At a series of rallies on the final day of the presidential campaign, Donald Trump tried to change the terms of the competition he is engaged in with Hillary Clinton — to make it less about who can get the most votes based on their qualifications for the job and more about who is the more popular entertainer.
“I see she’s doing fine in the polls,” Trump said of Clinton. “I don’t know how, nobody goes to her rallies.”
He also devoted a lot of energy to parsing a question that most Americans had not previously considered important. Why is it, the candidate asked — at stops in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania — that Clinton did not mind the rapper Jay Z cursing and using the N-word in his songs, but was offended when Trump was caught on tape boasting that he liked to force himself on women and “grab them by the pussy?”
“The language was so bad,” Trump said, a rally in Sarasota, Fla. on Monday morning, apparently referring to Jay Z’s performance of “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” on Friday night in Cleveland, where he and Beyoncé appeared on stage with Clinton.
Apparently unaware that what was wrong with the words he was recorded saying in the leaked “Access Hollywood” tape was not that they were obscene but that they described sexual assaults he had carried out, Trump called Clinton a hypocrite.
“Isn’t it amazing that when Jay Z and Beyoncé use the filthy language that they use, using words that if I ever said those words it would be the reinstitution of the death penalty,” Trump said. “They use these words and she comes on and hugs them, like everything’s alright. Yet, with me, ‘He’s very lewd.'”
Trump was echoing a complaint made over and over on Fox News all weekend, as the pro-Clinton Media Matters for America noted.
Trump also seemed to be channeling a frequent complaint made in the right-wing media, that it is somehow unfair to white people that African-American performers have reappropriated the N-word. Last month, rumors surfaced that outtakes from “The Apprentice” might show that Trump himself had used the word as a racial slur on the set.
Last month, Stanley Leibowitz, a former rental agent for the Trump Management company told NBC News that Trump was once present when his father, Fred Trump, used the N-word when ordering the agent to not rent an apartment to an African-American woman.
At his rallies one Monday, Trump made no mention of what Jay Z actually said in his endorsement of Clinton. “This other guy, I don’t have any ill will towards him, but his conversation is divisive, and that’s not an evolved soul to me, so he cannot be my president — he cannot be our president,” the musician said.
Rather than replying to the substance of that argument, Trump instead told supporters at a rally in Raleigh, N.C. that he likes Jay Z and Beyoncé well enough, “but I get bigger crowds than they do.”
In Scranton, Pa. later, Trump also claimed, falsely, that most people had left by the time Clinton appeared on stage with Beyoncé and Jay Z in Cleveland.
What he seemed bizarrely unaware of as he boasted about how much better he is at drawing crowds is that the contest he is engaged in with Clinton is about something else, getting votes, and that her events are organized to encourage people who attend to actually go to the polls.
He, by contrast, seems convinced that entertaining the specific group of people in front of him is the main goal. At the Florida rally, for instance, he stopped for a minute to display a “beautiful” mask of his head that one supporter tossed on stage. “Nice head of hair,” Trump joked as he held it up.
After tossing the mask back, Trump asked, rhetorically, “Is there any place more fun to be than a Trump rally?”
Unlike so many of the other pointless fights Trump has picked in recent months — with the former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, or the Gold Star father, Khizr Khan — the decision to try to tarnish Jay Z’s reputation appeared to be part of a deliberate campaign strategy.
Before Trump expressed his faux shock at the rapper’s language at his rallies, one of his campaign surrogates, Scottie Nell Hughes, had appeared on CNN to point out that a video for one of Jay Z’s songs shows protesters hurling what she called “Mazel Tov cocktails” at the police.