On Wednesday, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made a big speech in Philadelphia about how he would manage the military if he were put in charge of it as president. He used terms we've heard about him a lot this campaign, like, "unstable," "reckless," and "unfit to be commander-in-chief." Except in this speech, he was saying that about his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
In a fascinating turn, Trump has adopted the attacks others have made against him into his own rhetoric. "Every day we see how reckless and careless Trump is," Clinton said in a June speech about the economy. A Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego called Trump "mentally unstable" after his attacks on the Khan family in August. And over a hundred Republican national security experts signed a letter declaring Trump to be "utterly unfitted to the office." Strikingly similar language was used by Trump in Philadelphia.
Trump is on a roll of using his own flaws as a way to attack his opponent. His speech in Philadelphia also blamed Clinton for U.S. intervention in Iraq and Syria, despite him having supported both of these actions before the fact. This specific hypocrisy is not new — he has been repeating over and over that he would never have gone into Iraq despite being on tape saying he would.
The same morning as Trump's speech, the New York Times detailed a long history of Trump seeming to use political contributions to influence office-holders, including Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, whose office declined to proceed with a probe of Trump University at around the time Trump gave her campaign $25,000 through his charity. This is less than a month after Trump accused Clinton of "pay for play" for emails showing she had contact and meetings with donors to the Clinton Foundation while Secretary of state.
The "I know you are, but what am I" strategy Trump is using has been effective. Around the time that Clinton made a speech linking Trump to the "alt-right," an internet-bred modern version of white supremacy, Trump took to repeatedly calling Clinton a "bigot." In fighting fire with fire, Trump succeeded in clouding everything with smoke.
There are other examples — Trump, who once bragged about his sexual exploits with Howard Stern, questioned Clinton's judgment for trusting Huma Abedin, the wife of Anthony Weiner. He called upon Clinton to release her medical records, until NBC news found that his medical disclosures were written in five minutes. He said Clinton couldn't be president because she had said "I don't recall" in an FBI interview, which the Washington Post pointed out disqualifies Trump because he failed to remember facts and events in depositions.
The presidential debates are coming up, and Clinton's team has been prepping hard, trying to find ways to get under Trump's skin. But they should be prepared — Trump thinks his skin is made of rubber, and he'll probably just repeat whatever Clinton says back at her.
Image: Bustle/Caroline Wurtzel