30 October 2016
Shut up, Trump! (It's for your own good)
My nonpartisan advice to Donald Trump is pretty simple. If you want the latest flare-up of the Clinton email scandal to be the thing the media talks about next week, don't give them anything else to talk about. If you must talk, stick to boringly upbeat policy speeches and "making America great again" in the vaguest possible terms. Otherwise, the chances are that you're going to say something that will get spun back at you, and the more you're tempted to pontificate on Clinton, the more backspin you're going to get. I say this because one of the indisputable ways in which much of the media has been unfair to Trump is in their coverage of his vows to prosecute Hillary Clinton. It's self-evident that he wants a fresh inquiry and, if necessary/possible, a proper prosecution for, as Trump might put it, whatever's going on. But his rhetoric has raised the specter of partisan immunity, which warns with a bloodcurdling shriek that Donald Trump, in classic authoritarian fashion, wants to put his political opponents in prison. The implication is that Trump wants to put Clinton in prison simply for opposing him. This is self-evidently dishonest, though I suppose it doesn't seem that way to the multitudes who really don't give a damn about the emails and therefore can't imagine any other reason why Trump would want Clinton in jail. To be honest, though, Hillary Clinton probably could shoot someone in the middle of the street this week and still get at least 40% of the vote, such is the fear and loathing of Trump in much of the country, just as Trump probably has been right all along, albeit in jest, about his ability to get away with such things. That's what the ethos of partisan immunity -- the assumption that any criminal investigation of a politician is motivated by partisanship, with the result that politicians get away with stuff lest we "criminalize politics" -- has brought us to. Trumpophobes can console themselves with the thought that Trump himself remains under investigation for the questionable practises of Trump University, while Trumpophiles can tell us why that shouldn't matter to anyone. Expect many reminders of Trump University this week, but even in that event Trump should restrain himself from responding, especially if his impulse is to threaten lawsuits. There's no guarantee that this passive strategy will get the results he might hope for -- neither he nor you should be surprised to hear new accusations of lewd conduct against him before Election Day -- but for the email scandal to have the effect he hopes for it has to be seen as a matter of what Clinton did, not what he wants to do to Clinton.