Is Trump trying to lose the election?

Published August 12th, 2016 - 03:14 GMT
Donald Trump (AFP/Nati Harnik)
Donald Trump (AFP/Nati Harnik)

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has made a series of eye-opening statements as of late, many pertaining to US foreign policy in the Middle East. From saying Obama founded Daesh (ISIS) to praising Saddam Hussein, some are beginning to wonder if Trump – who is slipping in the polls – is trying to lose on purpose.

A simple Twitter search of “Trump trying to lose” reveals a plethora of tweets claiming he is, from Middle East-focused news outlets like Al-Monitor to Twitter conservatives.

The idea stems from the fact that Trump has made several statements as of late that many, including fellow Republicans, consider outlandish.

Most recently, Trump claimed president Barack Obama “founded ISIS.” Many commentators from the left and right have blamed US wars for the growth of Islamic militancy, but that’s not what Trump said. On Wednesday, Trump said “He (Obama) is the founder of ISIS” and that “they honor Obama.”

Then there was Trump appearing to ask Russia to hack Democratic rival Hillary Clinton’s email. In July, Trump said “Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”

Trump worked hard to patch up his relationship with the Republican establishment after a brutal primary season, meeting with speaker of the House Paul Ryan and choosing Indiana governor Mike Pence as his running mate. So why would he side with Russia against other Americans while running in a party long critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy? It’s perplexing, to say the least.

Also in July, Trump said that late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was “so good at killing terrorists.” Trump’s criticism of the Iraq war and primary rival Jeb Bush – brother of former president George W. Bush– increased his popularity with anti-establishment Republicans.

However, that’s not to say that the Republican base – or anyone else in American politics for that matter – admires Saddam Hussein, making it odd that he’d praise the man.

In analyzing whether Trump is trying to lose, we must consider that such controversial statements are not new to Trump. Back in July 2015, Trump insulted war hero, Senator and fellow Republican John McCain by saying he “He’s not a war hero,” and “I like people that weren’t captured”.

McCain’s plane was shot down over Vietnam in 1976, and he spent 6 years held by North Vietnamese forces as a result. Clearly, Trump has made head-scratching comments before.

But are the comments getting nuttier? Trump’s proposed temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the US earned him a jump in the polls. His comments that Mexico is sending “rapists” illegally to the US solidified his support in anti-immigration circles and began a national dialogue on immigration many were desperate to have.

There’s far less silver lining to his latest remarks because Trump’s recent statements are accompanied by a slip in the polls. Latest polls on Real Clear Politics’ website show Clinton is for the most part ahead. Earlier in the summer, they were neck and neck.

Finally, there are indications Trump wants to lose on a personal level. Speaking to CNBC Thursday, Trump said that if he loses the election in November, he’s going to “have very, very nice long vacation." He also said that if he doesn’t become the next commander-in-chief he’ll go back to a “very good way of life.”

This doesn’t sound like a man who wants to win.

Adam Lucente

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