Donald Trump Misses Golden Opportunity Once Again

Trump Can’t Pull Trigger Against Clinton

Of course everyone is talking about the one supremely dumb thing Donald Trump said in Wednesday night’s third and final presidential debate. On the upside, that means he was down from his previous dumb-things-said-at-debates by a factor of about a hundred, so, with 19 days to Election Day, progress!

And, frankly, even when you put the best possible spin on that one supremely dumb thing — he will keep us “in suspense” about whether he’ll accept the outcome of the election — it’s still colossally, unacceptably dopey.


Still, talking to Fox News’ Bret Baier and Megyn Kelly, Trump campaign spokesman Jason Miller gave it a heroic whack.

“Let me tell you exactly what Mr. Trump was doing tonight,” Miller said. “He was putting on notice those who might be looking … to commit voter fraud.”
The campaign will “be watching” to guarantee an “honest and fair election,” Miller went on. By declining to accept, before the event happens, its outcome, Trump is giving himself “leverage” against “those who might be willing to commit voter fraud.

So they’re going to be “watching exactly what’s going to be happening,” Miller continued. “We’re going to make sure the election is conducted honestly and forthright.”

Well. You can believe all that stuff about “putting on notice” and “leverage” if you want to. But if Miller’s spin accurately reflects the position of the Trump campaign — they’re going to make sure the election runs true — then there should be no hesitancy about declaring, here and now, that a forthright outcome should be acceptable to every candidate.

But that’s not what Trump said. He said he’d wait. He said he’d see. And in saying that, he clearly conveyed he believes there’s more than a fractional chance the election might be stolen.

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This is not to say there haven’t been and won’t be irregularities. We have had confirmed this week by James O’Keefe’s intrepid Project Veritas guerrilla journalists that Democratic operatives are old hands at manipulating campaigns and elections. We also learned some of the fraudsters and agitators were, until recently, on the payrolls of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

And, finally — for now — we learned one of those resigned (but hardly disgraced, if I know my Chicago Democrats) operatives, Robert Creamer, husband of lefty congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, who conspired to cause violent outbreaks at Trump rallies, has visited the White House more than 340 times during the presidency of Barack Obama.

So, yeah, we get why Trump would be wary. After all, he is up against a machine that, as columnist and pundit George Will noted recently, spends “time, energy and money, scarce resources all, resisting attempts to purge the voter rolls, that is to remove people who are dead or otherwise have left the jurisdiction.”

Moreover, Will said, “It’s hard to think of an innocent reason why they fight so tremendously against Voter I.D. laws. They say, well that burdens the exercise of a fundamental right. The Supreme Court has said that travel is a fundamental right and no one thinks that showing an I.D. at the airport burdens that fundamental right.”

As usual, then, Trump could have come with a better answer. He could have said something like, “How about this? If I win, I will accept the outcome. If I lose, it depends on the circumstances. What if the winner is decided by two dozen votes in Florida? It could happen. Or 300 votes in Pennsylvania? What if the winner is decided by a combined 2,000 votes in Ohio and Wisconsin?

“Should the loser accept the outcome if that happens? Did Al Gore?

“All I’m saying is, if the election is very close, as close as it was in 2000, and knowing what we now know from the Project Veritas videos, I’m not accepting anything, any more than Al Gore accepted his fate.”

And then he could have gazed deeply into the camera and spoken directly to those sitting on the fence, or those too disconnected even to get on the fence in the first place, urging them to get behind him.

“They say if it’s not close, they can’t cheat,” he could have said. “And I’m telling you, if you’re disgusted with Washington, as I am, and you want great change, as I do, then help make sure on Election Day it’s not close.

“If you will do that, I’ll gracefully accept the outcome of the election, and I would hope Secy. Clinton does, too.”

To pull that off, to turn the essence of an argument into a compelling sales pitch, you have to prepare. You have to do your homework. You have to make yourself ready.

Only one candidate showed evidence of having done that Wednesday night. Chances are, come noon next January 20 — concession or not — we’ll be addressing her as “Madame President.”

Veteran journalist and center-right blogger Tom Jackson has worked for newspapers in Washington D.C., Sacramento, Calif., and Tampa, Fla., racking up state and national awards for writing, editing and design along the way. Tom also has been published in assorted sports magazines, and his work has been included in several annual “Best Sports Stories” collections. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife, two children and a couple of yappy dogs.