As the summer winds down and we enter the crucial last few months before the election, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are upping the ante on their campaigns, both seeking to bring the other down in their quest for the presidency. In speeches this week, they escalated their attacks on one another, with Clinton calling Trump a leader of the “hate movement,” and Trump firing back that Clinton is a “bigot.”
Below, a quick breakdown of this week’s five must-read election talking points.
Clinton Courts Republican Voters…
At a campaign rally in Reno Thursday afternoon, Clinton denounced Trump, calling him a “chronic paranoid race-baiter.” As Slate observed, “She’s not using Trump to try to take down the whole Republican party…. She’s sinking Trump but sending lifeboats to Republicans.” She even invoked an example about Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, pointing out that even he agreed that remarks Trump made about a Mexican-American judge were textbook racism. The speech appeared to be the start of a new strain of Clinton rhetoric, in which she aims to drive a wedge not between Democrats and Republicans, but instead between Republicans and Trump.
…While Trump Appeals to Immigrants and Racial Minorities
Equally counterintuitive as Clinton’s olive branch to Republicans is Trump’s outreach to demographics he’s already deeply alienated. After winning the nomination on a promise to deport all 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, he backtracked while speaking on Fox News on Wednesday night, saying that he’ll now actually allow some to stay as long as they pay back taxes and have no criminal records. What’s more, he’s also trying to show interest in the lives of African-Americans and Hispanics.
This is all part of Trump’s refreshed campaign strategy, one in which he plans to stay on-message rather than his typical habit of going off-script with unplanned, inflammatory comments. He’s hired people to help him do it: Last week, Trump ousted his former chief strategist Paul Manafort and appointed two new experienced conservative advisors, Kellyanne Conway and Stephen K. Bannon.
Clinton’s Health Called into Question with Bogus Claims
Earlier this week, Trump charged that Clinton lacks the “mental and physical stamina” to be president. (Based on what, he didn’t say.) The week before, Dr. Drew Pinsky said on a radio show that, based on bits and pieces of health-care records about Clinton made public in 2015, he’s “gravely concerned not just about her health, but her health care.” (A week later, Dr. Drew’s show was canceled by CNN, supposedly due to a network shakeup, but still, strange timing…)
Doctors who have evaluated Clinton have said she’s a healthy woman whose medical conditions include hypothyroidism and seasonal pollen allergies. Clinton’s response? She laughed about it on Monday with Jimmy Kimmel, calling it just another part of the Trump camp’s “wacky strategy.”
Trump Calls Clinton a Bigot
At a campaign rally in Jackson, Michigan, Trump issued what may be his most absurd and incendiary comment of his entire campaign (which is saying something) when he called Clinton a bigot: “Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color only as votes, not as human beings worthy of a better future,” he said to a largely white audience. “She doesn’t care what her policies have done to your communities. She has no remorse. She’s going to do nothing for Hispanics and African-Americans.”
The accusation is laughable, given Clinton’s record of fighting for minority rights (especially in comparison to Trump’s own minority-attacking record), and critics suggest that this insincere play to cast himself as a champion of minority rights when he’s so obviously disinterested in those groups—and nearly always speaking to mostly white groups when he makes such statements—is just going to backfire on him.
Clinton Avoids Taking Responsibility for Scandal
Hillary Clinton has faced her fair share of criticism and heat as a result of various accusations, whether in relation to Benghazi, her emails, or now reports that Clinton met with top-dollar Clinton Foundation donors during her tenure as secretary of state. Critics are saying that it’s time Clinton learn to take responsibility for her actions after the fact—even if it means taking a hit in the polls.
Admittedly, it’s not something the candidate (0r, frankly, the Clintons as a family) are very good at doing. In a rare interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, she said, “I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire.” It may be time that she owns up to some of the things she’s being accused of doing, or at least acknowledges how they became such complex issues in the media and in the minds of confused Americans—it might even make them trust her more, not less.