Michael Wolff at the DNC: The Case for Hillary as the Only "Sane" Candidate

President Obama, Hillary Clinton at DNC 2 - Getty - H 2016
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

It seemed by the end of the evening that all the credible figures in the country were forging a consensus in viewing Donald Trump as a nutter.

It was morning in America last night among the Democrats pouring out from the Wells Fargo Convention Center in Philadelphia, with almost everyone convinced that they were really nailing it. They had been handed a positive message about the future and about their candidate Hillary Clinton, and a well-orchestrated, devastating critique by some of the most credible figures in the country on her opponent.

It rather seemed by the end of the evening that all the credible figures in the country were joining in. The nations good and great, Democrat and Republican, were forging a consensus in seeing Donald Trump as a nutter.

The heaviest hitters of the Democratic Party — the President, the Vice President, Tim Kaine, its presumptive Vice President, Harry Reid, the Senate Minority leader, were there. And, lest any lefties or Californians need bracing, Jerry Brown too. And with a guest appearance by Michael Bloomberg, representing the independent voter and true business success (as opposed to bogus business success), they all declared Trump persona non grata.

The icing on top was a call from Trump yesterday afternoon for Russia to help spy on the Democrats. (This was clearly a Trump off-the-cuff bit but, following several days of reports about his deep financial ties to Russia, it was gleefully taken as a sign by most everyone of more Trump dementedness.) The establishment had spoken. 

In the new Democratic Party ethos, someone might take note that the carpet bombing attack was carried out almost entirely by men. But perhaps that was the point: Make no mistake, this was the real establishment. 

It was the kind of attack perhaps never before made by a major party on another major party candidate. It was not an attack on policies (the President declared Trump to be neither Republican nor Democrat) nor on character in the usual family-values sense, but on character in the clinical sense. He was a “hateful conman,” a “scam artist," a “fraud,” a “demagogue.” In sum, a sociopath. Such was the level of attack that, if Trump actually wins, it would be almost impossible to imagine not just how the words could be rolled back, but how normal government life continues. Here was a mad man. “God help us,” said Michael Bloomberg.

How could you turn the nuclear codes over to this man? You could not, was the message. 

Apocalyptically, the director James Cameron made a film about climate change, shown last night, that seemed to directly recall the 1964 “daisy ad,” suggesting that nuclear devastation was a likely result of a Goldwater election. (The Cameron film, introduced by Avatar star Sigourney Weaver, was full of dramatic license: “Crops are failing, food prices are rising, our communities are threatened.”)

As part of this sustained attack on Trump's suitability for the office, there was a concerted focus on the theme of Hillary Clinton’s hyper-suitability. If Donald Trump was not prepared in any way to be President, Hillary was prepared in every way. She was, according to pretty much everybody, including the President, who repeated on message, the single most prepared person who has ever run for President of the United States — “not me,” said Obama, “not Bill, nobody more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president.” (Certainly, she is more prepared than Trump, but assuming preparedness means professional experience, it would seem obvious that Johnson, Nixon and Bush Sr. had as much or more experience in the legislature and executive branch — worth noting, in none of those cases did this produce a happy result.)

Indeed, the underlying theme last night was a shift away from selfless and caring Hillary — a message from the previous sessions targeted to Democrats and, specially, women Democrats — to seeing her more broadly as the contrast gainer. It was a clearer pitch to the independent and undecided and, thinking big, to perhaps even a meaningful part of the Republican Party. It was, in a sense, a formal lowering of the bar. Hillary was at least sane.

And yet, taking Trump on his face, as a set of literal political positions and attitudes, preposterous as they may be, had over the course of a year not worked very well. John Hutson, a former Judge Advocate General of the Navy, gave an angry rejoinder last night to Trump’s casual attitude about international rules and laws, and his general besmirching of the military.

“You’re not fit to polish John McCain’s boots,” said Admiral Hutson, unmindful that Trump’s famous dismissal of McCain for having been taken prisoner — one of the early disqualifiers of Trump as a credible candidate in the eyes of all reasonable people — had no effect on his standing at all. Except perhaps to buoy it.

If that had been a trap all year, of the political and media establishment mocking Trump for exactly the things that some heretofore invisible demographic seemed to relish about him, it was perhaps being compounded last night. Frank Luntz, the Fox political pollster, tweeted at one point in the evening that the Democrats were not ready for November. 

But the problem may go deeper than that. Because according to everything they have been taught, and hold true, and are being told by the experts, they believe they are.