The Trump and Clinton campaigns don’t have in common, but now, they arguably share the same motto: “Let Trump Be Trump.”
As Trump’s campaign stumbles in the polls, he has reshuffled his staff and brought on new advisors willing to let him return to the unbridled style that won him the Republican nomination in the first place. And there is every indication that Clinton wants nothing more than to simply get out of his way.
On Thursday, the Clinton Foundation, the global charity founded by Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, announced that if she were elected president, it would stop accepting donations from foreign sources and from US corporations.
The move is a clear effort to shut down a question raised earlier this week when a Boston Globe editorial called for the foundation to be shuttered in the event Clinton becomes president. A high-profile Clinton supporter, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell on Wednesday publicly agreed that the foundation would need to be disbanded if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.
The Clinton Foundation has been a major source of ammunition for Clinton’s opponents throughout the election, and Trump in particular has been relentless about insinuating the Clintons used donations from foreign sources and quid pro quo arrangements while Mrs. Clinton was secretary of state, to line their own pockets.
While there is no evidence for Trump’s claims, the foundation’s involvement with foreign donors while she ran the State Department created at least the appearance of conflicts of interest, which would be magnified mightily were she to become president.
The decision to get in front of the question of how the foundation would operate during a Clinton presidency is interesting because it is such a departure from common Clinton practice.
The Clintons have never been reluctant to brazen their way through politically dicey situations. Mrs. Clinton’s handling of the revelation that she used a private email server while secretary of state, potentially exposing sensitive national security information to hackers, is only the most recent example. For months, she insisted that no classified information had been sent over the system and that all records relevant to her work at State had been handed over to the government. Both statements turned out to be false, but a combination of chutzpah and an egregiously flawed general election opponent seem to have let her get away with it in the court of public opinion.
So why address the issue of the foundation so promptly? Perhaps it’s because, unlike Trump, Clinton and her team understand that when your opponent is melting down in real time, the absolute last thing you want to do is give traction to a story that moves the focus elsewhere.
Trump, coming off the worst two-week stretch in an already troubled campaign, announced late Tuesday night that he had brought on Steve Bannon, proprietor of the bomb-throwing conservative website Breitbart.com, as his campaign’s chief executive officer.
Profiles of Bannon that included multiple allegations of sexism and racism immediately began appearing in the media. And the mainstream press, which has never withheld its disdain for Breitbart, played up its support of white ethnocentrists, like columnist Milo Yiannopoulos.
At the same time, evidence began piling up that Trump’s campaign chair, Paul Manafort, had worked closely with politicians in Ukraine who acted directly against US interests, had facilitated deals for people with ties to Russian organized crime, and acted as an agent for a foreign political party without filing the required disclosures with the Department of Justice.
Even if having the Clinton Foundation swear off accepting foreign and corporate money wasn’t originally in the plan, now it seems like a no-brainer to take the issue off the table, step out of the way and, well, let Trump be Trump.