President Obama is taking a far greater role in the presidential election campaign than most lame duck presidents do. Using the “bully pulpit” of the White House, Obama has stepped up his attacks on Trump and squarely put his personal political prestige behind Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
On Tuesday, Obama characterized Trump as “unfit to serve as president” and called on leading Republicans to withdraw their endorsements of his candidacy. “The question they have to ask themselves is: If you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? There has to come a point at which you say somebody who makes those kinds of statements doesn’t have the judgment, the temperament, the understanding to occupy the most powerful position in the world.”
It is unprecedented for a president to get this involved in an election campaign. Apparently his fears that Mrs. Clinton is not a viable candidate forces him to take down Trump in order for the Democrat party to remain in power.
At a White House press conference with the visiting leader of Singapore, Obama piled on the criticism of Trump over his public controversy with the Khans, the parents of a Muslim-American war hero who was killed twelve years ago while defending his fellow soldiers in Iraq. “I think the Republican nominee is unfit to serve as president. I said that last week [at the Democrat convention], and he keeps on proving it,” Obama said. “The notion that he would attack a Gold Star family that has made such extraordinary sacrifices to our country, the fact that he doesn’t appear to have basic knowledge around critical issues in Europe and the Middle East and Asia means that he’s woefully unprepared to do this job.”
In an attempt to justify his unprecedented intervention in the campaign, Obama sought to differentiate Trump from previous Republican nominees by saying, “there have been Republican presidents with whom I disagreed, but I didn’t have a doubt that they could function as president.”
Trump promptly responded to Obama’s open challenge to his credentials stating that it is Clinton who has “proven herself unfit for any government office.” In a written statement, Trump said that Obama and Clinton have “single-handedly destabilized the Middle East” while putting the “country at risk.” He added that Clinton “is reckless with her emails, reckless with regime change, and reckless with American lives.”
During her nomination acceptance speech at the Democrat convention last week, Hillary Clinton revealed her strategy for victory in November; blacken Donald Trump’s character enough to disqualify him to be president. She repeated the familiar accusations of bigotry, religious and racial prejudice, gender bias, unbridled greed and excessive bombast that were hurled at him by his defeated Republican primary opponents
“At first, I admit, I couldn’t believe he [Trump] meant it either,” Clinton said.
“It was just too hard to fathom, that someone who wants to lead our nation could say those things. Could be like that.
“But here’s the sad truth: There is no other Donald Trump … This is it.”
TRUMP FIGHTING A HOSTILE MEDIA
On this point, Clinton is right. The Donald Trump who swept the field in the long Republican primary campaign is the same opponent Clinton is facing in the November election. He is employing the same rapid response, take no prisoners tactics which he used with such success against his Republican primary opponents. Trump’s problem is that the pro-Clinton mainstream media picks apart his comments, takes them out of context and assigns the most damaging possible interpretation to them.
Trump’s response to this problem is to increase his media exposure at every opportunity. He sits for interviews, phones in to news programs and issues tweets in order to communicate directly, whenever possible, with voters, without subjecting his message to filtering by hostile media outlets.
Trump says he will not alter his style which won him the support of Americans frustrated with conventional candidates bound by political correctness and afraid of provoking media criticism if they step out of line. Trump, on the other hand, is unafraid to defy the usual conventions by saying what many voters are thinking, treading on the toes of his critics in the media and his political opponents, as well as the Democrats.
WHY TRUMP NEVER BACKS DOWN
He never backs down and rarely if ever admits he is wrong, because that would be seen by his supporters as a sign of weakness. He may modify his positions over time as a matter of political necessity, such as the shift in his original language which called for a temporary ban on foreign Muslims visiting this country to a temporary ban on residents of country’s overrun by terrorism. It effectively amounts to the same thing, but the test is no longer based upon religion, out of respect for the constitutional concept of freedom of religion. The new language also makes it clearer that the ban is motivated by concern for national security.
THE KHAN CONTROVERSY
Trump has made it clear that he will allow no attack on his character to go unanswered. This is why he made the questionable decision to respond to an attack on his character from the Democrat convention dais by Khizr Khan, the father of Humayun Khan, a Muslim captain in the US Army who was killed in the line of duty in Iraq on June 8, 2004.
Captain Kahn died preventing a suicide bomb attack by a taxicab which filled with explosives that was approaching a mess hall filled with US soldiers eating breakfast. Khan ordered his subordinates to step away from the vehicle and rushed toward it, which caused the bomb to be detonated before the taxi could reach its target. Khan’s heroic sacrifice saved many other American lives.
The elder Khan, who was born in Pakistan, came to the US with his wife and family in 1978, and is an immigration lawyer in Charlottesville, Va. His law firm specializes in obtaining immigration visas, through the controversial EB5 program, which provides green cards to wealthy foreigners, including many Muslims, willing to invest at least $500,000 to create jobs in the US.
He spoke to the convention for seven minutes, with his wife, Ghazala, standing silently next to him, just before Mrs. Clinton was introduced by her daughter for her acceptance speech. Khan condemned Trump for his prejudice against Muslims, and accused him of never having read the US Constitution, pulling a copy of it out of his pocket for effect. He added, accusingly, “you have sacrificed nothing and no one.” in contrast to the loss of his own son in combat.
Mrs. Clinton had first spoken publicly about Captain Khan’s heroic death at a campaign event last December, shortly after Trump first suggested his original ban on Muslim foreign visitors. She described him as one of 14 Muslim Americans who had died for this country since 9/11.
TRUMP TAKES THE BAIT
When Trump was asked in an ABC interview about the criticism by Khan’s father, he described him as “very emotional” and suggest that Khan’s speech was written by “Hillary’s scriptwriters.” He questioned why Khan’s wife had “nothing to say” at the convention, and suggested that perhaps she was not allowed to speak.
The Clinton campaign and Trump’s political enemies jumped all over him for “attacking the family of an American hero.” Their criticisms were played up by the media, taking center stage in the headlines, and forcing the Trump campaign to issue a formal statement to set the record straight. It joined in praising Captain Khan’s heroic sacrifice, but rejected the harsh personal criticism by his father as unfair. It said, “while I feel deeply for the loss of his son, Mr. Khan who has never met me, has no right to stand in front of millions of people and claim I have never read the Constitution, (which is false) and say many other inaccurate things.”
Khizr Khan and his wife became instant media celebrities, doing numerous interviews to double down on their condemnations of Trump. Mr. Kahn denied that his speech had been written by the Clinton campaign, and his wife explained that she was too emotionally overcome by grief due to the memory of her dead son to say anything while her husband war addressing the convention.
Khan was repeatedly interviewed until his narrative against Trump became the talk of the country, then he said he was tired of the publicity. The frenzy reached a crescendo when President Obama weighed in and said Trump is unfit for office. All because of a throwaway line.
In response to the statement issued by Trump, Mr. Khan said, “That is typical of a person without a soul, without empathy.” Khan called upon House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to disassociate themselves from Trump as the presidential nominee of the party.
Ryan and McConnell responded by publicly praising Khan’s son as an American hero, but declined to make any comment on Trump’s response to Mr. Khan’s emotionally charged attacks on his character. Both Ryan and McConnell had publicly criticized the original formulation of Trump’s proposed ban on foreign visitors which singled out Muslims. However, both appeared to be satisfied when Trump altered his proposal, shortly before the Republican National Convention, to change the criteria for temporary exclusion to residents of countries beset by terrorism. But other Republican critics of Trump, led by Senator John McCain, condemned Trump’s efforts to defend himself against the attack by Khan.
In the meantime, Mr. Kahn has deleted his law firm’s web site from the Internet. It contained a biography of Kahn which revealed that he had previously worked for a large Washington law firm which numbers among its clients the government of Saudi Arabia and the Clintons.
WHY DIDN’T THE BENGHAZI FAMILIES GET THE SAME RESPECT?
It was interesting to note the mainstream media’s sympathetic reaction to Khan’s criticism of Trump, compared to its flat rejection of accusations by the family members of the Americans who died during the attack on the Benghazi consulate in 2012 that Clinton lied to them about the terrorist nature of that attack. Mrs. Clinton publicly insinuated that the mother of that hero was lying when she recounted that Mrs. Clinton was responsible for her son’s death and had lied to her about the cause of his death.
The Khans attacked Trump, accusing him of bigotry and a lack of patriotism, and Trump’s response enabled the pro-Clinton media to characterize the Khans as suffering martyrs, playing into the distorted Democrat portrait of Trump as a bully who is insensitive to their pain and suffering.
RUSSIAN CONNECTION TO THE CLINTON FOUNDATION
Peter Schweizer, in a Wall Street Journal column revealed a connection between Mrs. Clinton and the Russians while she was secretary of state. During her tenure, the State Department worked to find US high tech investment partners for a plan to develop an “innovation city” on the outskirts of Moscow called Skolkovo which was intended to become the Russian version of Silicon Valley. The program was backed by a $5 billion Kremlin commitment through the Russian State Investment Fund, known as Rusnano. which was also known as “Putin’s child.”
One problem was that 17 of the 28 key partners in the project were either major donors to the Clinton Family Foundation, or regularly hired Bill Clinton to speak for them at outrageous prices. In addition, two major Russian players in the research being conducted at Skolkovo were large contributors to the Clinton Foundation.
In 2012, a report by the US Army’s Foreign Military Studies group identified Skolkovo as a “vehicle for world-wide technology transfer to Russia in the areas of information technology, biomedicine, energy, satellite and space technology, and nuclear technology.” In addition, the same report identified specific military weapons-related projects at Skolkovo starting in 2011.
AN FBI WARNING
In 2014, an FBI special agent based in Boston warned American technology companies against getting involved with firms tied to the Skolkovo foundation, saying that it was being used as “a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application.”
While the evidence regarding the role of the Clinton Family Foundation is circumstantial, it is clear that when Hillary Clinton was running the State Department, it recruited billions of dollars of American private investment in a Russian technology project which helped develop an advanced new generation of Russian weapons systems.
The warning by the FBI published in the Boston Business Journal two years ago about the national security threat posed by the Russian project has been largely ignored by the same pro-Clinton mainstream media which was so eager to imply that Trump may have colluded with Putin to reveal the DNC email scandal.
THE BATTLE FOR THE RUST BELT
After the Democrat convention, Clinton and her vice presidential pick, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, launched a bus tour of Pennsylvania, where Trump’s popularity with white, blue collar workers is threatening to turn Republican in a presidential election for the first time since 1988, highlighting the importance of the rust belt where Trump hopes to score upset victories in November.
But first she agreed to hold her first interview with Fox News since the campaign began.
Clinton told Fox News reporter Chris Wallace that there is evidence that the Russian government was responsible for the hacking at the DNC in a “deliberate effort to try to affect the election,” which “raises national security issues.” She did suggest that Putin wants to help Trump win the election.
In light of her negative poll ratings for trustworthiness, she said, “I think that it’s fair for Americans to have questions,” Clinton said, but sounded surprised that, “every time I run for an office, though, oh my goodness, all of these caricatures come out of nowhere.”
CLINTON STILL LYING ABOUT HER EMAILS
Clinton gave little ground to her critics, even in the face of direct accusations by FBI Director James Comey about her reckless handling of classified information on her private email server and then misleading the American people about it.
“That’s not what I heard Director Comey say,” Clinton said. “Comey said that my answers were truthful and what I’ve said is consistent with what I have told the American people.”
She chose to ignore the congressional testimony by Comey. In response to a question by Congressman Trey Goudy about whether Clinton was telling the truth when she repeatedly said “there was nothing marked classified on her e-mails, either sent or received,” Comey said, “That’s not true.”
She again admitted that she “made a mistake” by using her private email server, but then tried to shift the blame. “I relied on and had every reason to rely on the judgments of the  professionals with whom I worked,” she said.
The claim was too much even for Clinton’s supporters in the mainstream media. The fact checkers at the usually pro-Clinton Washington Post gave her latest attempt to exonerate her reckless use of her private email server four “Pinochios,” its worst rating reserved for outright lies.
SUPPORTER ASKS: “WHY CAN’T CLINTON STOP LYING?”
Veteran journalist Ron Fournier, who is strongly opposed to Trump, wrote an anguished opinion column in the Atlantic entitled, “Why Can’t Hillary Clinton Stop Lying?” Fournier is worried that “her dishonesty could push an unknown number of independent and undecided voters into Trump’s camp. . . If too many swing voters walk away from Clinton because she destroyed her credibility or because they don’t want to condone her behavior,” Trump could win the election.
Fournier believes that Trump is unfit to be president, but admits that he is “angry at Clinton because she followed up her convention with another unnecessary lie, another excuse for people to distrust her.” He closes his column with a plea to “Clinton’s advisers, senior Democrats, and members of the liberal media to stop covering for Clinton. Stop repeating her spin. Stop spreading her lies. . . It’s too late for Clinton to come clean, but honorable Democrats should at least insist that she stop muddying the water.”
In the Fox interview, she also denied having lied to the family members of the four Americans who were killed at the consulate in Benghazi on the night of September 11, 2012, telling them that it was the result of a reaction to a provocative anti-Islamic video rather than a carefully planned terrorist attack. She suggested that the memory of the family members who make that charge is clouded by grief.
She also repeated to the Fox News audience the claim that she made during her convention acceptance speech, that she had no intention of trying to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on gun ownership rights provided by the Second Amendment, and would instead urge Congress to adopt tighter gun-control measures to keep them out of the hands of those likely to use them against other people.
PENCE DEFENDS TRUMP
At a town hall in Carson, Nevada on Monday night, Mike Pence was asked a question by a Clinton supporter, “Time and time again Trump has disrespected our nation’s armed forces and veterans — and his disrespect for Mr. Khan and his family is just an example of that. Will there ever be a point in time when you’re able to look Trump in the eye and tell him ‘Enough is enough?’ You have a son in the military. How do you tolerate his disrespect?
The crowd booed the question by the woman, described by attendees as a “plant,” but Mike Pence silenced them, saying “folks that’s what freedom looks like and what freedom sounds like.” He then said “The only other thing I would say to you is having spent time with our nominee, I have never been around someone more devoted to the armed forces of this country, more devoted to the families of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard and no one more devoted to the veterans in this country,” Pence said without any real evidence for such hyperbole. “Donald Trump supports our soldiers and supports our veterans like no other leader in my lifetime.”
CLINTON’S ONLY HOPE: DISQUALIFYING TRUMP
Clinton’s agreement to be interviewed by Fox News, represents her campaign strategy to try to disqualify Donald Trump as a viable presidential candidate on non-partisan terms, even according to the traditional standards of the prominent Republican and conservative leaders who boycotted the GOP convention in protest.
Clinton and the Democrats seeks to portray Trump as a dangerously unstable personality with authoritarian tendencies who cannot be trusted to govern in accordance with the constitution, or to follow rational and long established security and foreign affairs policies, thereby putting the nation in jeopardy.
Clinton has stopped short of accusing Trump of seeking to become a dictator although many of her supporters speaking at the Democrat convention openly raised that specter. Democrats also accused Trump’s immigration proposals as fanning the flames of intolerance against Hispanics and Muslims. Following the formula that worked for them against Mitt Romney in 2012, they have also tried to attack Trump’s business practices for exploiting middle class consumers and using the bankruptcy laws to write of his debts at the expense of small business creditors.
WHY TRUMP IS A DIFFICULT TARGET
Trump’s personal political history of switching sides between the two main parties makes it more difficult for Democrats to use their standard arguments against conservative Republican candidates. In addition, Clinton’s long association with Wall Street and big business, which have made her and her husband super rich, makes it difficult for Democrats to attack Trump strictly on the basis of his wealth and celebrity status. The ability of Bernie Sanders to gather large numbers of protest votes from Democrats with an outsider’s image and the promise of radical change to the establishment is a lesson that wise Democrat political strategists cannot afford to ignore.
Rather than fight Trump on conventional Democrat vs. Republican issues, Democrats have opted instead to try to paint him as too dangerous to be trusted with the power of the presidency. This enables them to promote Clinton, despite her serious trustworthiness problems, as “the devil you know” and “the lesser of two evils” to the voters.
A CLASH OF VALUES
In her acceptance speech, Clinton accused Trump of painting a bleak picture of America in decline after two terms of Obama’s leadership:
“Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t have what it takes.
“And most of all, don’t believe anyone who says: “I alone can fix it.”
“Those were actually Donald Trump’s words in Cleveland.
“And they should set off alarm bells for all of us,” Clinton said.
She then hinted darkly, “remember, our founders fought a revolution and wrote a Constitution so America would never be a nation where one person had all the power.” The statement is particularly ironic coming from a candidate seeking to inherit the mantel of President Obama, who has been ruling by executive order, extending his powers at the expense of Congress and the federal courts to the greatest extent of any president since Franklin Roosevelt.
She argues that Trump’s worldview is at odds with traditional US values of tolerance and civility. Her campaign has been broadcasting commercials meant to raise the concerns of parents about how their young children will react to some of Trump’s more provocative public statements.
In essence, Democrats are arguing that Trump is not morally worthy to be the leader of this country. This ignores the irony of such a claim being made to justify the election of Bill Clinton’s wife.
In another irony, Clinton has promised to overturn the Citizens United ruling of the US Supreme Court which lifted the limits on the amount of private money a candidate can raise using Super PACS, while at the same time her own Super PACs have reportedly set an astounding $2 billion goal to finance a non-stop tidal wave of negative ads aimed at destroying Donald Trump’s image in the minds of voters between now and Election Day.
It will be very difficult for Clinton to convince the American people to trust her to fulfill that same role, although she is trying. She does not have Trump’s highly effective communication skills. More important, she has not shown the same ability to connect with ordinary voters at the same level of emotional intensity that has been the key to Trump’s remarkable political success so far.
WHY TRUMP IS THE BEST AGENT OF CHANGE
Trump has raised serious concerns on both the left and the right due to the unique way he has conducted his campaign. His policy proposals often cross party lines. He also is determined to rethink or discard many of the well-established norms of foreign policy and national security, which the US has followed since the end of World War II, because they have now failed.
Trump’s response to his Democrat critics is that the values of “tolerance” which Clinton and her progressive supporters are promoting are hostile to the traditional moral values of American society. He also believes that the exaggerated Democrat concepts of civility have created an intellectually stifling atmosphere of political correctness which threatens free speech and freedom of religion in this country.
Trump argues that the independence he derives from his great wealth and his experience as one of the special interests skilled in manipulating the political establishment for his own benefit make him uniquely qualified to clean up the corruption and inefficiencies which have made the federal government so dysfunctional, stifling the growth of the economy.
He says that only a strong-minded leader like himself can break the power of the special interests which have gridlocked the federal government.
In his GOP acceptance speech, Trump promised to serve as the “voice” of the frustrated American people and become the champion of the nation’s working people who will force their elected officials to respond to their long neglected needs.
Paul Manafort, the Republican political professional who runs Trump’s campaign, says that, “the reason Donald Trump’s speech at the convention worked was because he was saying what people are feeling and thinking.”
Trump will continue to press his argument that “weak leadership” from Obama and Clinton “is what caused the instability in the world that exists today,” and that America must once again act like a great power, protecting its own interests first, if it is ever to fully regain its former position as the richest and strongest country in the world and the leader of the international community.
WHY TRUMP NEVER BACKS DOWN
A big part of Trump’s appeal is his image as the anti-political candidate. By breaking all the usual rules, including refusing to apologize or admit to mistakes, Trump is proving to voters that they can trust him not to break his promises to them due to pressure from the political establishment as so many other elected officials have done.
With regard to the attacks on his personal character, Trump answered them with surprising effectiveness at the GOP convention with the impressive testimony given by his wife and grown children.
IT’S TOO LATE FOR CLINTON, BUT NOT FOR TRUMP
After 25 years in the spotlight of American politics, Clinton’s supporters realize that it is far too late to convince the many Americans who distrust her to change their minds between now and Election Day. Their hope for victory lies in making enough voters so afraid of the consequences of a Trump presidency that they will elect Hillary as the least worst of their limited choices.
On the other hand, Donald Trump is still a relatively new figure on the national political scene. He still has enough time to show that he has a sufficient grasp of the issues facing this country, the right temperament to serve as president, and proposals which can “Make America Great Again.”
From now until Election Day, Trump will have to walk a delicate line that maintains the enthusiasm and loyalty of his supporters, while avoiding any more unforced errors. He must stop making silly comments the pro-Clinton media can pounce upon to distract voters from his basic message, and avoid needless controversies he can’t win in the court of public opinion, such as his fight with the Khans.
Trump must refute his critics by showing that he has the maturity and intellectual depth to go with his unusually effective populist appeal which make his rallies so effective. He must show that he can act as a president should, by becoming more judicious in choosing the words he uses to make his points.
Between now and Election Day, Trump has real opportunities to pick up additional support. There are millions of disappointed Bernie Sanders supporters whom he can attract with his promises to root out the corruption choking the political system and implement a more pro-American foreign trade policy. There are millions more bypassed and economically struggling working class families who would be eager to support Trump’s policies to restore their lost American dream by reviving American prosperity.
But first Trump must convince them that the picture of Trump that the Democrats have been promoting, that he is a bigoted demagogue who cannot be trusted with the power of the presidency, is false.
The campaign, as it is now is shaping up, will be all about Trump, and the Democrat effort to portray him as unprepared, uncaring, unqualified and hugely unsuitable for the position. To win the election, Trump will have to prove that he is qualified, though rough on the edges, and has what it takes to lead the country.
He needs to shift the focus from himself to Hillary’s deeply flawed record and dishonesty. He has to talk about the country’s sorry state and lack of real economic growth. Though the media never covers his policy statements, he must not give his enemies any more opportunities to destroy his credibility, which has been the strategy of his opponents in both parties since he entered the campaign a little over a year ago. He got this far, maybe he can go all the way, despite everyone and everything which is stacked up against him.
HOPE VS. FEAR
People say they are fed up with lying politicians, who will say and do anything to get elected. They say they are done with a failing government and want an outsider to come in and clean it up. But when a real outsider appears, in the form of Donald Trump, they need to appreciate the qualities of honesty and spontaneity which make him different, and not expect the glib, poll-tested, robotic answers, which are the hallmarks of his opponents, the professional candidates whose promises they no longer trust.
The rough and tumble of this presidential race is just beginning. It will be a battle between the Democrats and their friends in the media, constantly stoking public voters’ fears of Donald Trump, removing the focus from the question of who is offering the voters real hope for a better future and the restoration of American greatness and prosperity.