Donald Trump's Increasingly Sad Anti-Hillary Crusade
More than half a year later, the president is still whining about his defeated opponent.
Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images
What do you do when you are president of the United States and people are yelling at you about (*checks newsfeed*) letting your daughter take your seat at the G20 conference and absurdly proposing a "cyber security unit" with Russia before backtracking 12 hours later? You yell back, of course, and you pick a familiar target, your vanquished rival Hillary Clinton:
This is far from the first time Trump has gone after Clinton during his presidency. In March, at a time when the investigation into the Trump campaign's potential collusion with Russia was dominating the news, Trump denounced Clinton for a uranium deal. (That deal is the subject of frequent, though unproven, conservative allegations.) In April, he sang the same song, complaining about Clinton and Barack Obama spying on him, a charge that he's never provided any evidence for. Last month, Trump hit Clinton again, this time over her use of a private email server as secretary of state—an affair that the FBI investigated before (controversially) deciding criminal charges weren't appropriate. Just before the G20 meeting last week, Trump denounced Clinton campaign chair John Podesta, whose emails were hacked and given to WikiLeaks.
And it's not just Trump himself raising these issues. Administration spokesperson Kellyanne Conway has gone on TV to spin the same dark theories. White House press secretary Sean Spicer has suggested that Clinton, not Trump, was in cahoots with Russia. FOX News host Sean Hannity—practically a Trump spokesperson himself these days—recently echoed the standard anti-Clinton talking points, and got retweeted by the president.
The reasoning behind Trump's anti-Clinton rants is obvious. It distracts the public momentarily from his own oddities and missteps, and it may be hard-wired into his phone-tapping thumbs at this point the same way lab rats are trained to hit buttons that give them cheese. Attacking Clinton has literally never hurt Trump, so why stop now?
Well, one reason is that the election is over. Clinton holds no office and wields no official power. That's why the media, Congress, and law enforcement are much more interested in investigating Trump's circle—but it's also a reason these attacks are going to seem less and less potent as time goes on.
A portion of Trump's base, the ones who think that the Clintons have killed people and pizza parlors harbor child sex rings, will never get tired of hearing about the uranium deal. But few people are going to vote for Republicans in 2018 and for Trump in 2020 on the basis of anti-Clinton anger. A few more may be inspired by Trump's relentless attacks on the media, which has become his chief antagonist post-election.
But at some point, Trump is going to have to be able to talk about actual achievements, not just grievances. His campaign was driven by his denunciations of the Democrats, Clinton, and DC in general—but he also ran on the promise that he would lift the country up, remember the forgotten man, and make the country great again.
It's too soon to judge whether Trump is following through on his promises. Though the border wall is unbuilt, the nation's infrastructure has not been restored, and manufacturing jobs have not been resurrected, Trump has a lot of time to push his agenda. The question is, how much time is he spending on that agenda, and how much time is he spending fighting an argument he's already won?
Follow Harry Cheadle on Twitter.