Two friends and I watched the Trump debate from the Trump hotel in Chicago (one of the best hotels in the U.S.) while savoring the taste of Trump-brand Virginia wine (“pretty good” was the verdict). This was a violation of my normal policy to avoid watching politicians give speeches, but given our location it seemed worth making an exception.
One thing that confused me about the debate was Trump missing seemingly obvious responses to Hillary attacks. For example, Hillary said “you’ve taken business bankruptcy six times. There are a lot of great businesspeople that have never taken bankruptcy once.” Trump responded with “on occasion, four times, we used certain laws that are there. … I take advantage of the laws of the nation because I’m running a company. My obligation right now is to do well for myself, my family, my employees, for my companies. And that’s what I do.”
“I take advantage of the laws” doesn’t seem to me like the best answer. Why not “I’ve done approximately 100 business projects over my lifetime and about 10 of them didn’t work out as I’d hoped. In fact, four of them went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, which saves jobs for employees at the expense of investors. So I’ve had a 90-percent success rate rather than the 100-percent success rate that you seem to be demanding. If you have had a 100-percent success rate in the projects that you’ve done over your lifetime then I congratulate you. If you don’t think businesses should be able to reorganize under Chapter 11, why didn’t you work to change the law when you were a senator?”
Similarly, when Hillary attacked Trump for not paying every contractor whatever amount the contractor had billed Trump could have said “I have built or renovated X million square feet of space. If you’ve ever owned a 2500-square-foot house you may have have a dispute with a contractor over what was the fair amount to pay for the work done. I wish that we had never had any disputes while building X million square feet, but that’s not realistic.”
Trump could also have pointed out that he wasn’t able to find a friendly commodities broker to stick another customer with losing trades (Hillary’s 100X return on investment). Nor could he get companies and countries seeking Washington access to pay him speaking fees or donate money to a foundation that he controlled. So he had no choice but to take risks in the marketplace. Yet the words “donation” and “foundation” don’t appear in the debate transcript.
He could stick in some jabs against Hillary and Obama, e.g., “It is easy to be successful 100 percent of the time when you are spending tax dollars and making up your own criteria. You spent $1 billion on a web site for Obamacare and now you call it a success. I’m sure the contractors were happy that you paid all of their bills for that project, but if a private business had spent $1 billion on a web site it would be bankrupt.”
[This is not to say that I think Trump is a better candidate than Hillary. As a Massachusetts resident whose ballot is primarily candidates running unopposed (and the races in which there are multiple choices are seldom in doubt), I haven’t educated myself on the relative merits of these two. The point of this posting is just to show that Trump could have done a lot better by practicing standard responses to a handful of predictable attacks.]
[Separately, a bunch of my Facebook friends have complained about me choosing to stay in the Trump hotel. I wonder if they are missing one of the good things about a market economy in terms of breaking down prejudices and barriers among groups. In a market economy you may choose to do business with people whom you wouldn’t ordinarily be friends with or socialize with. This can be the first step toward harmony among groups of disparate people.]