That Better Part of Valor

Whoever said discretion is the better part of valor – it was Falstaff in Shakespeare’s Henny IV by the way, explaining why he played dead to avoid a fight, to save his sorry ass – meant no more than it’s best to pick your fights. There’s no point in getting the crap beat out of you. Live to fight another day. The words have now been decoupled from Shakespeare’s famous drunken coward. Discretion is a good thing. Don’t get goaded into pointless fights that cannot be won, or pointless fights that can be won. Stay focused. Keep your eye on the prize, and so on and so forth.

That’s good advice, and hard to follow, and hard for Donald Trump to follow. He keeps getting hammered with things that must make his blood boil, and he’s a man that reacts to the slightest slight – always. Someone hit him hard. He hits them back harder, and then he belittles them. He has no use for political correctness either. He intends to hurt people’s feelings, lots of people’s feelings, because they deserve to be hurt.

That’s what so many people like about him, for better or worse. He has no impulse control. They wish they could get away with what he gets away with, calling women pigs or sluts or whatever, suggesting everyone should get nukes and we settle things everywhere once and for all. They prefer valor without discretion.

That, however, may be political suicide. This man, proud to be on his third trophy wife, who doesn’t seem to care that he comes off as a sexist pig to all the losers out there, will soon find that discretion is kind of useful. Things catch up with you. That just happened way out here:

Donald Trump wanted to fire female employees he considered unattractive and replace them with better-looking women at a golf resort he owned, according to court documents from a 2012 lawsuit.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the court documents detail a lawsuit that alleges Trump pressured employees at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes to replace those he viewed to be unattractive female employees over a number of years in the 2000s.

Yeah, yeah, this would be a minor matter, but not now:

The report comes as Trump has faced renewed criticism that he disrespects women, a narrative fueled by his controversial remarks about a former Miss Universe that he worked with when he owned the beauty pageant. Hillary Clinton raised in Monday’s debate the fact that he called Alicia Machado “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping” after she won his 1996 Miss Universe pageant.

Now it all fits together:

Hayley Strozier, an employee at the golf club until 2008, alleged in a sworn declaration she “had witnessed Donald Trump tell managers many times while he was visiting the club that restaurant hostesses were ‘not pretty enough’ and that they should be fired and replaced with more attractive women.”

According to the LA Times report, the employees said in their lawsuit that they rotated employees schedules “so that the most attractive women were scheduled to work when Mr. Trump was scheduled to be at the club.”

The Trump Organization called the allegations “meritless.”

Of course they did. Donald Trump has always respected women. That’s why the polls will turn around and they’ll all vote for him. And of course there will be no response to this Los Angeles Times story. That’s settled and done, a fight that’s not worth fighting now. Move on. Discretion is the better part of valor, but that’s not happening:

Donald Trump and his allies are refusing to let up on their attacks on former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, with Newt Gingrich shaming her for gaining weight during her reign and Corey Lewandowski suggesting she’s an attempted murderer.

The sustained assault has provided a wide opening for Hillary Clinton’s campaign to drive home the narrative that Trump is a misogynist and a horrible role model for voters’ children.

It also represents another self-inflicted wound for Trump, who went into Monday night’s debate having almost closed the gap with Clinton in many crucial battleground states.

But Clinton sprung a trap on the debate stage, bringing up Trump’s past public shaming of Machado as “Miss Piggy” and “Miss Housekeeping,” and Trump has since been struggling to break free.

Trump has since been struggling to break free by obsessing about this:

Even after receiving blowback for doubling down on Tuesday morning, when Trump said Machado had “gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” the Republican presidential nominee again stepped in it Wednesday night, claiming to have spared Machado when others wanted to fire her as Miss Universe.

“I saved her job because they wanted to fire her for putting on so much weight,” Trump told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly in a pre-taped interview broadcast Wednesday evening. “And it is a beauty contest. You know, I mean, say what you want, Bill, I mean, they know what they’re getting into. It’s a beauty contest.”

Newt Gingrich, a former House speaker and top Trump surrogate, echoed Trump’s attack line during a dinner address to the Log Cabin Republicans in Washington on Wednesday.

 “You’re not supposed to gain 60 pounds during the year that you’re Miss Universe,” Gingrich said, eliciting laughter from the room of Republicans.

It seems women are to look svelte and sexy, but there was other laughter:

“You got to be kidding me,” Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri tweeted in response to Gingrich’s comment. “I am sorry, I can’t get past this. Newt Gingrich is criticizing someone for their weight.”

Well, Newt is a fat guy, but that didn’t matter:

The attacks didn’t stop at the dinner table, though. Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager who still has ties to the campaign and contributes regularly to CNN, launched a new attack during the breakfast hour Thursday, resurfacing a decades-old allegation that Machado was involved in an attempted murder in Venezuela.

“The Clinton campaign took a person and brought her into a debate, a person who has been part of a murder,” he said on CNN. “We know that. True.”

That’s not a fact:

Machado was accused of being an accomplice in an attempted murder in 1997 for allegedly driving the getaway car after her boyfriend wounded his brother-in-law in a shooting. While her boyfriend was indicted, the charges against her were dropped over lack of evidence.

This was not a fight worth picking, but they’re having it anyway, along with this one:

For his part, Gingrich praised Trump’s chivalrous conduct during Monday’s debate by refusing to go after the former president.

“He thought about it, and I’m sure he said to himself, ‘A president of the United States shouldn’t attack somebody personally when their daughter is sitting in the audience,'” Gingrich told Fox News’ Sean Hannity during a radio interview Thursday. “And he bit his tongue, and he was a gentleman, and I thought in many ways that was the most important moment of the whole evening. He proved that he had the discipline to remain as a decent guy even when she was disgusting.”

But Clinton’s campaign has already prepared itself – all but inviting Trump to launch such an ill-advised attack they say would have an adverse effect, propelling Clinton, not Trump, to the White House.

“After his disastrous debate performance and his sexist attack on a former Miss Universe over her weight, Donald Trump is now trying to deflect by going after Hillary Clinton about her marriage,” Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon said in a statement on Thursday. “While Trump and his lieutenants like Roger Stone and David Bossie may want to dredge up failed attacks from the 1990s, as many Republicans have warned, this is a mistake that is going to backfire.”

Don’t do it, Donald, don’t do it, but then he does it:

Everyone but Donald Trump and his most ardent supporters recognize that Donald Trump lost Monday night’s debate. And because of the candidate’s stubborn disbelief in his ability to do anything but win, Trump lost the post-debate period too.

Now he’s doubling down.

Despite warnings from fellow Republicans against insulting a beauty queen he disparaged for gaining weight and launching an attack on Hillary Clinton for her husband’s well-known infidelities, Trump is now directing his surrogates to do just that.

“Mr. Trump has never treated women the way Hillary Clinton and her husband did when they worked to destroy Bill Clinton’s accusers,” reads one of the talking points the campaign sent to surrogates on Thursday as the controversy surrounding the story of former Miss Universe Alicia Machado continued to dominate headlines of the race.

And during a rally Thursday afternoon in Bedford, N.H., Trump himself referenced the scandals of the 1990s that he’s been congratulating himself for not talking about all week. “The Clintons are the sordid past,” he said. “We will be the very bright and clean future.”

Yes, he’s going there, and there’s chaos on Fifth Avenue:

Inside Trump Tower, his inner circle of advisers has been in turmoil: while some have attempted to reach to the hard-headed candidate by suggesting to reporters that he must prepare more thoroughly for the second debate, others have spit-balled ideas aimed at changing the subject, including a last-minute trip to Israel that might replicate the more presidential optics and media saturation coverage they achieved with last month’s surprise summit with the Mexican president.

Trump himself has reportedly chided aides who have privately acknowledged to reporters that Clinton bested him on the debate stage.

But that private uncertainty and unease about what was so clearly a disappointing performance has oozed into public view. Since the debate Monday night, surrogates and Trump himself have both praised and criticized the moderator, Lester Holt. One of Trump’s closest confidants at the moment, Rudy Giuliani, said immediately after the debate that he’d advise Trump to skip the next two and on Wednesday indulged a conspiracy, propagated by a Russian state-controlled news site, that Clinton might have gotten the questions in advance. And on Thursday, campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said she had indeed told her candidate not to call women “fat pigs” but quickly tried to dismiss his insults as “beside the point” because he in fact supports women.

“With Trump, it’s always the tyranny of the urgent and right now it is he has to have people believe he won, or that if he didn’t it was rigged and unfair,” said Rick Tyler, a GOP operative who worked on Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign.

It seems no one knows which fights to pick, so the Clinton folks will do that for them:

Clinton’s campaign, meanwhile, is starting to put the pedal down. Even before the candidate mentioned Machado, her communications and rapid response operations had laid the groundwork. Machado had already done a photo shoot and interview with Cosmopolitan that popped online less than 24 hours after the debate. The campaign quickly organized a press call with Machado. They cut a video encapsulating the debate exchange and Machado’s story, which has been a staple of cable news coverage for 48 hours now. In swing states, women surrogates have been amplifying Clinton’s argument.

And Democrats have said they would love to see Trump try to tar Clinton for her husband’s cheating past, something veteran Republican operatives and GOP lawmakers desperately want their candidate to avoid.

“What you’ve seen in the last 48 hours is that Clinton actually has a campaign,” said Stuart Stevens, the GOP strategist behind Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “What you see is the Clinton campaign has an extra gear they can go into, and the Trump campaign really doesn’t.”

All they have is this woman:

Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said she’s not advising the Republican nominee to bring up former President Bill Clinton’s past infidelities as a way to attack his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

“I’m not advising him to go there,” Conway said in an interview on “The View” Thursday, adding, “It’s fair game to think about how Hillary Clinton treated those women after the fact. She called Monica Lewinsky a loony toon.”

But she’s not advising him to go there. She knows that discretion is the batter part of valor, often to save your sorry ass. Slate’s Michelle Goldberg knows that:

Earlier this year, it seemed like Donald Trump was going to try to use Bill Clinton’s infidelities against Hillary Clinton. “She’s married to a man who was the worst abuser of women in the history of politics,” Trump said at a rally in Spokane, Washington. “She’s married to a man who hurt many women.” Later that month, Trump released an Instagram video of Bill Clinton chomping on a cigar as unnamed women accuse him of sexual harassment and assault; the spot ends with the sound of Hillary Clinton’s witchy cackling. Trump apparently saw this as a winning line of political attack. On July 13, the New York Times reported that the Republican National Convention would feature a “presentation detailing former President Bill Clinton’s sexual misconduct.”

But the presentation never happened, and Trump mostly dropped the subject. The reasons seem obvious. As a notorious philanderer, it wasn’t in Trump’s interest to make adultery a campaign issue. Further, as many Republican consultants know, women – including Republican women – really don’t like attempts to hold Hillary liable for Bill’s affairs. Earlier this year, I spoke to Katie Packer, Mitt Romney’s 2012 Deputy Campaign Manager, about right-leaning women’s attitudes towards Hillary Clinton. “One thing that causes them to come to her defense is when they feel like she’s being blamed for her husband’s bad behavior,” she told me.

Doesn’t Trump know better? Goldberg suggests not:

Before entering politics, Trump criticized Bill Clinton not for mistreating women, but for failing to find hotter mistresses. He once called Paula Jones a “loser” and said of the Lewinsky scandal that “people would have been more forgiving” if Clinton had slept with “a really beautiful woman of sophistication.” Trump’s message in bringing up Bill’s adultery now is the same as the right-wing slogan he retweeted last year: “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

His belief that Bill Clinton’s affairs reflect badly on Hillary demonstrates something key to his psyche: For Trump, the only salient distinction when judging a women’s worth is whether she is fuckable or unfuckable.

That’s one way to put it, probably accurately:

Trump is hardly the first man to judge women based on their looks. He is unusual, however, in being unable to admire, or even pretend to admire, any human qualities in women other than sexual attractiveness. He praised his daughter Ivanka’s “very nice figure” and said that if she “weren’t my daughter, perhaps I would be dating her.” (In other words, he called her fuckable, but in a paternal way.) He even discussed his infant daughter Tiffany in terms of her future erotic allure. Appearing on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 1994, he said that Tiffany, then a baby, had inherited the long legs of her model mother, Marla Maples. Then, holding his hands in front of his chest as if he were cupping breasts, he added, “We don’t know whether or not she’s got this part yet, but time will tell.”

Consider, also, the way Trump has spoken of his wife, Melania. “She’s a great beauty, but she’s a great beauty inside, which is almost as important,” he told Howard Stern in 2005. (Note the “almost.”) Stern asked Trump if he’d stay with Melania if she were disfigured in a horrible car accident. “How do the breasts look?” A bit of jovial banter over whether Trump will abandon his wife if she loses her looks follows. “It is Melania’s job, in a sense, to stay beautiful,” says Stern. Trump doesn’t disagree.

The man is a bit creepy, and Goldberg adds this:

It’s hardly unusual for men to prize their trophy wives for their beauty, but they usually at least pretend to a deeper connection. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. But Trump doesn’t realize his shallowness is a vice, because he’s not aware that other systems of value exist. Hence his conviction, against all evidence, that reminding American voters of Bill Clinton’s affairs will delegitimize Hillary Clinton. He’s gone after Hillary on her emails, on Benghazi, on the Clinton Foundation. The race has tightened, but now he’s slipping behind again. So he’s hitting her with what seems to him to be her most obvious failure.

In short, he has no sense of discretion. He’ll fight those pointless fights:

Donald Trump is angry that his aides and advisers have conceded to reporters – largely without attribution – that the Republican nominee struggled in his first presidential debate.

In a conference call with surrogates Wednesday afternoon, Trump aides made clear the Republican nominee is upset that his allies publicly acknowledged they pushed him to change his preparation and tactics before his next bout with Hillary Clinton. And he wants them to stop it immediately.

The message was “not subtle,” a source familiar with the call said.

And he has a plan:

Ahead of their October 9 town hall style debate in St. Louis, part of the problem, one source said, is that Trump doesn’t yet seem to grasp that he needs to expand his base of supporters to bring in new voters who are not yet sold on his temperament, policy positions or readiness to be president.

When Trump was told Tuesday that he should do some things differently, he responded that his approach is what his base likes.

Now add this:

Donald Trump complained about every part of the first presidential debate, from his opponent to the moderator to the subsequent poll results, during a Thursday campaign appearance.

“I had to put up with the anchor and fight the anchor all the time on everything I said,” Trump said of the debate’s moderator, Lester Holt, at a rally in Bedford, New Hampshire. “What a rigged deal.”

He also cited online polls as evidence of his success, saying that “every single online poll said we won.”

It was all rigged, and then Fox News abandoned him:

On Tuesday afternoon, a Fox News executive sent a memo to staff that was leaked to Business Insider reminding them that online polls like the ones Trump touted should not be cited as though they were scientifically sound.

Since online polls don’t survey a population selected from randomized phone numbers and internet users, Fox’s vice president of public-opinion research, Dana Blanton, noted in that memo that “the sample obviously can’t be representative of the electorate.”

Now he gets to say Fox News is out to get him. Everyone is out to get him – but perhaps he’s just trying to be presidential, if that means being paranoid and impulsive, with the authority to use nuclear weapons.

That’s a problem, and Chris Cillizza points to this paragraph in the New York Times story headlined New Debate Strategy for Donald Trump: Practice, Practice, Practice:

The team had primed Mr. Trump to look for roughly a dozen key phrases and expressions Mrs. Clinton uses when she is uncertain or uncomfortable, but he did not seem to pay attention during the practice sessions, one aide said, and failed to home in on her vulnerabilities during the debate.

Cillizza is a bit appalled:

Donald Trump is one of two people who will be president next January. Monday night was, inarguably, the most important day of the general election campaign to date. Every person in politics – and not – had circled the first debate as a major moment in the campaign, Trump’s best chance to fight back against the narrative that he lacks the policy chops and the temperament to be president of the United States. The audience for the debate was expected to be somewhere between 80 and 100 million, the largest for a political event ever.

All of these things pointed to the absolute necessity for Trump to perform well. And, what happened? His debate prep team couldn’t get him to pay attention. That is, literally, stunning…

Put yourself in a comparable situation. You are applying for a job you really want. Your interview is in five days. You hire an interview coach to help you do well. Then you just can’t bring yourself to pay attention to the advice he or she gives you.

It’s hard to imagine that happening, right? After all, it’s your dream job. You’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time. You know it won’t likely come around again. With all that in the balance, you would be far more likely to over-prepare than under-prepare, right? Can you imagine simply not being able to bring yourself to pay attention with the most important day of your professional life on the horizon?

All that Cillizza can offer is this:

What I think is going on here is that Trump has prided himself on unpredictability and a seat-of-the-pants approach throughout his adult life. He proudly recounts how he would turn up to work every morning with no definite plan for the day – preferring to just let things come to him and react. He has total and complete confidence in his instincts and, at some subconscious level, believes that preparation dulls those instincts.

The problem for Trump is that a presidential general election campaign isn’t analogous to anything else he’s done in his life. You can’t wing it in a debate in front of 80 million people against someone who has spent virtually her entire life preparing for this one moment. You can’t ignore the advice of people brought in to give you advice because you are convinced you know better. In short, you have to pay attention.

That’s what Falstaff was saying in the Shakespeare play. Pay attention. Don’t react to every challenge, immediately, by hitting back as hard as you can, no matter what. You’ll live longer. Trump’s debate prep team talked to him about discretion. He tuned out and the rest is history, or will be.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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