Inquiring minds want to know, which Donald Trump will show up to the debate tonight? The name-calling bully? The xenophobic scaremonger? The misogynist jerk? The entertaining clown? The pathological liar? The dog-whistling bigot? The reckless lunatic? The shallow narcissist? Or some new incarnation of softer, smarter Trump who uses big words.
She literally said, "I do not know which Donald Trump will show up."
Well, she better figure it out, quick. Because if she hopes to triumph at the debate tonight, she can't wait and see which Trump shows up at the lectern. She must choose her Trump.
When Trump debated Jeb Bush, he didn't wait for the "weak" Jeb to appear. No matter what Jeb said, no matter how clever or boring or angry Jeb was, Trump's response was always the same. Weak. Weak. Weak. He didn't just call Jeb weak. His tone said, "Weak!" His expression said, "Weak!" His body language said "Weak!" There were other Jebs out there on the stage--Jeb the Conservative, Jeb the Compassionate, Jeb the Competent--but only one Jeb emerged from the debates, the Jeb that Trump anointed, Jeb the Weak.
Now it's Hillary's turn to trade lances with the notorious Mr. Trump. There won't be just one Trump out there on the stage tonight. They will all make appearances: the bully, the xenophobe, the liar, the bigot, the clown, the lunatic, perhaps even a sliver of statesman who tosses out some big words.
But Clinton can't wait for the voters and the pundits to decide which Trump they see. She must choose the one and only one Trump. From her opening statement to her summation, in her rebuttals, her "zingers," her tone and her body language, she must make the audience understand just who this Trump guy is.
My suggestion: Clinton should forget the asshole, the bigot, the ignoramus. These words are most meaningful to those who already hate Trump. Choose a word that resonates with every demographic in the nation. It's a word that Clinton has used before to describe Trump but which has been lost in the jumble.
Trump will say anything, do anything, sacrifice anything--or anyone--to sate his voracious ego. As President, he would destroy all that we hold sacred and hold the American people hostage to his megalomaniacal fantasies.
Not "Dangerous Donald." Nothing cute or silly. Hillary must be our Cassandra, staring straight into the camera and warning the nation of our peril. Her tone should be earnest, her posture erect, her mouth firm. When Trump lies, she should explain how he manipulates people. When he is evasive, she should tell people what he is trying to hide. When he taunts, she should accuse him of debasing our political system. When he speaks from ignorance, she should attack his competence as Commander in Chief. When he blusters, she should criticize his volatile temperament.
This characterization of Trump will work because it's true. He is a dangerous megalomaniac. We all know it. Even his supporters know it, though they may pooh-pooh the risks or declare his destructive impulses to be virtuous.
But even if most people know it at some level, Trump's essential dangerousness has been obscured by the noise of the election. In this debate, Hillary should take the opportunity to drive the point home with a sledgehammer so that nothing overshadows it.
If she succeeds, then one and only one Trump will emerge from the debate tonight. The Trump she chose.