You’ve no doubt heard the news: the Clinton campaign invited Mark Cuban, a vicious Trump-hater, to attend Monday evening’s debate and sit in the front row. I think Austin Bay interprets Clinton’s motivation correctly:
ABC News called Cuban a dedicated Trump-troller and he’s been touting his front row ticket. Cuban hasn’t said he intends to disrupt Trump but the touts are meant to suggest he might. Team Hillary has calculated Cuban serves a propaganda purpose even if he behaves and remains silent. Giving Cuban a ticket and having him sit in a seat tv cameras can’t miss gives media commentators ready-made anti-Trump story lines. For example, at one time Cuban supported Trump, now he doesn’t. Talk that one up, Anderson Cooper. Cuban thinks Trump is a weak candidate, etc. Now repeat Cuban’s assessment of Trump 30 times, CBS News. Yup, Team Hillary’s Cuban Gambit — how clever.
Donald Trump responded by threatening to invite Gennifer Flowers, Bill Clinton’s long-time mistress and a famous target of Hillary’s misogyny, to the debate, and seat her next to Cuban:
If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 24, 2016
It is now being reported that Flowers has accepted Trump’s invitation. This can only add even more buzz to what was already expected to be the most-watched presidential debate in history.
No doubt many observers are tut-tutting over the unseemliness of it all. There goes Trump again, reducing what should be a serious event to a circus. That is one way to look at it. But most pundits don’t have any experience in business. It seems to me that for anyone who understands how the business world works, what Trump is doing here, and has done many times before, is familiar.
My own business for many years was litigation. I was always willing to develop and present a case on its merits, but it wasn’t unusual for an opponent to break the rules or otherwise seek unfair advantage. When that happened, the response was automatic: find a way to–let me coin a phrase here–punch back twice as hard. After being whacked a time or two, most opponents would find it prudent to play fair. The same is true in many industries, probably most–certainly in real estate development and entertainment, where Trump has spent his career. Trump’s instinct to punch back, I think, is neither scandalous nor, as many supporters claim, “genius,” but rather the natural response of an experienced businessman.
There is this, too: Hillary Clinton is terrible on her feet. She needs everything to be scripted. When surprised, she often goes deer-in-the-headlights. The prospect of Gennifer Flowers showing up at the debate, however unlikely it may actually be, is just the kind of thing to throw her off. So much the better!
PAUL ADDS: I agree generally with what John says here. However, I wouldn’t assume that the only punching Trump did in real estate development was “punching back.” That might be the case, but I’ve heard very credible reports that suggest it isn’t. Nor would I say that Trump’s punching during the contest for the GOP presidential nomination was limited to punching back.
In addition, if the first punch wasn’t unethical or indecent but the punch back was, then the “punch back twice as hard” defense doesn’t work for me. However, inviting Gennifer Flowers to sit next to Mark Cuban is neither unethical nor indecent, in my view.