Trump dumps the script in Clinton attacks – Politico
Donald Trump’s campaign’s efforts to give the GOP nominee a new gloss of presidential plausibility ran up against the candidate’s own stream-of-consciousness musings during a town hall in Virginia Beach on Tuesday afternoon.
The staging — with Trump seated in a chair with a group of veterans seated behind him — and the friendly questions from Gen. Michael Flynn were designed to show a more conversational candidate with a firm grasp of foreign affairs and the gravitas voters expect from a commander in chief. The list of 88 generals backing him blasted out by Trump’s campaign Tuesday morning was also part of a broader effort to regain credibility in that department.
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But when Flynn teed up softball questions, Trump kept going off-script, often ignoring the topic altogether or conflating it with something else.
Early on in the session, Flynn asked Trump: “What do you think of Hillary Clinton’s current refugee policies and how do they differ from your own?”
“Look, she’s a disaster in so many ways,” Trump said, drawing hearty applause. But from there, Trump went off on a tangent about Clinton’s shift on trade. “She was brought so far left by Bernie and they group. And I think we’re going to get a lot of the Bernie people because of trade.”
A few minutes later, Flynn asked Trump a question about cyber security challenges. “You know, cyber is becoming so big today. It’s becoming something that a number of years ago, a short number of years ago, wasn’t even a word.”
But his response focused on something different: starting with terrorists’ success in using the Internet for recruitment and segueing back into his own poll numbers.
“Now the cyber is so big. You know you look at what they’re doing with the Internet and how they’re taking, recruiting people through the Internet. And part of it is the psychology because so many people think they’re winning. And you know there’s a whole big thing.
“Even today’s psychology, where CNN came out with a big poll — their big poll came out today that Trump is winning. It’s good psychology. It’s good psychology.”
Toward the end of the town hall, Flynn asked Trump a straightforward question about his thoughts on regime change in Syria. In response, Trump hammered Clinton for supporting the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, a topic he harped on several times during the 45-minute town hall. Trump blamed Obama and Clinton for turning Iran into a “world power” as a result of the concessions agreed to as part of the international agreement reached last year, in which world powers agreed to ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for the country rolling back its nuclear program for the next decade.
“We’ve created a monster,” Trump said. “If you look at Iran from four, five years ago, they were dying. They had the sanctions. They were being choked to death and they were absolutely dying. They weren’t going to be much of a threat. They didn’t have anything going and now they’re a power. We’ve made them a power overnight.”
In slamming the Iran nuclear deal, Trump eventually came around to criticizing Clinton’s predecessor as secretary of state, John Kerry, suggesting that he might have negotiated a tougher deal had he walked out of talks. “Kerry never walked,” Trump said. “The only time he walked is when he entered a bicycle race.
“Can you believe this guy, 73 years old? True. He fell off his bicycle and he broke his leg and he was out of the negotiation for three or four weeks. And they probably did better in the negotiation when he wasn’t there.”
The question-and-answer session came during Trump’s broader attack on Clinton’s foreign policy record and her ability to navigate global power struggles. Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump said, would rather have Clinton in the White House than Trump.
“A lot of people say as an example, Russia, you know, Hillary likes to play tough with Russia,” Trump said. “Putin looks at her and he laughs, OK? He laughs. Putin. Putin looks at Hillary Clinton and he smiles.”
Trump continued, “Boy, would he like to see her. That would be easy, ’cause just look at her decisions. Look how bad her decisions have been. Virtually every decision she’s made has been a loser.”
“But wouldn’t it be nice honestly? ‘Cause Russia — Russia doesn’t like ISIS any better than we do — wouldn’t it be nice if we actually got along with Russia and you could knock them out together? Wouldn’t that be a good thing as opposed to tough talk?” Trump said, reiterating his stance on Russian cooperation.
Clinton “tries to do the tough talk,” Trump said, “then she leaves.”
“She goes I watched it yesterday on the airplane. Talking tough about Russia. Then she turned around and sat down, which wasn’t even played on the national media,” Trump said, an apparent suggestion that not covering Clinton taking a seat was part of a broader media conspiracy to mask Clinton’s allegedly failing health. “Wasn’t that incredible? Wasn’t even played. We have to get along with people. We have to get along with certain nations. Very importantly. Because it would be awfully good to have Russia and others with us on major attacks on ISIS.”
Trump has frequently welcomed Putin’s praise of him, rejecting the notion that he has reciprocated.