Eugene Robinson’s apparently phoned-in column in the Washington Post yesterday raises what will be a common trope leading up to the 2016 presidential primaries and then the general election: Is [insert issue here] good for [insert presidential candidate here]? The answer, of course, no matter the issue, will be “yes” in the case of Hillary Clinton or whoever the Democratic nominee is and “no” in the case of the Republican nominee, with an extra vociferous “no” in the case of Donald Trump. Media bias is always more prevalent when it comes to which issues even appear in the first place than in how pieces are written.
Still, Robinson’s column is especially spurious and lazy, even by the standards of the Post editorial page. His question is, “What could stumbling stocks mean for presidential politics?” and somehow his answer is that they would help Hillary Clinton.
If he presented a theory to explain why he thought this was the case, then we could just roll our eyes and conclude that it was a typical column. (And then await a column next month, titled, “What could skyrocketing stocks mean for presidential politics?” which has the same conclusion.) However, he doesn’t even offer any reason, other than the fact that Hillary Clinton has a resume that includes elected office and Donald Trump does not.
Robinson uses an anecdote to poke fun at the reactions of both John McCain and President Obama to financial turmoil in fall 2008, reporting the accounts of others that McCain “had nothing of substance to say” and Obama “gave an academic lecture on finance to a room littered with MBAs.” Although his summary of Obama’s performance is not a compliment, Robinson concludes, “In the end, voters decided that sang-froid, perhaps with a touch of arrogance, was better than cluelessness.”
If we find ourselves in similar straits leading up to the 2016 election, Robinson avers, “I’m guessing it could make voters pay more attention to the candidates’ records on economic and financial management—and might give a boost to those with experience, as opposed to promise.”
If you were to think that this is an endorsement of Donald Trump, who has navigated all types of business environments very successfully, compared to career figurehead and politician Hillary Clinton (who does, in fairness, have a good track record in cattle futures), you would be wrong. See, “Polls consistently say that voters see her as the most experienced candidate in either party.” As a commentary on how one particular change in circumstances—a falling stock market—might impact different candidates, all else equal, this seems like a non sequitur. He then spouts the brief talking-point attacks on most of the Republican candidates, including Trump, all of which are either irrelevant to his question or contrary to his conclusion: he gives no credit to the “records on economic and financial management” of Govs. Walker or Christie, and doesn’t mention the other governors in the race.
His next non sequitur is the conclusion, which again does not follow from anything stated in the column: “Logically, it seems to me that market craziness ought to be bad for Trump. But while his candidacy is about many things, logic isn’t one of them.” So, if Trump’s candidacy is not about logic, then can we infer the converse of the first of these sentences—i.e., that “market craziness” is good for Trump? We’re scratching our heads.