Trump's Attacks On Clinton Sound A Lot Like Those Of Clinton's Lately

Sep 18, 2016
Originally published on September 18, 2016 9:18 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On Friday, Donald Trump made a bold claim. He said Hillary Clinton is responsible for first raising questions about whether or not President Obama was born in the United States.

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DONALD TRUMP: Hillary Clinton...

(BOOING)

TRUMP: ...And her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy.

MARTIN: That statement is not true. In fact, it was Trump who led the charge to try and delegitimize Obama's presidency by floating the idea that the president was actually from Kenya. Trump has spent a lot of time lately accusing Hillary Clinton of things that Democrats have actually been saying about him. NPR's Scott Detrow explains.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Here's something that Donald Trump said about Hillary Clinton the other week.

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TRUMP: She's trigger happy and very unstable.

DETROW: Sounds a little familiar, doesn't it? That's because the suggestion that Trump is too unstable, too unpredictable to be commander-in-chief has been a central attack Clinton has been making against her opponent all year.

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HILLARY CLINTON: A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.

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DETROW: This has been happening a lot lately. Trump takes the main critiques Clinton makes against him and says no, they apply to her, too. It's kind of like his campaign strategy comes from that childhood comeback to an insult. I'm rubber, and you're glue. Whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you. This trend really got a lot of attention when Trump started saying this.

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TRUMP: Hillary Clinton is running a policy-free campaign. She offers no ideas, no solutions and only hatred and derision.

DETROW: Now, the fact is that Clinton's campaign has buried itself in white papers and policies. And until lately, Trump has instead stuck to broad pronouncements, many of which boil down to the fact that he'll fix things because of his track record as a businessman. Clinton has repeatedly criticized him for not offering any details, but now Trump is throwing that charge back in her face.

JOHN BRABENDER: What they're trying to do is make sure that everybody looks and says OK, she's as bad as he is. And I think they've looked at it as a net win.

DETROW: John Brabender is Pennsylvania-based Republican strategist who's worked in presidential politics. Taking your opponent's most positive trait and using it against him or her is a typical political tactic. But embracing your weaknesses and trying to use them on your opponent like a Judo throw - that's a little different.

BRABENDER: What most candidates want to do is they want to immediately diffuse the attack against them by just responding to the attack. And I think it's actually a pretty innovative and somewhat ingenious solution to say - yeah? Well, let's talk about her - how on the same thing she's even worse.

DETROW: Brabender says Trump and his staff realize that every campaign event is going to be boiled down to just a few quotes or moments. Last month offers a good example. Hillary Clinton delivered a detailed, researched speech on Trump's many disparaging remarks about minority groups and the way the fringe alt-right nationalist movement has embraced Trump's campaign.

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CLINTON: This is someone who retweets white supremacists online.

DETROW: Around the same time, Trump responded with a few lines at a rally.

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TRUMP: Hillary Clinton is a bigot who sees people of color...

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TRUMP: ...Only as votes.

DETROW: And as John Brabender says Trump anticipated, many stories quoted them at almost equal levels.

BRABENDER: I think what they're trying to do at the very least is fight it to a draw. And if they can keep doing that, I think they feel like that's to their advantage.

DETROW: The increasingly tightening polls suggest it may be working. Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.