Donald Trump is softening his tone. Earlier this week he called Hillary Clinton “the devil.” Now, she’s simply the “founder of ISIS.”
In his speech Wednesday afternoon in Daytona Beach, Florida, Trump appeared to be heeding his advisers’ reported wishes and giving a subdued, policy-heavy speech criticizing Clinton’s foreign policy in places like Libya. He said President Barack Obama probably regretted making her secretary of state. OK, that’s at least plausible.
Then he went back to name-calling.
“She should get an award from them as the founder of ISIS,” he said of the Islamic State.
But as noted above, the “founder of ISIS” isn’t even the worst thing Trump has called Clinton this week. (It’s hard to think of a worse putdown than calling someone “the devil.”) And Trump’s name-calling is only getting more hyperbolic — not less — even as Trump’s team and Republicans have expressed the hope that he’ll tone it down and try to fix the many things that ail his campaign.
Trump promised to take the gloves off in recent days, and he has done just that. Indeed, as the timeline below shows, some of Trump’s earliest criticisms of Clinton now seem almost quaint by comparison.
April: ‘Crooked Hillary’
“I’m not controlled by the special interests and the lobbyists,” he said in Dexter, New York, before coining a nickname for Clinton. “And they control crooked Hillary.”
Mid-May: ‘Trigger happy’
“On foreign policy, Hillary is trigger happy,” Trump said in May. “She is, she’s trigger happy. She’s got a bad temperament.
“Her decisions in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya have cost trillions of dollars, thousands of lives and have totally unleashed ISIS.”
Late June: Perhaps the ‘most corrupt’ presidential candidate ever
Trump said in New York that Clinton “may be the most corrupt person ever to seek the presidency of the United States.”
Early July: ‘A dirty rotten liar’
“We say Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie. Lie!” Trump said. “Dirty rotten liar!”
Friday/Monday: ‘The devil’
On Monday, Trump said Bernie Sanders made a deal with the devil — Clinton. “But he made a deal with the devil,” he said. “She’s the devil. He made a deal with the devil. It’s true.”
On Friday, he similarly said Sanders “sold his soul to the devil.”
Tuesday: ‘A pathological liar’
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted a video labeling Clinton a “pathological liar.”
‘The founder of ISIS’
“We let ISIS take this position,” Trump said Wednesday. “It was Hillary Clinton; she should get an award from them as the founder of ISIS.”
The crowd responded by chanting “Lock her up!”
Trump’s speech made one thing clear: Even as those around him might push for a more measured Trump, Trump himself just isn’t going to do it. Calling the presidential nominee of the opposite party “the devil” or the “founder” of a terrorist organization seems far less shocking in the age of Trump, but that’s really just because we’ve become desensitized — by Trump.