On Tuesday, he was given a gift in the form of FBI Director James Comey publicly and harshly scolding Clinton over her use of a private email server. The fact that he failed to recommend that the Department of Justice indict Clinton is beside the point—in fact, an indictment would have likely looked like overreach and could have backfired, politically speaking. Comey gave Trump enough ammunition to last an election cycle: It’s not every year that the director of the FBI says that one of the two people running for president has bad judgment.
And what did Trump do with the news? He tweeted about it some and released a statement saying the system is “rigged.” And then he held a rally where he praised Saddam Hussein, claimed Iraq was now “Harvard for terrorists,” and talked about how Air Force One is too old. Sure, he delved into Clinton’s emails, mostly to overstate the case against her. But that was almost beside the point, because Trump also said, “Saddam Hussein was a bad guy, right? He was a bad guy, a really bad guy. But you know what he did well? He killed terrorists.”
Hillary Clinton’s campaign pointed out that Hussein’s Iraq was actually a state sponsor of terrorism. Trump’s frenemy Paul Ryan said, “[Hussein] was one the 20th century’s most evil people.” And the conversation moved away from Clinton’s emails to Trump’s absurd love for dictators and his ambition to be a strongman himself. As many have pointed out, this wasn’t the first time Trump has praised Hussein publicly—it’s been in and out of his stump speech for months. But to do so on the day the director of the FBI slammed Clinton is to score a howler of an own goal.