Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Who Won? Who Lost? Who Cares?

Who won? Who lost? Who cares?

By the admission of nearly all pundits and commentators, Hillary Clinton won last night’s presidential debate. She was prepared, perhaps overprepared. She knew her brief and had smart comebacks to everything that Trump was offering.

Most importantly, she showed stamina. Heaven knows what kind of juice she was on, but she seemed alert throughout. She did not have a coughing fit. Trump began strong, but he eventually seemed to fade, running out of ideas and replies. When you are accusing your opponent of lacking stamina, you should show some yourself.

Of course, Hillary also came across as smug and perhaps overly confident. She was the tough guy in the room and seemed to get the better of the pretender. But, she also hectored Trump and the nation, which made him look more sincere and, dare I say, authentic. 

As I saw it, Hillary looked like she had been propped up behind her lectern. The split television screen made her look at tall as Trump, and since she is nearly foot shorter, it looked like her appearance had been doctored to make her look like something that she is not.

While Trump strikes many people as a repugnant human being, the truth of the matter is that Hillary is not a very attractive human being.  Trump does not come across as sensitive and empathetic. But, Hillary does not either. You might well be willing to have a few beers with Trump. You would dread having a drink with Hillary. Anything to avoid the cackle.

For his part Trump sniffed his way through the encounter. Many people noticed it and asked about it. It’s going to become repeated over and over again on late night television, but one does not know how much that is going to affect too many people.

Of course, we will not know who really won or lost for the next couple of days. The financial markets seemed to believe that Hillary won, but they have been wrong on so many things that one hesitates to trust them. While some have suggested that Trump the bully was beaten up by a mere woman, the truth might be more subtle. Given that Hillary is putatively a woman, Trump could not attack her as aggressively as he attacked his male counterparts in the Republican nomination debates. And many people might have come away feeling that they would like to do what he could not do--to lay a figurative beating on Hillary. It’s the downside of empathy.

Besides, as numerous people have noted, Lester Holt, after beginning as a more impartial debate, started attacking Trump far more than he was attacking Clinton.  

How do you, a white male, respond to a black moderator who implies that you are a racist? Thanks to Holt, the question lay there, a trap for Trump to fall into. Apparently, Holt is a Republican. Yet, he was carrying water for the Democrats in his attacks on Trump. He offered no such attacks on Clinton.

How do you, a white male, respond to a woman who calls you a racist liar and then declares that you are an inveterate sexist. Trump was probably wise to point out that even though he said some bad things about women, but Hillary's husband has done some very bad things to women. When he did, Hillary stood by him. Not only stood by him but set her mind to destroying the women that Bubba had abused and molested.

The larger question is: how fed up are the American people with political correctness? Does the charge of racism still put you beyond the political pale? Does the charge of sexism still make you look subhuman? It is not so obvious to me that these charges still work political magic.

After eight years of Barack Obama, after a rising tide of racial animosity in the country, after seeing cities burn, blacks murdered by other blacks… laying it all at the feet of white police officers and Donald Trump might not work in this election. I suspect that people are too smart to take the bait.

Trump’s reply, his effort to shift the focus to the living conditions in America’s inner cities, struck me as correct. Making it all about racism and white police officers misses the point entirely. It is a smokescreen designed to distract.

One notes that Hillary was talking down to Trump, calling him by his first name. And that Trump was addressing her—for the most part-- as Secretary Clinton. It was probably a good tactic. Given the evident double standard, if he had consistently called her by her first name he would have been excoriated in the press for sexism. By my count Trump called Lester Holt by his first name far more often than Hillary did. It's a sign of respect and cordiality.

As some have noted, Trump missed some excellent opportunities. When asked about cybersecurity he should have slammed Clinton for putting American security at serious risk by using a private email server. When asked about whether he was for or against the Iraq war, he should not have gotten so defensive but should have pointed out that he was a private citizen while Clinton was a senator who voted for the war. And he might have mentioned that she strongly opposed Bush’s surge. He should also have trashed her for suggesting that the Obama administration’s failure to negotiate a status of forces agreement before pulling out of Iraq was the fault of the Bush administration. He should have mentioned that Obama himself declared Iraq a great success when he surrendered. And he could certainly have mentioned Benghazi and Clinton’s lies to the parents of the young men she failed to protect there.

Nevertheless, Trump was simply not prepared. He did not know enough and certainly did not know as much as she did. And yet, he was correct to point out that her extensive knowledge is accompanied by a singular lack of achievements, even of some conspicuous failures.

He would be better able to make this case if he could show off some of his great successes in political offices. He has none, so he was reduced to defending his business record. Since it has very little to do with governing a nation, it will always be off the point.

When pressed by Holt and Clinton—who were teaming up against him—on his taxes, he had an excellent comeback: I’ll release my taxes when Hillary releases the 30,000 deleted emails. And yet, he should not just have mentioned it in passing. He should have pressed the point, and asked her more directly why she bleached her server to destroy incriminating evidence. While she was accusing him of having a nefarious reason for not releasing his taxes he should have been less defensive and should have pointed out the gross disparity between whatever lies hidden on his tax returns and the fact that she compromised national security.

There is, in effect, no comparison between the two.

One understood that he believed that he could get through it on vanity. He did not understand that talking for 45 minutes is not the same as talking for 8 minutes—which is the amount of time he spoke during the Republican candidate debates.

Of course, debating a woman changes the dynamic significantly. No one believes in double standards, but they still exist and if you come across as too strong when dealing with a woman, you will have a problem. Still, Trump could have prevailed and looked more presidential to the chattering class if he had showed a command of fact and information and policy. He did not. It was a missed opportunity.

Still and all, Trump has more than bluster going for him. He sounds like he actually wants to do things for America. Hillary sounds like she has a raft of detailed plans. Having plans and implementing them are not the same thing. One suspects that Hillary will have a great deal of difficulty making deals internationally and even with Congress.

Writing on Powerline John Hinderaker tries to separate the question of who won the debate from the question of how it will change voters’ minds. He writes:

This is why I don’t think the evening was a bad one for Trump: most undecided voters will have seen Hillary as the embodiment of the political class. Smug, smirking, always ready with a torrent of words that can’t quite obscure the fact that to the extent she herself has wielded power, she has been a failure. Hillary Clinton is a walking exemplar of the political class that got us where we are now. A viewer who thinks America is doing great, our politicians are terrific, things have been going well in recent years and we need more of the same will be motivated to vote for Hillary.

Trump had a bad night. Clearly, he came in second. Anyone who supported Trump because they believed he would be great in a debate against Hillary should start asking how they got it so wrong.

And yet, the polls might tell a different story. Trump still has one trump card: he is running against someone that no one really likes, someone who is not likable enough. It may be that, in doing well in the debate, in being smug and cutesy, Hilary might have turned a lot of voters off.

In any other election Trump would have been counted out by now. In this election, he seems still to have a good chance.


David Spence said...

Really good analysis! I'm a Trump supporter (only after he became the nominee) and it's simply because he believes in this country and is arrogant enough to take on the permanent elected class and the PC culture. What I think he did tonight was to grab the lion's share of white male voters who know from experience that they simply can never win an argument with any woman or any minority. It isn't allowed. You are deemed sexist and/or racist for even trying and God help you if you make a valid point. Also the debate was a double-whammy as the white guy was tag-teamed by the black moderator AND a woman. I can't imagine a white male who not only relate to this situation but be viscerally affected by it.

Dennis said...

I believe in the final analysis it is how the undecided voter sees the differences between Clinton and Trump. as an example: http://nypost.com/2016/09/26/the-best-debate-takes-come-from-inside-the-bar/
Trump does suffer from a sizable bit of hubris which he needs to address. One does not need to sound like an automaton spitting out talking points and being "wonkish," but one does have to be conversant with more than Trump demonstrated, even given that the debate was Trump agains't Hillary, Holt and much of the media. I suspect that this is another lesson Trump's people will make him well aware. Though given Trump's ability to play people he may be "sandbagging" his many opponents.
I suspect we will not really know how this affects the voters until a couple of weeks have passed and the media bubble burst. One debate does not matter and all Trump had to do was NOT be the "monster" Hillary, the democrats and the media have made him out to be. For me it was a draw with the first 30 minutes going to Trump, next 30 minutes being "What are you thinking?" and the last 30 minutes going to Hillary. We do see what we want to see as can be attested to the various opinions. As most performers know it is the first note and the last note people remember.

Trigger Warning said...

I don't recall that Trump "won" a single Republican primary "debate". Yet, here he is. I suppose some people are swayed by televised political "debates" (which are quite different than real debates), but I suspect the number is far smaller than the television talking heads would like to think.

So I don't anticipate much bounce in favor of either candidate. Many, if not most, Trump voters are voting against Hillary, not voting for Trump.

In my view, Trump missed a fine opportunity to frame the election when he brought up Clinton's speech expressing her surprise that she isn't leading with a 50-point margin in the polls. I'm sure she is, in fact, genuinely baffled. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with her and with her Proglodyte cadres in general. In the face of unpopularity and voter rebellion, from DC to London to Berlin, we have heard Progs lament that they just haven't progsplained their policies well enough. This despite a media barrage of favorable agitprop.

I truly believe a Clinton presidency would advance the cause of restoring America, if that is even possible, to a more rationally governed nation. When the brownouts and power blackouts begin, perhaps followed by the aerosolization of Tel Aviv, and the ascendance of politicians elected by an imported electorate famous for electing South American caudillos and garish Islamic sheiks, there will be more motivation for change.

I'm with Her.

BrianE said...

"CLINTON: We had the worst financial crisis, the Great Recession, the worst since the 1930s. That was in large part because of tax policies that slashed taxes on the wealthy, failed to invest in the middle class, took their eyes off of Wall Street, and created a perfect storm...."

If she actually believes what she said there, she's supremely unqualified to be president and if she's just spouting leftist talking points-- she's a liar. Either she's incompetent or an incompetent liar.

I think she's a liar. That wasn't the only "facts" she got wrong. She sounded knowledgeable but she's just full of hooey.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

I agree with you, entirely. Unfortunately, Trump did not call her on the lie.

Dennis said...

For your interest: https://pjmedia.com/diaryofamadvoter/2016/09/26/after-first-debate-nobody-knows-anything/

Ares Olympus said...

I confess I didn't have the heart to hear the full debate today, fortunately I went to sleep last night before it started, and just listened to parts today.

This abbreviated version is good, 30 seconds of sniffs in a 90 minute debate can't be that bad, much easier on the ear than a bad cough.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wd_ZITiiKs Every Donald Trump Sniff from the Debate

Curious about reaction, I see Scott Adams gave Trump the win, still harping on his idea about feelings as what matter to people. Plus he's trying to sell his book.

And Michael Moore gave the debate to Trump, but again, I think it is biased. Moore is terrified of Trump winning, so he has to keep up the pressure on convincing everyone Trump can win, so all the sluggards will actually waste 20 minutes and go out and vote, and terrify their friends to do the same.

Oh, and Rudy Giuliani was upset Hillary mischaracterized the court case that ended racial profiling in New York, saying an appeal could have reversed it, so that seems like a fair point if Trump was better informed. I can see why its unfair for moderators to also try to be fact checkers. Real facts still have nuance if anyone cares.

Finally independent of the debate, but I saw SA came out with a stacked-deck pro-Hillary for president report card. Even Doctor Stein couldn't use her scienfic knowledge to advantage.
Clinton: 64, Stein: 44, Johnson: 30, Trump: 7

Trump is probably proud to not be Scientifically Correct. But a less biased jury would surely have given him a few more points for effort.

I suppose I expected Johnson's low score when he thought Climate Change doesn't matter because science says the sun will roast the earth in 1 billion years. At least we know he's not a young earth creationist.

Anyway, Johnson is no standard conservative, but he could still collect a good vote among the independents merely by not being Donald Trump.

I'm still convinced that Hillary can pull this out with a below 50% of the popular vote but electoral college win.

My fear looks to 2020 as the real test to whether we have a republic, if we can keep it, and all that constitutional stuff. Emperor Clinton is almost as likely as Emperor Trump when the shit or false flags start hitting the fan.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"By the admission of nearly all pundits and commentators, Hillary Clinton won last night’s presidential debate."

Shocker. They've said Trump would implode for a year. He hasn't yet imploded. They've said a lot of things that haven't stuck. It would seem pundits and commentators are being... ignored. Not a dry eye in the house. I wonder what David Brooks thinks...

If I were in the Hillary camp, I would be concerned. She goaded and baited him all night. He yielded a limited response. She called him by his first name, and the savage maintained decorum. He was sharp for the first 30 minutes. If you're cynical about the bumbling idiots who make up most of America, they probably turned to Monday Night Football by then.

You can count on Trump being sharp in the next two debates. He's tasted battle, and he knows what he's up against and the depths to which she'll go. She's out of ammo. She can't take a week off the campaign trail to prepare for each of the remaining debates... it's too late.

"Who cares?" Wow. 90 million people watched the debate last night. That's 30%+ of the American electorate. A lot of people seem to care.

It seems quite chic to claim not to care. That says a lot. Kudos to the indifferent, disaffected, and those suffering from... anomie about this election among the sophisticated set. Too bad, so sad. Maybe they would've preferred Bernie or one of the 16 sad sacks who ran for the Republican nomination. Alas. These are the choices. Maybe if they're really sophisticated, they'll stay home on November 9. And then who gives a hoot what they think.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus @September 27, 2016 at 3:28 PM:

"I confess I didn't have the heart to hear the full debate today..."

Okay, so shut up.

"I suppose I expected Johnson's low score when he thought Climate Change doesn't matter..."

Climate change doesn't matter. It's a lie.

Enough about the Gary the Pothead stuff, Ares. You'll never vote for him. You're with her. Give it up.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

BrianE @September 27, 2016 at 9:01 AM:

"I think she's a liar."

You fox.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Dennis @September 27, 2016 at 7:29 AM:

"Trump does suffer from a sizable bit of hubris which he needs to address."

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is modest and reserved. A real mouse. Making $200K+ per speech to Wall Street bankers. A real woman of the people. Humble by comparison. Sure.

Lester played his part, and who can blame him? He has a lot of Manhattan cocktail parties on his dance card this Fall. The holiday season will be here soon. No need for him to be defensive... he can just point across the room at Matt Lauer. The Hillary camp had been softening up Lester for weeks. Mission accomplished. What a bunch of tools.

Dennis said...


My comment was meant to point out that had Trump prepared more there would be no doubt who won the debate. This considering that, I believe, 17 out of 19 polls had Trump winning. Trump missed several opportunities to put Clinton on the defensive. The media will never understand that voters who tend Trump take him seriously, but not literally as opposed to the media taking Trump literally and not seriously.
The "automaton" statement was meant to describe the fact she was not modest or reserved. Unless one can describe calling Trump and others names as subtle.
Trump now has this to lose vice the other way around.
I maybe a better than average musician, but I still need to prepare and stay conversant with the dynamics that all involved. This is true of any endeavor I have been involved.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Dennis @September 28, 2016 at 6:15 AM:

Your points are spot on. My point is that it wouldn't have mattered if he'd won, much less prepared, for the very reasons you outlined: the media will not take him seriously. He needs to speak over their heads and communicate directly with Americans. I think he did that Monday night, and he did it effectively for his first time out. He showed he's not the great spaghetti monster.

I also don't think he could've taken Hillary out the way you and others think he could have. If he'd gone the last full measure, he would've crushed her. I saw it clearly: she is SO vulnerable. She doesn't even see it. It doesn't matter how you slice it -- beating her on the first night wouldn't have helped him look presidential. He's decisive already, he didn't need to come out at the first debate and be "decisiver" or "super-decisive." He came to the event, recognizing it's partly entertainment. He played to the crowd, and where we were at with 44 days to go. It's a 3-night performance... no need to blow your wad. And if he had, we'd be hearing the narrative of big, bad Trump beating up on a woman.

I'm confident he'll ratchet-up the pressure in the next two debates. She won't be able to take a week off the campaign trail to practice her falsehoods and work on her make-up. That, and I think Trump's practiced quite a bit more than you suspect, and that his "winging it" thing was a deception. The way he rattled off that stuff about TPP wasn't off-the-cuff, it was prepared. Methinks there's more to come, and the intensity will rise.

As for "hubris," Hillary's never modest or reserved. That's why I don't understand people complaining about Trump's business braggadocio. What do you expect him to talk about, his years of "public service?" The greatest social program on the planet is a JOB. Obama and his people haven't cared about jobs for 8 years. Government-as-Santa-Claus doesn't create jobs. Entrepreneurs create businesses, manufacturing creates wealth, and that is the source of the private sector economy that Democrat constituencies leech off of.

Our "public servants" have wrecked the place. I hardly think there's much risk in having a (gasp!) businessman take a stab at running the country, $20+ trillion in the hole.

There is no greater "hubris" on earth than a member of the political class (Demoblican or Republicrat) claiming he/she CREATED a single job, much less millions of them. Government shapes an environment of business growth and wealth creation -- for better or worse -- and then gets out of the way to let businesspeople create jobs that are needed. Government doesn't create anything. The business environment in the Obama presidency has been atrocious.

I want to be clear one more time: I am not a fan of Donald Trump. I see his character flaws. But he's the only Republican who ran who could go toe-to-toe with Hillary and beat her at her own game by being his own man. Cruz would've played from the same tired playbook of reasonable, respectable and intelligent -- and he would've lost. I think her flaws are destructive on a host of levels. I want to see American leaders work in the interests of Americans again. It's an easy choice for me. Saying "Who cares?" is ridiculous, given the stakes.