Give Trump a Teleprompter-stat!

On Monday around mid-day I turned on the radio and heard Donald Trump speaking. I immediately recognized his voice but the style was unfamiliar, slow and measured, without the little riffs, asides, and digressions that are his hallmark. It did not surprise me to learn later that he had been reading from a Teleprompter, the device that he so despises when used by president Obama or Hillary Clinton and that Fox News absurdly suggests is because they are unable to speak extemporaneously and always need scripts provided by others.

I remembered then that he was due to give what his team had billed as a big speech on the economy. This was not at one of his raucous allies but to a more subdued and select audience of the Detroit Economic Club and he no doubt felt obliged to keep strictly to his script. Critics of his speech said that his economic proposals were vague and handed out gifts to the wealthy, but it did not generate any real controversy and observers, and especially the GOP establishment, wondered whether it signaled a new, improved Trump, who was going to be more deliberate in his utterances and avoid the kinds of intemperate remarks that have created one controversy after another and thus avoid the deep dive in the polls that he has suffered lately.

Well, that hope lasted just one day. The very next day, he resorted to his freewheeling style and went off script. This time he said at a rally:

“Hillary wants to abolish — essentially abolish the Second Amendment. By the way, if she gets to pick, if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know”

Trump feeds off the crowd and likes to say things that rouse them and has a knack for doing so, even if it lands him in hot water later. As Katy Tur, who has been following Trump on the campaign trail for over a year, says:

Trump is a room-reader. He’ll slow down a line, rephrase a point, work in a pause, and ride the energy of his audience wherever it takes him. For 45, 60, even 90 minutes, he’ll run through classic riffs, like bomb the hell out of ISIS, build a wall, make America great again. But he’ll also experiment, as when he launched an ethnically tinged attack on a Mexican- American judge deciding the civil fraud case against Trump University.

The usual signal that Trump is going to freewheel is when he says ” By the way …”, a phrase that must be causing his advisors heartburn in anticipation of what might come next.

Critics have charged that his Second Amendment statement was meant to incite his followers to violence and even to kill Clinton. I don’t think that was his intent. At his public rallies, he is like a stand–up comedian, constantly gauging the mood of his audience, sensing what will get them to respond positively, and then delivering his punch line. He is careless in his choice of words and thoughtless about the effect they can have on his more rabid supporters. His seems to get in the most trouble when he is pandering to his followers on conservative issues (like guns and abortion) that he has not really cared about in the past and thus does not know much about, and out of that ignorance ends up saying things that are too extreme, even for his conservative base.

The Secret Service has its own rules as to what can be said about people under their protection and one former official thinks that Trump’s words do not rise to the level of a threat though there is no telling what his more dim-witted followers might think. There have been some reports of the Secret Service reportedly talking to the Trump campaign, possibly to warn about the danger of loose talk and to tone it down, though Trump himself denies that such a meeting ever took place.

As has become routine now, one controversy-generating statement gets quickly superseded by another and yesterday he accused president Obama of being the founder of ISIS, though again his exact meaning was vague.

Donald Trump is now accusing President Barack Obama of founding the Islamic State group that is wreaking havoc from the Middle East to European cities.

“In many respects, you know, they honor President Obama,” Trump said Wednesday during a raucous campaign rally outside Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “He is the founder of ISIS.”

He then repeated the allegation three more times for emphasis.

Asked in an interview with CNBC on Thursday morning whether it was appropriate for him to call the sitting president of the United States the founder of a terrorist organization that kills Americans, Trump doubled down.

“He was the founder of ISIS, absolutely,” said Trump. “Is there something wrong with saying that? Why? Are people complaining that I said he was the founder of ISIS?”

Trump has long blamed Obama and his former secretary of state — Hillary Clinton — for pursuing Mideast policies that created a power vacuum in Iraq that was exploited by IS. But in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, that message appeared muddled. Hewitt said that as he understood Trump’s comments to mean Obama created unstable conditions by withdrawing U.S. forces that allowed IS to thrive. Trump responded, “No, I mean he’s the founder of ISIS. I do. He was the most valuable player,” according to interview transcripts.

The problem with Trump is that while he enjoys being the center of attention and has a knack for becoming so, he is also taking attention away from Clinton, even as she makes missteps with statements about her emails and the revelations of the activities of the Clinton Foundation, both of which have been shifted to the margins of the news.

During the primaries, Trump was successful because he hogged the media attention and deprived most of his rivals of the media oxygen they needed to establish themselves and get their names before the public. But he does not need all the attention anymore, even the bad kind. Also denying Clinton attention does not help him because she does not need to put that much effort into name recognition. She is already well-known and as the Democratic nominee she cannot be ignored.

If he cannot control his impulse to making controversial claims when speaking extemporaneously, he might be better served by using a script and a Teleprompter more to avoid such off-the-cuff remarks or lying low for a couple of weeks and have the spotlight shift to Clinton and her problems. The question is whether he can stand to be out of the limelight for long. My guess is no. I think he really enjoys the notoriety that his statements bring him and thinks it is a winning strategy.


  1. blf says

    As multiple observers have pointed out by (e.g., Trump’s Wink Wink to ‘Second Amendment People’), there is a disturbing parallel between teh trum-prat’s statements on Clinton and those of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s right-wing opponents (led by the current PM, Benjamin Netanyahu) just prior to Rabin’s assassination:

    [Rabin’s] right-wing opponents just kept delegitimizing him as a “traitor” and “a Nazi” for wanting to make peace with the Palestinians and give back part of the Land of Israel. Of course, all is fair in politics, right? And they had God on their side, right? They weren’t actually telling anyone to assassinate Rabin. That would be horrible.

    But there are always people down the line who don’t hear the caveats. They just hear the big message: The man is illegitimate, the man is a threat to the nation, the man is the equivalent of a Nazi war criminal. Well, you know what we do with people like that, don’t you? We kill them.

    And that’s what the Jewish extremist Yigal Amir did to Rabin. Why not? He thought he had permission from a whole segment of Israel’s political class.

    Teh trum-prat keeps referring to “crooked Hillary”, she (allegedly) cannot be trusted, she (allegedly) is a threat to the nation, she (allegedly) is a traitor. Assassinate her? No, no, no, that would be horrible. But try her and hang her, that would be Ok…

  2. says

    Why does he despise a teleprompter, when he’s comfortable with a ghost-writer?

    Or is it just that “the art of the deal” made him a ton of $? Yeah that probably forgives a lot of ills.

  3. hyphenman says


    You wrote: “As has become routine now, one controversy-generating statement gets quickly superseded by another…”

    That is the reality that makes my head spin. Possibly the worst of the worst conspiracy theories is that Trump cut a deal with the Clintons to destroy the Republican Party then self-immolate by making statements so outrageous that no one in their right mind (with excludes the 27 percent, of course) would vote for him in the general election. What he gets out of the deal when Hillary wins (in their plan) I can’t imagine, but the reward would have to be ginormous.


  4. blf says

    What [teh trum-prat] gets out of the deal when Hillary wins (in their plan) I can’t imagine, but the reward would have to be ginormous.

    His face on Mt RushmoreTrump ?

  5. Chiroptera says

    hyphenman, #5: What he gets out of the deal when Hillary wins (in their plan) I can’t imagine, but the reward would have to be ginormous.

    While I don’t doubt that Trump means to win and be President if he does, I can’t help a suspicion that much of his motivation for running has been mainly to keep the “Trump brand” in the public spotlight.

  6. lorn says

    in real estate, and many other sales based professions, a key to getting people to agree without asking too many questions is to “sell the sizzle, not the steak”. You hype and sell the feelings associated with the product. Instead of selling a well cooked piece of meat you sell the feeling of first seeing a perfectly done steak, the feeling you get imagining the taste, the smell, the sound, in a word the “sizzle”.

    Trump sells the feelings of power and control. Of feeling great. Of dominance.

    There is usually, of course, very much less than you imagined behind it. In the end you end up with just a steak. It might be a good steak. Possibly even a great steak. But it is still a finite and limited piece of meat. And once you eat it it is gone. No matter how good it is it can never match the “sizzle” of the steak in your mind.

    Trump always speaks in superlatives and he is always short of specifics. Specifics interfere with people’s mental image of the ideal. He also wants to push limits and to be transgressive in an indirect way … “maybe there is, I don’t know”.

  7. lanir says

    I really wish someone somewhere was challenging Clinton. As it sits her supporters seem to excuse or ignore anything that isn’t truly Trump-ish in scale. And I feel like there’s been an awful lot more talk about people being Bernie-or-bust or the Republicans that villify and hate her than there has been legitimate criticism of her missteps. Or questions about why she appears to have come around so far to the left on some issues.

    I don’t believe her statements about the TPP or financial sector reform. She’s so hawkish she’s courting neocons with ridiculous, spectacularly failed policies. And she’s more interested in political horse-trading than she is in getting votes (see her statement on Debbie Wasserman Schultz near the start of her convention). These are serious issues I wish she was being pushed on but she’s not. Instead I just hear over and over again that I need to vote for her or I’m effectively voting for Trump.

    So my question is, if I vote for her what exactly am I voting for? A solid candidate who will improve the country or am I settling for Trump-lite?

  8. hyphenman says

    @ Chiroptera, No. 7,

    That theory makes a lot more sense.

    The follow-up would need to be: what has happened to his brand of late that he feels compelled to seek such a demanding solution?

    Perhaps he heard about the interns?


  9. hyphenman says

    @ Lanir, no. 10,

    I think the choice is much worse than Trump-lite.

    Have you looked at Jill Stein yet?


  10. lanir says

    @hyphenman #12:

    I haven’t yet. It’s on my to-do list. I expect to get familiar with Jill Stein in another week or two. Long before the election in any case. I try to actually make informed choices and I’m certainly not going to avoid the for-Clinton-not-voting-for-Trump trap just to fall into a similar one with someone else.

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