Much of what we’re hearing from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump adds up to a mutual deflection of nasty accusations through counterattacks.
More and more, in both camps, defense and offense become one and the same tactic.
The Clinton campaign went after Paul Manafort’s departure as a top Trump aide amid a Ukraine cash scandal by blasting “the odd bromance Trump has” with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Deflecting that, Trump pounded away at the overlap between donors to the Clinton Foundation and people she met with as secretary of state.
He said it all adds up to big-time, pay-for-play corruption.
She replied: “My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right . . . I know there’s a lot of smoke, and there’s no fire.” Suddenly, announcements were made about an end to the foundation’s foreign donations and daughter Chelsea Clinton taking over the charity’s operations.
But Clinton wasn’t about to stay on defense, and refrain from changing the subject.
So she delivered a scathing address connecting visible dots between Republican Trump’s campaign and some of the most extreme and racist elements of the political right.
Her campaign signaled days in advance that this was coming. The charge was predictable since most voters don’t like the idea of supporting an extremist.
So Trump hastily began sending different signals.
Suddenly he talked about vaguely “softening” his hard-line immigration stance that sounded to other Republicans like proposals he earlier condemned.
Suddenly he was urging African-American voters from a distance to give him a chance with a grim “what-have-you-got-to-lose” pitch.
Suddenly he was calling Clinton “a bigot who sees people of color only as votes — not as human beings worthy of a better future.”
Suddenly he was revising his proposed ban on all Muslims entering the United States until “we can figure out what’s going on” into, well, something else, whatever it is.
All this was geared toward his resuming a good offense by being able to suggest she’s distorting his true image.
Trump tends to blast first — especially where vulnerable. For example: At 70, he’d be the oldest president if elected, which raises questions about his physical stamina and health. Given that context, his campaign spreads rumors about the health of 68-year-old Clinton. Never mind that the rumors remain as undocumented as immigrants barred by a Mexican wall.
It’s also no wonder Clinton now accuses Trump of “peddling deranged conspiracy theories in a desperate attempt to change the subject.”
By saying he’s tied to racial extremists, she gets to attack — which at this stage may be her best defense.