Hillary in Atlantic City: Maybe Chris Christie should do his job instead of holding Trump's jacket

Credit where it’s due. She may be an unindicted felon and pathological liar; she may have covered for her husband’s repulsive sexual behavior in the name of clinging to power; she may have egregiously terrible judgment in foreign policy, especially on military interventions; and she may have no real accomplishments from her 15+ years as a senator and diplomat. But this is a decent burn.

She’s in Atlantic City today to highlight Trump’s corporate bankruptcies (“How can anybody lose money running a casino?” she joked, lifting one of Marco Rubio’s better lines from his two-week Don Rickles turn this spring) and his eminent domain practices, two lines of attack that did zero damage in the primaries but might have better luck with the general electorate. Ostensibly this is a shot on Trump’s business acumen, designed to plant a seed of doubt in the minds of voters who reason that anyone who could make billions for himself must have the know-how to make America’s working class more prosperous. If Hillary ends up far behind Trump in public opinion on who’d be better for the economy, she’s in trouble.

More deeply, though, this is designed to parry Trump’s highly effective protectionist attack on her as a free-trading oligarch who’s declared war on blue-collar America by letting millions of jobs fly away overseas. It’s not enough to show that some of Trump’s business ventures went bad and creditors got screwed since, in many cases, those creditors will be banks whom the working class doesn’t care about. She needs to show that it’s small businesses that got screwed, the sort of people whom Trump claims to speak for. Her companion video to today’s speech makes that argument explicitly, focusing on the vendors and contractors who claim they were squeezed by Trump on their bills. It’s a variation on the Romney playbook from 2012 — the rich guy doesn’t care about the little guy, only about his own bottom line — except that this time it’s being used for defensive purposes, not offensive. Hillary’s the Wall Street crony and globalist, but if she can convince people that Trump’s really no less venal than she is, maybe those attacks on her won’t do as much damage.

Trump’s reply:

I have built a tremendously successful business, which has created tens of thousands of jobs. Out of the hundreds of businesses I have owned over the decades, and hundreds of deals and transactions, I have used the chapter laws of our country in four instances, much as many of our country’s elite business people do (but nobody cares about). It is an effective and commonly used practice in business to use bankruptcy proceedings to restructure a business and ultimately save jobs. Nobody understands the economy like I do and no one, especially not Crooked Hillary Clinton, will do more for the economy than I will. I want to bring jobs back to America, while Hillary Clinton wants to get elected to enrich herself with power at the expense of the people. I created thousands of jobs and made a lot of money in Atlantic City, which was what, as a businessman, I am supposed to do for my company and my family– and as President I will make America rich again, and Make America Great Again.

The eternal problem with trying to punish Trump for his worst rich-guy behavior, I think, is that a lot of Americans feel they’d behave the same way if they had his fortune. Private jets, model girlfriends/wives, your name in gold plating on every property you own, and hardball tactics with everyone you do business with because, hey, you’re enough of a big shot to get away with that. Hillary’s hoping that voters who feel taken advantage of by “the system” will recoil upon learning that Trump took advantage of people too, but I don’t think that’s how it works. The fact that Trump boasts of using the rules to his advantage — note the bit above about “using” the bankruptcy laws — creates a weird kinship between him and many of his fans in which he’s essentially promising to apply his talent for screwing his own enemies to screwing their enemies too. The fact that he’s stiffed vendors and banks just proves how ruthlessly effective he’ll be as president. At least to the 35 percent or so of the public that doesn’t already deeply dislike him.