This talking point isn’t new but the phrasing might be new and the timing is certainly new. She’s dropping the constitutional definition of treason on him here — “aid and comfort” to the enemy, a capital offense — while the smoke is still clearing from this weekend’s explosion and police are scrambling to try to determine if there’s a terror cell loose in Manhattan. If a Republican went for the throat that way in the immediate aftermath of a jihadi attack, the media would need smelling salts.
Her strategy now is the same as it was two weeks ago, when she started to pick up the pace on describing Trump as ISIS’s favorite candidate. She’s worried that voters who are nervous about terrorism will turn to the strongman Trump after an attack, especially when the alternative is the first woman president. If a bomb goes off in Times Square three days before the election, she might be sunk — and if she’s right that ISIS prefers Trump, and some counterterror people (on her side, at least) believe that she is right, that might create an incentive for terrorists to attack right before the polls open in hopes of influencing the vote. So she’s getting out in front now to try to neutralize Trump’s terror advantage by following the old Karl Rove playbook of turning your opponent’s strength into a major weakness. Trump is the guy who’ll solve terrorism as president? On the contrary, Clinton insists, Trump will make it worse by playing the jihadis’ game and picking a fight with Islam writ large. Why she chose to make that point with a loaded term like “aid and comfort,” though, knowing how it’s going to anger Republicans, I don’t know. Maybe, a la “deplorables,” it’s deliberately provocative to lure the media into carrying the message far and wide, in hopes of motivating her own base. Or maybe it’s just a brain fart, as her dopey insistence on claiming that “half” of Trump’s voters are racist, sexist, etc, surely was. Either way, with 50 days to go, the gloves are finally off.
By the way, Clinton fares better than you might think in polls on questions about terrorism:
Recent polls on which candidate would do better wrt Terrorism:
USAT (natsec): C+13
— Just Karl (@justkarl) September 19, 2016
One of Trump’s main problems is that people worry he’s a loose cannon, the flip side of his strongman appeal. Under normal circumstances a swing voter might prefer a corrupt but coolheaded figure with lots of foreign policy experience to a loose-cannon amateur on fighting terrorism. With multiple bombs having been discovered in New York and New Jersey, though, these aren’t normal circumstances. People are anxious. Clinton’s being aggressive here to try to turn the key question of the next few weeks from “Is Hillary Clinton too weak to stop ISIS?” to “Would a Trump presidency backfire spectacularly by enabling ISIS?”
Two clips below, one of Clinton making the “aid and comfort” charge and the other, maybe even more revealing, of her warning people not to put a “loose cannon in charge who could start another war.” That’s a clue to her other motive in all this: She knows Trump is going to come after her hard at the debates for supporting the invasion of Iraq and intervention in Libya. “You’re the loose cannon, Hillary,” he’ll say, “not me. You’ve never met a foreign adventure you didn’t like. You made more terrorists in two wars than I could in ten lifetimes.” That’ll be a highly effective attack when it comes, even though she’ll try to remind viewers that Trump himself made pro-intervention noises before both wars. That is to say, to some extent the charge that Trump is giving aid and comfort to ISIS is a defensive maneuver, something she can counter with when he inevitably attacks her for her own hawkish tendencies. Sure, she can say, I’ve been on the wrong side of most major American foreign policy decisions of the last 15 years, but Trump wants to start a religious war with a billion people. Better the devil you know, right? If you believe the polls, that logic is working for her so far. Although just barely.
— POLITICO (@politico) September 19, 2016