last night thrown at me by the Clinton machine and The New York Times and other media outlets as part of a concerted, coordinated and vicious attack,” Trump said, going off-script to address the latest allegations about him head-on.
“It’s not [a] coincidence that these attacks come at the exact same moment and all together at the same time as WikiLeaks releases documents exposing the massive international corruption of the Clinton machine, including 2,000 more emails just this morning.”
In closing, Trump framed the election as an opportunity for his supporters and all those fed up with the political establishment to send a strong message. “Our independence day is at hand, and it arrives finally on Nov. 8,” he said.
Trump’s angry assault on his attackers played out as a rejoinder to first lady Michelle Obama, who delivered a speech in New Hampshire that was simultaneously devastating and inspirational — and was, like Trump’s rally that followed, carried live on cable TV. Clinton’s most powerful campaign surrogate excoriated Trump over the myriad accusations of sexual assault and the videotape that shows him bragging about his ability to get away with that very behavior.
“I can’t believe I’m saying that a candidate for president of the United States has bragged about sexually assaulting women,” she said. “Because let’s be very clear, strong men, strong men, men who are truly role models, don't need to put down women to make themselves feel powerful.”
Trump’s history of degrading and derogatory remarks should be offensive to Americans of all parties, the first lady said. They dip below the level of normal political discourse, she said, and ought to be repudiated by all Americans.
“I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human decency. It’s about right and wrong,” she said. “And we cannot endure this or expose our children to this any longer, not for another minute, let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say, enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.”
Mods, could we please have a tag for "alt-right" and/or "white nationalism / white supremacy"? "Race / racism" certainly applies, but it's very broad. These movements are significant enough (in a bad enough way) to call for something more specific, imo.