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Tina Casey headshot

'Worst 3 Days' For Donald Trump, And a Weird Week For Peter Thiel

By Tina Casey

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has just "blundered through the worst three days of any presidential candidate in living memory," CNN reporter Stephen Collinson wrote on Tuesday. Trump's missteps this past week were so bad that he even elicited disapproval from his party's favorite people, U.S. military veterans.

A number of high-profile Republicans leaped to his defense, but prominent Trump supporter Peter Thiel is not among them. Perhaps Thiel has other matters to attend to this week, such as damage control related to a new article outlining his interest in the vampirish practice of parabiosis.

'Worst three days' for Donald Trump

In his article for CNN, Collinson toted up two disasters for the Trump campaign.

The first was Trump's days-long, over-the-top response to a speech last week at the Democratic National Convention by Khizr Khan, the father of U.S. Army Captain Humayn Khan. In 2004, Captain Khan was killed by a suicide car bomber in Iraq. He ran toward the speeding car after ordering his troops to protect themselves.

The loss of a family member in action is recognized with a Gold Star by the Army. And Trump's extended criticism of Khan's parents earned him the wrath of the influential organization Veterans of Foreign Wars (cited here by Raw Story):

“Election year or not, the VFW will not tolerate anyone berating a Gold Star family member for exercising his or her right of speech or expression,” said VFW commander-in-chief, Brian Duffy. “There are certain sacrosanct subjects that no amount of wordsmithing can repair once crossed. Giving one’s life to nation is the greatest sacrifice, followed closely by Gold Star families, who have a right to make their voices heard.”

Prominent Republicans with military backgrounds were also quick to condemn Trump. That included Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.

Brown in particular is noteworthy because he is known as one of Trump's earliest and most prominent supporters. However, in an interview with the New York Daily News, he defended the Khan family while making no excuses for Trump:

“... [Khan's] son gave his service and sacrifice to our country, and to me that supersedes everything. All he needed to do is thank them for their service and move on."


“If it were me, the easiest thing to do is say, ‘I apologize,’” he said. “Their son’s service is beyond reproach.”

The second, overlapping episode cited by Collinson occurred on Sunday, when Trump argle-bargled an important point on foreign affairs during an interview on the ABC show "The Week." In answering a question put to him by George Stephanopoulos, Trump seemed completely unaware that Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in 2014:
TRUMP: "Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas. He's not going into Ukraine, okay?

"Just so you understand. He's not going to go into Ukraine, all right?"

When Stephanopoulos set the record straight, stating "Well, he's already there, isn't he?"

Trump backpedals, strangely, with "Okay— well, he's there in a certain way. But I'm not there." And goes on to toss blame on Obama and NATO for Russia's presence in the Crimean Peninsula.

More bad news for Trump

The damage doesn't stop there. Some observers are adding Trump's remarks at an August 1 rally in Pennsylvania to bump Collinson's numbers up to three blunders. Referring to the campaign of Democratic contender Bernie Sanders, Trump identified Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton as a disciple of Satan:
"He would’ve been a hero," Trump said. "But he made a deal with the devil. She’s the devil. He made a deal with the devil."

Comments like that hardly promote the image of a man who would be responsible for the nation's nuclear arsenal.

Piling on yet a fourth blunder on Monday, in an interview with USA Today Trump suggested that women who experience sexual harassment at work could simply find another job.

In a normal presidential election cycle, any one of these episodes would mark a candidate as unserious. Put them all together within a three-day span, and you can see why Trump's mental state has become a matter of public discussion.

Adding more fuel to the fire was the in-depth explainer of Trump's business acumen -- or conspicuous lack thereof -- published by Newsweek on August 2. That same day, billionaire Democrat Warren Buffet joined Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail with his own blistering critique of Trump's investment record.

Rounding out the three-day period (August 2 seems like a particularly bad one), Hewlitt-Packard CEO Meg Whitman, a high-profile Republican fundraiser, skewered Trump in a phone interview with the New York Times and pledged to vote for Clinton:

"... she argued that the election of Mr. Trump, whom she called 'a dishonest demagogue,' could lead the country 'on a very dangerous journey,'” wrote Jonathan Martin of the Times. "She noted that democracies had seldom lasted longer than a few hundred years and warned that those who say that 'it can’t happen here' are being naïve.

"Ms. Whitman also said she 'absolutely' stood by her comments at a private gathering of Republican donors this year comparing Mr. Trump to Hitler and Mussolini, explaining that dictators often come to office through democratic means."

Cricket chirps from Peter Thiel

The Trump campaign could certainly use a little extra support right now, and Peter Thiel has positioned himself to provide it. He is a rarity among high-profile Trump backers, being a bona fide Silicon Valley billionaire with a track record that includes co-founding PayPal.

Thiel is also a sitting board member of Facebook, and he co-founded the data mining company Palantir, which appears to be the model for Project Insight in the Marvel comics universe.

Thiel's support for the Republican candidate runs deep, despite the Republican party's antipathy to LGBT rights. (Thiel is an out gay man.) He took on a role as a California delegate for the Trump campaign last May without any public fanfare, but he soon burst into the spotlight by nailing down a prime speaking role at last month's Republican National Convention. He took his turn on the climactic final night, preceding Donald Trump himself by only two other speakers.

However, Thiel's careful planning has been undermined by one curiously-timed article that landed smack in the middle of Trump's three-day debacle.

The article appeared on August 1 in the magazine Inc. under the byline of the publication's San Francisco bureau chief, Jeff Bercovici, which gave it added weight.

The piece was entitled, "Peter Thiel Is Very, Very Interested in Young People's Blood," and yes the article cast Thiel in the role of a high-tech vampire -- a literal vampire, not a figurative one.

The piece was about parabiosis, an almost forgotten line in the life-extension field that burst forth in the 1950s and eventually withered away. Thiel is among the relatively few to revive interest in the practice, which consists of transfusing the blood of young people into old people.

I know, right? The timing of the article was curious because Bercovici's material on Thiel is old news. He includes extensive material from an interview that he conducted with Thiel on the topic of parabiosis about a year ago.

This is far from breaking news, but the media world has quickly piled on to the vampire thread. Among much other speculation, a tongue-in-cheek op/ed has appeared in The Week under the title, "In defense of Peter Thiel's vampirism."

The vampire buzz extended beyond conventional online publishing and into social media. Forbes contributor Bruce Y. Lee steers readers to Twitter, where they'll find a flood of vampire-themed tweets at #Thiel.

Lee also reminded his readers that Thiel has taken hormones as a life-extension therapy. And Gawker (yes, this Gawker) added to the lore with the title, "Thiel is interested in harvesting the blood of the young:"

"... The logical endpoint of Thiel’s dystopian world vision could feature an economy in which the wealthy, who wished to live forever, subsist on the blood of the poor, who would die at a normal age."

If Bercovici meant to portray Thiel as a creepy laughingstock at the height of a critical period in the Trump campaign, he has certainly succeeded.

And, if Thiel entertained any ideas about lending a hand to the Trump campaign during this tumultuous week, he should probably reconsider.

Photo (cropped) by wonderferret via flickr.com, creative commons license.





Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey