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Tonight, after 18 months of campaigning in the weirdest and most terrifying presidential election in recent American history, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will finally face off in the first presidential debate.
Here is how Clinton is reportedly preparing for the event: mock debating against a longtime aide who got the Trump stand-in job thanks to his “combative personality”; undertaking a “deep study of Trump's personality” to be on guard for whatever her notoriously unpredictable opponent says; meticulously watching videos of Trump in the Republican debates; getting advice from a team of people including Tony Schawrtz, co-author of The Art of the Deal, who recently said a more appropriate title would’ve been The Sociopath.
Here is how Trump is reportedly preparing: Um, he isn’t. Trump is pretty much planning to wing it because “practice is for pussies,” or something similarly ludicrous I’m sure he has actually said.
This isn’t all that surprising, considering Trump’s winning strategy during the Republican debates was to blurt out off-the-cuff zingers at his opponents. Ted Cruz was hit with “lyin’ Ted,” Marco Rubio was labeled a “choke artist” and “little Marco,” Jeb Bush was pegged as “low energy.” There’s every reason to believe Trump will trot out some of the nicknames he’s crafted for Clinton tonight.
Clinton’s job is to keep her cool while provoking Trump into some kind of meltdown. In Trump’s case, there are a few topics that are generally guaranteed to make him apoplectic. I'm not saying that, because Trump is a narcissist with skin so thin it’s translucent, Clinton should get personal, going for the soft spots we know he’s super insecure about. But if I were saying that, which I’m not, but if I were, there are a few areas of attack that will 100 percent send Trump off the deep end.
Here’s 5 of them:
1. Mention his tiny fingers.
Chances of a resulting Trump meltdown: 4 out of 5
Trump is very sensitive about his fingers. Spy magazine co-founder Graydon Carter referred to Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian” in 1988, and Trump—who apparently took it really hard—has spent almost three decades trying to get him to take it back. Trump still mails Carter photos of himself, his hands circled in gold Sharpie, as if to announce the normalcy of his fingers. When one of those photos arrived last year with a message reading, “See, not so short!” Carter “sent the picture back by return mail with a note attached, saying, ‘Actually, quite short.” Presumably, steam came out of Trump’s ears.
He finds this whole thing so upsetting that during an interview with the Washington Post’s editorial board earlier this year, Trump spent more time talking about how not freakishly short his fingers are than anything related to actual foreign or domestic policy. “My hands are fine. You know, my hands are normal,” Trump said and then, rethinking it, changed his story.
“[My hands are] slightly large, actually. In fact, I buy a slightly smaller than large glove, okay?”
Marco Rubio made fun of Trump’s teensy hands at a Virginia campaign event (“He's like 6'2'' which is why I don't understand why his hands are the size of someone who is 5'2.”), which got Trump so angry he went and made a scene at the next debate, which brings us to item #2….
2. Imply that he may have a micropenis.
Chances of a resulting Trump meltdown: 5 out of 5
“[Rubio] referred to my hands—if they’re small, something else must be small,” Trump said in response to Rubio’s joke, using a nationally televised political debate as a way to punish us all by forcing us to think about his penis. “I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee it.”
When the Washington Post later asked if he regretted referring to his genitalia in the middle of a political debate because gross and ewww and what were you thinking?, Trump went on a long defense of his penis all over again, and actually said that Rubio had “started it,” because 70-years-old is the new 5-years-old.
“I don’t know if it was presidential, honestly, whether it is or not,” Trump told the Post, because his concept of “presidential” behavior does not exclude going on TV to talk about how big your penis is. “I can just say that what he said was a lie.”
3. Suggest he doesn’t have the brains to be president.
Chances of a resulting Trump meltdown: 4 out of 5
As a rule, people who actually believe they are smart do not go around declaring it at every possible moment. Trump shoehorns his education at the Wharton School of Business into every conversation, using it as proof that he is “a smart person,” and also a “like, really smart person”; that he can handle “super genius stuff”; and that he has “very good genes.”
He’s also upsold compliments from Putin, changing the Russian president’s description of Trump as “colorful” and “talented,” to the far more glowing—and totally fabricated—“brilliant” and “genius.”
“Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest -and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault,” Trump wrote in a tweet that stopped short of seeming like it was written by a middle-schooler only due to it not calling his enemies “conceited.”
4. Hint that he's secretly poor.
Chances of a resulting Trump meltdown: Measures off the chart
Donald Trump talks a lot about how busy he is, but when writer Gail Collins referred to him as a “financially embattled thousandaire,” he found the time to get a copy of the column, circle her photo, write “The Face of a Dog!” across it, put it in an envelope, address it, affix a stamp and mail it to her.
In 2011, when Trump was the subject of a Comedy Central Roast, he let comedians rag on him for everything—including his creepy thing with his daughter to a prescient joke about him being a racist presidential candidate—except for possibly being broke. “I remember one of my jokes was about his casino business failing, and I could feel that hurt coming off of him,” comedian Anthony Jeselnik said. “He didn’t like that joke—and I told a joke about people being glad he has cancer.”
Trump even spent over $1 million and five years of his life on a lawsuit against author Timothy L. O’Brien. The writer’s sin? Penning a book claiming Trump was only worth $150 to $250 million dollars. (At the time, Trump claimed he was worth $4 to $5 billion, a number he has since upped to “in excess of TEN BILLION DOLLARS.”)
One reason often floated for Trump’s unwillingness to show his taxes is that he might be much poorer than he says. Any hinting that Trump's net worth is smaller than he says will probably make his head explode.
5. Note the fact that to know Donald Trump is to not love Donald Trump.
Chances of a resulting Trump meltdown: 3 out of 5
“People love me,” Trump says in this clip from an interview with Anderson Cooper. “And you know what, I have been very successful. Everybody loves me.”
It’s the kind of thing Trump says all the time, insisting that people who definitely do not love him—from “the blacks” to LGBT people — are just gaga for him.
In fact, a recent New York Times profile—featuring interviews with loads of people who know Trump socially—suggests that Trump has so few actual friends, he used to try to get employees to hang out with him.
“Donald would call and say, ‘Abe, what are you doing? Marla and I are flying down to Atlantic City. You and David want to come?’” Abe Wallach, the former head of acquisitions for the Trump Organization, told the Times. “I always thought: ‘Why me? I work with him all week. Isn’t there someone else?’”
Probably a wee bit of a sore spot, if you are looking for it.
Which of course, I am not suggesting Clinton should do, you understand. But if I were…
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