Trump on Miss Universe: No, really, she gained a massive amount of weight

The weirdest thing about this is that it’s Trump, not the “Fox & Friends” crew, who broaches the subject. All they did was ask him if Clinton said anything last night that got under his skin. Why, yes, he admits inexplicably, before inexplicably elaborating at length.

Witness just how easily this trap was set. As part of her attack on Trump’s commentary over the years about women, Hillary mentioned Alicia Machado by name, a “tell” that her campaign wanted to raise Machado’s media profile because they had something cooking about her ready to go. Machado’s a perfect victim for Democratic turnout purposes: She’s not just a woman who was criticized by Trump for her looks, she’s Latino and a naturalized citizen. Her dust-up with Trump over her weight fits right into the message Team Clinton was pushing last week with their “Mirrors” ad. They want women, especially college-educated women, angry enough to want to punish the sexist on Election Day. Lo and behold, within hours of the debate ending last night, the Clinton campaign dropped the clip below featuring Machado herself talking about Trump’s putdowns. (She speaks English, by the way. Doing the interview in Spanish was presumably on the suggestion of Team Hillary, to make sure they’re hitting all of their demographic targets.) The New York Times also threw a story together overnight to amplify Clinton’s message. And now here’s Trump bizarrely introducing the topic himself into a friendly interview and doubling down about her weight.

You would think he’d have learned by now that he doesn’t fare well when he lets himself be sucked into fights with critics who aren’t equally matched with him in terms of political firepower. People like watching him goof on Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, not so much on Judge Curiel or the Khan family. His campaign will defend him by reminding everyone that Machado was a pageant winner and pageant winners are expected to look their best at all times, including in keeping their weight down, but the point of Machado’s complaint isn’t just the weight demands, it’s the gratuitous cruelty behind it — and it wasn’t only aimed at her weight, if what she says about the “Miss Housekeeping” digs is true. This is the sort of campaign spat that 90 percent of the public won’t care about but 10 percent might care about a lot, which matters in a tight race. And it shows that Clinton can make Trump dance to her tune to some extent the day after a debate, when campaigns wrestle to see who can control the narrative. She’s definitely going to pull something like this on him at the second debate too. I hope for his sake he sees it coming next time.

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David Strom 6:41 PM on January 26, 2023