Skip to Content

CEO Daily: Trump buries the competence bar

Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington

Set aside the doom-laden and demonstrably inaccurate depiction of America that Donald Trump offered in accepting the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday night. Consider instead how he proposed to turn things around — “quickly,” he said, though with no concrete plans other than imposing change through the sheer force of his will. Then consider the four-day fiasco in Cleveland that preceded his speech.

The cascade of self-imposed wounds by now is likely familiar, but to review the lowlights in part: Trump’s team opened the proceedings Monday by trashing their host governor, the popular Republican John Kasich, for steering clear of the gathering, to the detriment of their own efforts in the crucial swing state; Melania marred her debut that night by delivering a partially plagiarized speech; Trump created an international stir Wednesday by telling the New York Times that if Russia threatens Baltic states, he might ignore NATO treaty obligations to defend them; and then he turned a primetime speaking slot over to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who stole the night by pointedly refusing to endorse his onetime rival. The foul-ups were only exacerbated by campaign brass, who seem unable to manage tactics, much less strategy, and, like their boss, punch back autonomically at every provocation, no matter the damage to Trump’s interest. The candidate himself demonstrated the instinct again on Friday, using his first post-convention press conference to revive the ridiculous claim that Cruz’s father was involved in John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

The performance in sum raises a question for Trump: If he can’t master an event inside a hermetically-sealed arena, how can he expect to handle the ceaseless chaos the world will serve up once he’s in office? His feat burying the competence bar in Cleveland even as he extolled it as his greatest virtue perhaps helps explain why Hillary Clinton settled on Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine as her vice presidential pick. The selection was predictable, arguably uninspired. But after witnessing Trump’s mess at his convention, Clinton must feel more assured that safe and steady will win this race.

Tory Newmyer
@torynewmyer
tory_newmyer@fortune.com

Top News

Kaine is able

In picking Kaine, Clinton foregoes a roster of more daring choices that could have given her a lift among crucial demographic groups or in particular corners of the map. And the Virginia senator’s mostly moderate record — he’s been supportive of the Trans Pacific Partnership, avoided calls for jacking up taxes on the rich, and advocated some abortion restrictions — won’t excite Bernie Sanders supporters still skeptical of Clinton. But what Kaine lacks in electoral pixie dust he apparently makes up in another category: Clinton advisers say he offers her a wonky, pragmatic and understated governing partner.  New York Times

• Trump is still looking to settle primary scores

It seems the Trump campaign is having an unusually tough time accepting they won the Republican nomination and moving on to focus on the general election. The latest: A “source familiar with Trump’s thinking” told Bloomberg on Friday that the candidate plans to create and fund super PACs dedicated to snuffing out the political careers of Kasich and Cruz if they seek office again. Both declined to endorse Trump at the GOP convention. The newly-minted Republican nominee is said to be willing to put “tens of millions” behind the effort — and he could look into pursuing it even if he wins the presidency. Bloomberg

Dems face embarrassing email dump

Days before Democrats gather in Philadelphia for their convention, the party is confronting a massive disclosure of internal emails, courtesy of WikiLeaks, that includes discussions of how to undermine Sanders’s candidacy and to provide perks to major donors, among other revelations. For example, in one of the more than 19,000 emails, a top Democratic National Committee official suggests raising questions about Sanders’s atheism prior to a pair of Southern primaries.  Washington Post

Around the Water Cooler

• It’s the economy

Some key forces beyond either candidate’s control could go a long way toward determining the outcome of the election. Prime among them is the strength of the economy, which appears to be improving, to Clinton’s benefit. Specifically, consumer confidence is up, manufacturing looks strong, and job growth continues to look healthy. All three create headwinds for Trump.  Fortune

• Why Trump may be on to something

Is it possible the dark view of the country and world that Trump presented in his acceptance speech captured the mood of a gloomy electorate? Nearly seven in ten voters think the country is on the wrong track, a metric that leads one insider to see echoes of the 1980 election playing out this year. Then, American hostages in Iran and a weak economy at home proved fertile ground for Ronald Reagan’s argument the country needed a change. RealClearPolitics

• With Ailes out, will Fox News mellow?

While Trump completed his coup by officially accepting the GOP nomination in Cleveland this week, it’s possible an even more tectonic shift in the conservative movement was playing out over 450 miles away in New York. Roger Ailes, who shaped Fox News into a history-bending media force, was ousted as chairman and chief executive of the network following a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Speculation on the right has turned to whether the next generation of leadership will seek to soften its edges.  New York Times