Last night Mike Pence made the case. He made the case against the Obama administration. He made the case against Hillary Clinton. He made the case for the Republican Party.
But, he did not really make the case for Donald Trump.
Faced with a serial interrupter, Pence stayed calm and substantive. He was in control of the material and in control of himself. He appealed to our rational faculties. Some will agree with him. Some will disagree. This is what happens when you stop trying to manipulate people and start appealing to them as rational beings.
Pence made clear that he was part of the Trump-Pence ticket, but he rarely attempted to defend Trump’s more outrageous comments. How could he have done so? By his demeanor, by his composure, by the depth of his understanding of the issues, he was highlighting Trump’s failings. The better Pence looked the more people were thinking that we live in an upside/down world and that it would be a better place if Pence were heading the Republican ticket.
Last week, Trump lost a debate decisively to Hillary Clinton. He lost because he did not know enough or have enough to say to fill 45 minutes. For reasons that escape me, people had been lulled into believing that Trump’s performance during the presidential primary showed him to be a great debater. In fact, he spoke for no more than 8 or so minutes and filled up most of it with repulsive insults directed against his opponents.
When he found himself standing alone with Hillary Clinton the Donald simply ran out of material. Since he is an amateur and has never spent very much time studying and working on the issues, he was clearly out of his depth.
Obviously, preparation would have helped enormously, but he was too arrogant to do so. He decided to go with his gut. He had written in his book on the art of the deal that one should always negotiate with one’s gut. He was wrong about that and paid for it last week.
And the material he did present during the first half hour, about trade policy, was oversimplified and economically dubious. Implying that he would start a trade war will not win him very many votes among those who understand the cost of trade wars.
And then he allowed himself to be baited by Hillary Clinton. She threw out the chum and he gleefully chomped away at it. He had to know it was coming and he fell for it anyway. He could not help himself. He showed a lack of discipline and a lack of self-control. He showed weak character. When he got into a Twitter war over a former Miss USA, Trump showed the world that he was not in command, that Hillary had made him into her puppet.
Keep in mind you cannot command other people if you are not in command of yourself. You cannot control a group of people if you show yourself to be out of control.
Anyone who thought that Trump was a tough guy and a great debater should think again. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Polls taken after the debate showed that Hillary had won it by a wide margin. Later polls showed that Trump’s chances were sinking fast. Can he rescue his candidacy with a boffo performance next week? I do not know. I suspect that the impression of a tired, outclassed, manipulated Trump is baked into the minds of the voters by now.
Even with Mike Pence doing a great job at making the case last night, the truth is, he merely made Trump look bad by comparison.
As for Tim Kaine, he simply embarrassed himself. I suspect that he has had a lot of experience with coitus interruptus. Kaine sounded like a troll, someone who had been wound up with prepackaged talking points and insults, all of which were an effort to bait Pence and to throw him off his game.
It did not work. Pence’s calm demeanor made most of the audience side with Pence. Even people who did not agree with Pence saw him as winning the debate.
It ought to be obvious that Kaine is not an amateur. He is a lifetime professional politician. He certainly knows his brief. Yet, he spend most of the time attacking Trump the man, on bizarre grounds… i.e. Trump’s presumably not having paid taxes was bad because Trump did not contribute to help those who were hurt by 9/11.
So, Kaine was coming out against tax deductions and was assuming that the Times conjecture—which was decidedly not a fact—was true. Kaine did not compliment George W. Bush for having instantly offered New York City all the help it needed and he did not mention that it was Chuck Schumer, not Hillary Clinton who was most involved in the discussion.
There is much to attack in Donald Trump’s many statements. Mike Pence wisely decided not to defend them. When Kaine kept harping on them he ended up drawing attention to his own poor character. He was obviously trying to push buttons that would send different groups scurrying to the polls. His was a get-out-the-vote drive, not really a debate.
Has Kaine been hanging out with Hillary Clinton too long? She certainly did not bring out the best in him.
If Trump appears not to be up to the job and if Julian Assange goes back on his word again, we can expect that the Hillary era will usher in an unprecedented level of animosity between men and women. Considering that the Obama era has aggravated racial animosity, the Hillary era will probably do the same for men and women.
One notes that whereas a Margaret Thatcher surrounded herself with men, Hillary Clinton surrounds herself with women. Her inner circle and her closest advisers are invariably female. No one talks about it. No one seems to think it matters. I am persuaded that it does.
If Kaine and Bill Clinton are exemplary Hillary does not bring out the best in men. She didn’t bring out the best in Sidney Blumenthal, Webster Hubbell or Vince Foster. And let’s not overlook the less than salutary effect that marriage to Hillary’s BFF has had on one Anthony Weiner.
And, Hillary did not bring out the best in Donald Trump. Standing on the stage next to her, Donald Trump was defenseless. He relied on his gut and his gut let him down… big time. He thought that he could do as he had done with Republican presidential candidates. He failed to see that Hillary is not one of the guys and that her tactic was quite different.
If he wants to counter her negative vibe next time he should bring along some garlic.
Of course, he could have done as Mike Pence did. He did not know enough to do so. If he had done so he would also have overcome the notion, promulgated by lightweight cartoonist Scott Adams, that its all about manipulating irrational emotions.
Perhaps I am overly optimistic, but even if resorting to emotion seems to work in an unreal concatenation of vain candidates, it has a very short shelf-life. In the end a candidate has to provide a rationale for his candidacy. He has to make the case for himself and against his opponent. As of now, Trump has not done so. And his poll numbers are showing it.
Mike Pence did a very good job last night—especially given the material he had to work with—but he is not going, on his own, to save the Trump candidacy. In fact, he might do just the opposite.