The Wilderness | Issue 59 | 9 . 29 . 2015 | Tweet
Millions of Americans witnessed the end of Donald Trump’s Presidential campaign live on CNN during the last GOP primary debate. It won’t be swift. It certainly won’t be pleasant. But at this point he’s Vince Vaughn bleeding out as he limps through the desert. It’s only a matter of time and steps.
For all his blustery absurdity, Trump always had a role to play in the 2016 GOP campaign cycle. He was purpose-built to fill the space of the Implausible Outsider with business sector experience and a no-nonsense attitude who could cut through the crap in Washington DC. In fact, Trump — in a dose of painful irony for his legions of reality TV show fans — has ultimately been playing a similar role to the one Mitt Romney cast himself as in 2008 and 2012: the Businessman Who Gets Shit Done. And the party was willing to tolerate him in that role for lack of any other plausible auditioners for the part.
But then another one appeared.
Debate night on CNN started out exactly the way that Trump wanted, featuring him taking amusingly gratuitous swipes at Rand Paul. Paul, in turn, blew his opportunity to hammer home a “see, I told you so” point about Trump’s temper and the idea of imagining The Donald angrily slamming his pudge-knuckled orange toonmitts down on the “LAUNCH” button of the nuclear football. Meanwhile, Jeb Bush golly-gee-shucked his way through the opening of the debate, allowing himself to be talked over, down to, across and round, never fully able to bring himself to take his glasses off and get real over Trump’s insults about his wife. It was the game CNN and Trump wanted. Instead of GOP candidates explaining their varying policy ideas for one of the largest cable audiences in TV history, the debate instead was pitched as a political Gossip Girl back-and-forth of “Trump said [X]”/”they said [Y],” a John Hughes high-school house party where Bobby Jindal is moping despondently outside in the bushes peeking through a window at the fun he’s missing while Scott Walker has already passed out in the downstairs bathtub.
Both Trump and CNN wanted a reality TV show, and they were getting it. But as the cliche goes, be careful what you wish for. When primary long shot and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina was given her moment, the target of Trump’s Biff Tannen-level attacks in the days before the debate took it, channeled it, unleashed it and transformed one of Trump’s one-liner quips about Jeb Bush into the viral moment of the night. It stung — and now a restless GOP base has their own Duke, screaming in their face between early rounds Trump isn’t a machine. He can be cut. He can bleed.
Fiorina’s response to Trump’s attacks on her physical appearance left him grinning like a goofy idiot, silent as the audience cheered for the first time of the night. This was the beginning of the end of Donald Trump, and seemingly the end of the beginning for Fiorina. Trump’s Frank T.J. Mackey “Respect the Cock” act, thrown like slabs of red meat to his throngs of anonymous seminar suckers struggling to sell a pen back to their host, only works as long as the facade holds and he maintains the semblance of control and projection of power. It’s certainly not something that ought to be able to be torn down by “that woman” (or by Trey Parker and Matt Stone for that matter). Conservatives were willing to tolerate Trump because of that, the slot he filled for them in the early primary process. He was the successful alpha-male businessman from outside Washington, with bold ideas and rhetoric and the gusto to slap around the politicians we feel have screwed us over for a generation or more (see Steve Forbes or Herman Cain in previous primary seasons). With all of that, even the most hesitant of voters were willing to put up with Trump’s “who do you love” toxic Joker parade-act given that there were no other alternatives to fill that vacancy. But now there is an alternative: Carly Fiorina, a more reasonable and by all appearances tougher alternative. And Trump is now facing dwindling crowds and boos while he keeps himself happily opiated under the delusion that he won’t be replaced in the minds of voters tired of The Apprentice.
Except he already has been replaced.
Carly Fiorina is now officially in the game, and has graduated from defending herself against attacks by a vomiting carnival barker to defending herself from an entire media establishment hellbent on keeping their record of turning GOP women into punchlines unblemished and intact. But Fiorina is smooth, cool, sophisticated, and unflappable under media pressure: she cannot be written off some remote bumpkinbilly governor fresh off the Nominatin’ Truck, and that’s very problematic for the “Madame Secretary” narrative that Hillary Clinton and her media allies want to use to parachute her into the Oval Office. As Clinton’s team struggles to wipe her operating system and quickly update her BIOS to make her more relatable to the one demo she can’t win without (women), Fiorina’s surge has even the most zealous feminist critics on the left questioning Clinton’s historical inevitability, as evidenced on Cosmopolitan.com in an article titled “Carly Fiorina Is the Candidate I Wanted Hillary Clinton to Be“. Last month as candidates took to the Iowa State Fair soap box to give speeches and answer spontaneous questions, Fiorina gladly took the stage in plaid shirt and blue jeans and fielded inquiries from all comers. Meanwhile Hillary Clinton, dressed like a diplomat from Rigel VI and surrounded by a security detail, decidedly did not. Donald Trump refused to take that stage as well.
To members of our dutiful media, Carly Fiorina is a cipher who mysteriously exploded onto the scene two weeks ago twirling Trump’s testicles around in her hand like a pair of luxuriously classy gold-plated Ben Wa balls. But in fact she’s always been a bit of a campaigning ninja — it’s just that nobody was paying attention before. If anything, this proves that nobody in the media actually watches Seth Meyers’ late night show. Back in May, when Fiorina was a guest on Meyers’ show, he tried to needle her with the trollish point that her campaign had failed to secure her own name as a URL for a website. Fiorina turned the tables when she revealed she had actually just registered “sethmeyers.org” in the green room before appearing on his show. It was a deft media move that proved Fiorina understands the new rules of the late-night game, where hosts moonlight for the Left as political point-scorers. Chris Matthews didn’t fare much better in a post debate dressing-down that left him speechless and tingleless. Trump should have done his homework
That doesn’t mean offers from Vanity Fair, Elle and Vogue will start pouring in for Fiorina the way they do for Chelsea Clinton or her Ice Queen mother…and that’s fine with observers on the Right, because as Carly’s profile rises the hypocrisy of entertainment media becomes more obvious and inconveniently awkward. Unlike with Clinton, there will be no dancing on Ellen or interviews about Lenny Kravitz’s schlong with Lena Dunham, even though Fiorina has accomplished more in male-dominated boardrooms than Clinton has in White House backrooms. Fiorina will not be treated with red carpets and fashion spreads, as was plainly evident this past week when she became target number one for a DC media that was suddenly now curious about her, beyond what a guy who uses more spray-tan than she does thinks of her face.
At the behest of a wheedling Donald Trump, the media has now brought out the guns over Fiorina’s record as CEO of Hewlett Packard, and it is fair game. There are questions to be asked, and she must give satisfactory explanations, but the deeper we dig into her decision making at HP, the more convoluted and difficult to grasp her supposed “failures” become than Trump or Barbara Boxer or Chris Cillizza wish to admit. She will also have to answer for HP’s sale of printer parts to Iran in violation of sanctions during her tenure, something that seems to contradict her strong opposition to Obama’s Iran deal. It’s ironic however that Democrats and their media acolytes suddenly have a problem with a large companies stretching the legal boundaries to sell printer parts (stretching legality to sell fetal body parts though, not so much.) The further irony of Democrats in 2016 writing Fiorina off as a failed executive is that they, of course, wrote Mitt Romney for being a good executive in the 2012 election. That won’t stop them from trying to have it both ways.
On top of the renewed examination of Fiorina’s business record, another speedbump surfaced last week in the form of a 2013 interview where she stated her support for mandatory health coverage as it relates to catastrophic insurance. The 2016 election won’t be litigated as much on Obamacare as it was 2012, but an inflamed GOP base last seen dragging the severed head of John Boehner around like it just won a particularly brutal game of buzkashi will not tolerate such heresies for long. And this is coming up now because the goal for network and web media at large is to neutralize Fiorina and mitigate the harm her mere presence in the race does to Hillary Clinton. Every time she takes a debate stage, she reflects a bright light back at a media once again attempting to drag an unqualified candidate over the finish line in the name of history.
And yet their sudden ferocity in examining Fiorina’s record completely misses the point.
The overeagerness to ‘expose’ and shame Carly Fiorina is a gross miscalculation on the part of the media and the Democratic establishment; they are overplaying their hand on behalf of Grandma Clinton, and charging at what is essentially a phantom threat. Because Fiorina isn’t the last great hope of the GOP field after all. She almost certainly won’t be the nominee, and that doesn’t matter because she was never supposed to be. Instead, Fiorina has become a very distinctive specialty weapon who has already served her purpose in a crowded and talented group of candidates. Think of her like a deep sleeper fantasy pick paying weekly dividends while that highly-touted running back from Green Bay that you drafted in the 1st round is now officially a bust and collecting dust on the bench.
In the end, it won’t be the Fiorina’s neutering of the click-for-cash Trump ratings machine that inspires the media to go after her with unfettered vengeance. It will be the issue for which she has seemingly discovered her voice: Planned Parenthood.
If not for Fiorina’s response to Trump about his digs at her looks, her demand that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama view the Planned Parenthood undercover sting videos would have been the most memorable moment of the night. (Or maybe it would have been Fiorina’s moving story of losing a daughter to drug addiction. She scored all the big hits.) The media has predictably cocooned themselves from the PP videos to the the point where they are bizarrely denying the very existence of the CMP tapes at all, and New Yorker contributors are threatening her candidacy outright on social media over it. It was easy for Planned Parenthood to hire a heavyweight Democratic crisis-management firm to bury any media coverage of videos where top brass all but scream that they’re involved in trafficking fetal tissue for profit. When a GOP presidential candidate told one of the largest audiences in cable news history to view the videos for themselves, that made it a lot less simple.
Fiorina cannot be pigeonholed into the media’s cliched conservative role of an old white Christian Republican here to steal away women’s birth control. Fiorina spoke forcefully, emotionally and with conviction. Nancy Pelosi has responded that the videos are staged fiction completely and defensive media has demanded what Fiorina stated about Planned Parenthood is patently false while refusing to air the videos that can prove them right. Planned Parenthood itself, an organization that receives federal funding, has decided to respond to Fiorina by having protestors hurl condoms at her. One can imagine what the media response would be if conservative activists screamed and yelled and threw anything at Madame Secretary, not to mention the response of her Secret Service detail. Fiorina, on the other hand, responded just as she had done with Seth Meyers and Donald Trump. Head on.
Much has been made in various media spaces about this GOP race being a story of the Right searching for a candidate who fights. Fights everything, from political correctness, to an establishment far removed from the desires of an ignored base. But fighting political correctness goes beyond simply calling your opponents clowns while drive-time radio hosts beg for scraps. Right now Carly Fiorina has taken on the most inconvenient politically correct narrative hard leftists have in Planned Parenthood, and their sanctimonious stance on “women’s health.” And she’s done it while posing as a tougher, yet more personable preference to “the other woman” in the race.
My only advice for Donald Trump, Planned Parenthood and our media? You better get used to that face. It’s going to be around awhile longer.
– SM –
(Top Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)