Joseph Sabino Mistick: Trump & the Windmill
Last week, MSNBC host Chris Matthews compared Donald Trump's recent attacks on the FBI and Justice Department to O.J. Simpson's defense strategy in his 1995 double homicide trial. Predictably, that caused Trump supporters to cry foul.
But the comparison is spot on when it comes to criminal defense tactics. Lawyers prefer to argue the facts or the law when defending their clients, but if that fails, putting law enforcement on trial can be a successful strategy. It famously worked for Simpson.
Lately, and transparently, both Trump and his TV lawyer Rudy Giuliani are following that script. At a frantic pace, they are bombarding the media with accusations that law enforcement illegally spied on the Trump campaign and Trump associates, casting doubt on every move by the special prosecutor.
Tony Schwartz, who wrote “The Art of the Deal” with Trump, said in a Washington Post op-ed, “The more frequent and aggressive Trump's tweets become, the more threatened and vulnerable he is probably feeling.” Schwartz added, “Part of Trump's approach is to overwhelm the opposition by coming on like a human tsunami.”
True to this, a less incendiary comparison to Trump's general approach would be Ray “Windmill” White, an unorthodox prizefighter who fought 60 bouts through the 1970s. White told the Los Angeles Times that he employed a flurry of unusual punches to “frustrate” his opponents, which often led to victory.
“Windmill” developed the “Double Uppercut,” the “Double Whammy Jab” and the “Rooster Punch,” which “looked like a rooster flapping its wings.” He gained some measure of fame from the leaping “Wilt Chamberlain Dunk Punch” and a deceptive behind-the-back punch called “The Shot from Behind the Tree.”
These are just a few of the moves White used to keep his opponents off balance. They never knew what to expect next or where it was coming from. And even though the purists never took him seriously, dubbing him “The Clown Prince of Boxing,” he retired with a record of 41-14-5.
Trump has had his own success with this approach. Starting on the debate stage and throughout the campaign, he often left his opponents speechless, unable to counter his peculiar brand of aggression. By the time they managed a response, he had moved on to a fresh attack and then another.
And he has a special version of this strategy for the media, which tries to corner him with evidence and facts. After the campaign, CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl asked Trump why he continues to hammer the press, especially since he won the election and it seemed like a good time to end all that.
As Stahl told an audience at the Deadline Club of New York, Trump said, “You know why I do it? I do it to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you.”
Like Ray “Windmill” White, Trump has his unshakeable loyal followers, and many of them relish his disrespect for tradition, rule-breaking and political antics.
He won the title. Now he has to defend it. We will see how it goes.
Joseph Sabino Mistick is a Pittsburgh lawyer (joemistick.com).