Like most Americans, Hillary Clinton has reportedly been preparing for two possible Donald Trumps at tonight’s debate. Would it be presidential Donald Trump, a serious man with the heft to take over the Oval Office? Or would it the first Trump, the same person who talked about his manhood during a primary debate? Given the fact that Trump kept silent after Clinton’s recent attack of “pneumonia” (cough cough), it seemed as if the former option would be a given. But this past weekend Trump publicly toyed with the idea of inviting Bill Clinton’s mistress Gennifer Flowers to attend as his guest — Trump 1.0 is back! Should we be blessed with that madman’s appearance, here are some over the top things Trump can say about — and to — his competitor.
- “Have you ever had an abortion?”
For many women on the fringes of feminism, abortion wasn’t just a health option. Rather, it was a political statement of self-ownership and rebellion. This is why renegade feminist Camille Paglia, a contemporary of Clinton, describes herself as “pro-abortion” and not “pro-choice.” Wellesley and Yale certainly had pockets of this sort of thinking when Clinton was a student. Being the first female candidate means that Clinton would be the first candidate who could have exercised her right to choose. This sort of comment would certainly backfire on Trump in some circles, but his campaign has been built on comments that had ostensibly backfired on him, and look where he is now.
- “Your husband is a rapist and you know it.”
When the Clinton campaign first started with the accusations of misogyny towards Trump, he quickly hit back at her husband on Twitter. Team Hillary promptly switched tactics, a very rare and telling move on their part. There would be no possible good reaction to such an extreme, direct accusation during the debate. Even worse, the cameras would cut to Bill Clinton in the audience. His expression would come off as odd no matter what it was. After all, what is the “normal” reaction to a comment like that? It’s unprecedented. Bonus points for the Trump campaign if Bill was looking as corpsey as he’s seemed of late.
- “Count how many times she has to clear her throat.”
Hillary Clinton has had a persistent cough for at least eight years, a form of “pneumonia” that is unique to her. Her speech at the Democratic National Convention was marked by her consistently clearing her throat, carefully timing it to audience applause. In the same way that Gov. Chris Christie absolutely destroyed Sen. Marco Rubio by calling out his repetitive talking points, Trump could humiliate Clinton by preemptively bringing attention to her odd tic.
- “Every word she says is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’”
One of the things that Trump and his campaign do very well is to say something that the press finds outrageous, but that mainstream Americans agree with or at least are unbothered by. Novelist Mary McCarthy said something similar to the above about Lillian Hellman in 1979. Not only would the line resonate, but the media would have a meltdown that Trump was comparing Clinton to a Stalinist—and would thereby repeat his line for him over and over.
- “Will you personally guarantee that none of these refugees are terrorists?”
Statistically speaking, it is virtually impossible for there not to be at least one individual among the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing Syria that is amenable to terrorism — the very same terror that many of the refugees are desperate to escape. Full Metal Jacket demonstrated that this sort of violence is often a function of extreme mental distress. Fleeing a war and watching one’s friends and family get killed would cause profound psychological damage to the best of us. This is the sort of question that has no good answer for Clinton to offer.
- “You lied about Chelsea and 9/11.”
Both candidates have exploited their New York ties with diametrically opposite results. Clinton tried to explain away the fact that she was Wall Street’s chosen candidate because she “represented New York on 9/11 when we were attacked. Where were we attacked? We were attacked in downtown Manhattan where Wall Street is. I did spend a whole lot of time and effort helping them rebuild.” Even The Washington Post was incredulous at that line.
Trump, on the other hand, never appeared more classically presidential during the debates than when he invoked 9/11 to slam Ted Cruz’s attack on “New York values.” “We rebuilt downtown Manhattan,” he recalled, “and everybody in the world watched, and everybody in the world loved New York, and loved New Yorkers, and I have to tell you, that was a very insulting statement that Ted made.” Cruz had no choice but to stand there and applaud.
There is a bit of wiggle room as to whether Clinton actually lied about Chelsea’s whereabouts on 9/11 or if it’s words being parsed unfairly. Regardless, there are plenty of Americans willing to believe that Clinton would lie about anything, including 9/11, to further her cause. Invoking this story would only add to that perception, fair or not.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.
Michael Malice is the author of Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il. He is also the subject of Harvey Pekar’s graphic novel Ego & Hubris and the co-author of five other books. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmalice.