This schoolyard election cycle has seen plenty of finger-pointing and name-calling on both sides. Yet in the final stretch of the race, Donald Trump’s campaign has increasingly relied on an curious strategy: spitting Hillary Clinton’s exact attack lines against the GOP nominee right back at her.
It’s at the point where on-stage attacks and rapid response emails from both campaigns sometimes use identical language, like each sniping that the other is a “threat to democracy.”
A statement released Monday by Trump communications advisor Jason Miller, which hit Clinton with several criticisms she first aimed at Trump, read like a master class in the art of projection.
The Democratic nominee had told a crowd last week at Cuyahoga Community College that Trump’s hedging on whether he would accept the outcome of the election endangered the fundamental structure of U.S. government.
“He is threatening our democracy. I have lost an election, you don’t feel very good the next day, do you?” she said. “But we know in our country the difference between leadership and dictatorship, right?”
The Trump team aped that language in responding to recently-released “sting” videos produced by conservative provocateur James O’Keefe in which Democratic activists described the ease of provoking Trump fans at his campaign events. Though there’s no evidence that the strategies they discussed were ever acted on, Trump and his staff claim the clips directly implicate Clinton in violent outbursts that’ve been documented at several Trump rallies.
“She will stop at nothing to secure the Presidency,” Miller wrote in the statement, accusing Clinton of helping “divide” the country with her “disqualifying” incitement. Miller called her actions a “threat to our democracy.”
That comes from a campaign whose candidate’s refusal to affirm he will respect the outcome of the election, allegations that U.S. elections are rigged, and retweeting of white supremacists have all been called “disqualifying.” In the greatest irony, there are actually several on-camera instances of Trump telling rally attendees that he’d like to punch protesters in the face and promising to pay the legal fees of supporters who get physical with his detractors.
Here are a few of the most recent examples of Trump aping Clinton’s attack lines.
Clinton, June 2: In her first major speech pivoting to the general election, Hillary Clinton went after Donald Trump’s lack of foreign policy experience and instability.
He’s not just unprepared—he’s temperamentally unfit to hold an office that requires knowledge, stability and immense responsibility.
Trump, September 7: In his own address on foreign policy, the Republican called Clinton “reckless” and prone to making off-the-cuff statements.
She is trigger-happy and very unstable, whether we like it or not, that’s what’s going on.
Clinton, June 6: The Democratic nominee called out Trump’s weeks of attacks against the “Mexican” heritage of a federal judge born in Indiana in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
I don’t know what else you could call these attacks other than racist, other than prejudice, other than bigoted. It’s just plain wrong, and certainly wrong coming from someone who is vying to become president of the United States.
Trump, August 16: After making no explicit appeals to African American voters throughout his campaign, Trump told a crowd in the overwhelmingly white town of West Bend, Wisconsin that Clinton was a bigot.
We reject the bigotry of Hillary Clinton which panders to and talks down to communities of color and sees them only as votes.
Clinton, July 29: During her keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, Clinton ran through a list of her proposals to expand healthcare access and provide equal pay to women. She took aim at Trump’s lack of clearly articulated policies for his own administration.
You didn’t hear any of this, did you, from Donald Trump at his convention. He spoke for 70-odd minutes—and I do mean odd. And he offered zero solutions. But we already know he doesn’t believe these things. No wonder he doesn’t like talking about his plans.
Trump, September 13: At a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Trump accused Clinton of failing to elucidate her policy ideas.
Hillary Clinton is running a policy-free campaign. She offers no ideas, no solutions, and only hatred and derision.
This effort at projection escalated to the point of comedy at the final presidential debate on October 20. When the former secretary of state labeled Trump a “puppet” of Vladimir Putin in one answer, he snapped back, “No puppet. You’re the puppet!”