August is the doldrums of political season. The winds stop and one story can stick around and take up attention. August is the season of Monica Lewinsky, Chandra Levy, Cindy Sheehan, the Obamacare protests, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, etc., etc., etc.
The President is on vacation, the congress is out of Washington, and the political press is in search of a story. Politicians plan August carefully lest they get cause without the prevailing winds to push their stories out of the news cycle to make way for something else.
Stories in August can turn to hurricanes because they stay, attract more and more attention as moisture, and gain strength unable to be blown quickly off the front page by tomorrow’s news. They stay tomorrow’s news. Donald Trump is in the August doldrums, stuck with nothing to push him off tomorrow’s paper. His problem is not Megyn Kelly. His problem is not me. His problem is he is now stuck on the front page.
That may seem like a good thing — all the attention is on him now. But tabloid coverage is not the coverage one needs when running for President. Tabloid coverage is about the candidate himself, not his issues.
Donald Trump attracted a large segment of the Republican Party because he went into the campaign unafraid to be politically incorrect when talking about immigration, trade, China, Iran, President Obama, and other candidates for office. His words may have made some queasy, but he attracted support because a lot of voters said, essentially, “Finally! Someone who is not afraid to speak the truth.”
Voters did not care that he was brusque, blunt, or rough around the edges because Trump was taking on issues that Washington was ignoring and promising to fix the broken promises of the Republican Party.
But in the last couple of weeks, and especially the last seventy-two hours, Trump has focused on Trump. He went to war with Fox News, Megyn Kelly, me, and others. We’re losers, pathetic, weak, politically correct, deviant, etc.
Trump made the rounds on Sunday, but it was all in response to and about his statement on Megyn Kelly. It was, essentially, damage control. And it was damage control over a predictable issue.
You can disagree with Megyn Kelly’s questions to Trump, but they were questions that would be asked at some point. The question about Trump’s treatment of women was a predictable question given both Trump’s prior statements and the Democrats’ continuation of the “war on women” theme.
Trump’s response to Kelly showed he did not prepare for the debate, but also put him on defense. Within twenty-four hours he was calling Kelly a “bimbo,” which played directly to the stereotype in Kelly’s questioning — a stereotype he could have pivoted by talking about the number of women employed by Trump’s businesses, etc.
Then came the “bleeding from her eyes or wherever” and the subsequent walk back of that. In the process, his story changed. He went from actually saying Megyn Kelly was bleeding from the eyes “or wherever” to saying he meant “or whatever” to saying he meant she was bleeding from her nose to saying anyone who suggested anything untoward by his remarks was a deviant. In a twelve-hour period, his statement morphed multiple times.
But the story could not move on. The story is not moving on.
The longer Trump is talking about Megyn Kelly, me, blood, or himself, he is not talking about Mexico, immigration, foreign policy, the national debt, the other candidates, etc. The very issues that brought Trump to prominence, as they fade from his voice, give other candidates opportunity to pick them up in their own voice and run with them while Trump is bogged down in the August doldrums.
Trump’s high polling will linger on awhile, but if another story does not come along to push stories about Trump personally off the front pages and lead stories of the television news, he will just be another in the long list of political stories that flare up and fade in the August doldrums of American politics.