Just when you think this year’s presidential campaign can’t get any more insane, along comes Hillary Clinton’s claim that half of Donald Trump’s supporters belong in a “basket of deplorables.” Mistake or otherwise, it’s hard to argue that she isn’t totally frustrated by campaigning against Mr. Trump’s dirty tricks. She’s been playing defense against the guy from the beginning, and it reveals the difficulty of arguing with a really good salesman, something I don’t believe we’ve ever experienced in American history.
Mr. Trump employs tactics in his rhetoric known as “logical fallacies” in order to manipulate the debate. These are not new, but most people aren’t aware they’re being manipulated in the process, and that’s what makes them dirty tricks. There’s a wonderful book published in 2006 that ought to be in everybody’s library. It’s called “The Thinker’s Guide to Fallacies: The Art of Mental Trickery and Manipulation” by Richard Paul and Linda Elder. It is, in fact, a guide to the strategies and tactics of Donald Trump in a section labeled “44 Foul Ways to Win an Argument:
First remember that those who strive to manipulate you always want something from you: your money, your vote, your support, your time, your soul – something! But they also need you to be unaware of what they are about. They always have something (often a lot) to hide. In any case, their goal is not the use of sound evidence and valid reasoning. In every case, they insult our intelligence by assuming that a manipulative trick will work on us, that we are not insightful enough to see what they are doing.
The 44 foul ways to win an argument are defined as “dirty tricks of those who want to gain an advantage,” and dirty trick number one is straight out of Mr. Trump’s playbook:
Dirty Trick #1: Accuse Your Opponent of Doing What He is Accusing You of (or worse)
This is sometimes called, “Pointing to another wrong.” When under attack and having trouble defending themselves, manipulators turn the tables. They accuse their opponent of doing what they are being accused of. “You say that I don’t love you! I think it is you who does not love me!” Manipulators know this is a good way to put their opponents on the defensive. You may want to up the ante by accusing your opponent of doing something worse that what he is accusing you of. “How dare you accuse me of being messy? When was the last time you even took a shower?”
The beauty (?) of this dirty trick is that it allows the accuser to escape criticism for the same thing in the debate, which Mr. Trump badly needs. Here are just a few examples of Dirty Trick #1 from press coverage over the course of the campaign. Mr. Trump has:
- …accused the Clinton Foundation of granting favors when Mrs. Clinton served as Secretary of State when his own foundation was fined by the IRS for making an illegal campaign contribution to the Florida attorney general who was considering a fraud case against Trump University. The case was dropped after the $25,000 contribution.
- …accused Mrs. Clinton of being “trigger-happy” and “an unstable person” in the same speech during which he threatens that Iranian boats that “make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make” would be shot out of the water.
- …accused Hillary Clinton of making “one of the most brazen attempt at distraction in the history of politics” and attempting to “intimidate” and “bully” voters with her charges that he is fomenting racism with his campaign. Mr. Trump’s own life is one filled with intimidation, bullying, and racism.
- …accused Hillary of poor health while dictating his own unconventional note from his doctor claiming that Trump would be “unequivocally” the “healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency.”
- …accused Mrs. Clinton of being a bigot, when he had displayed his own racist views of Mexicans and others. At the time, CNN’s Cody Cain called him on it:
Trump is employing the technique of the reverse attack. When he is faced with a legitimate criticism of himself, he attempts to deflect away the criticism by attacking Clinton for the exact same shortcoming that plagues Trump, regardless of whether it actually applies to Clinton.
- …accused Hillary of not being qualified to be president when he has no experience whatsoever in government or politics.
- …accused Mrs. Clinton of being mentally unfit to be president, while questions about his own temperament abound over his outrageous behavior and statements.
I won’t be voting for Mr. Trump, but I have no problem if this is your choice. All I ask is that you realize you are being manipulated by a master of the dirty trick, the logical fallacies of argument. If you’re okay with that, then who am I to object?