You knew he had to come prepared. He had to be at his finest for this third and final debate. Sharp. Focused. In control. He looked slightly nervous at first – recognizing the significance of the moment – but he settled quickly and moved forward with purpose. He was thoughtful yet tough. Aggressive but not pushy. He maintained his poise and exhibited a certain dignity. He spoke when he should and knew when to stay quiet. Yes, Chris Wallace was truly excellent, just outstanding in every way. Oh yeah, Trump was there too. And Clinton.
How bad is it when the moderator is the star of the show? Chris Wallace was not only great, he highlighted how truly awful the prior moderators were. He asked tough questions. He asked focused questions. He re-addressed the candidates when they ran away from the questions. He maintained focus and control throughout. Trump didn’t.
The Donald was actually pretty good for the twenty minutes. And thanks in large part to Wallace, for the first time there was an actual, almost substantive discussion of policy in the first twenty minutes. But then Trump hit a wall – specifically his own Mexican Border Wall. In her rebuttal to Trump’s response on the Immigration issue Clinton stated that Trump “choked” in his meeting with the Mexican president. And that was the moment – the beginning of the reversion to norm. You could see it on his face, his stance – it stung – her punch landed. His pride was wounded and that was that. Downhill from there.
Clinton: “He’d rather have a puppet as President”
Donald: “You’re the puppet”
Me: “Good Lord”
There were some good moments. Trump effectively made his case on the Supreme Court – again invoking Constitutionality. Conversely, Clinton did not even say the word Constitution – only issues she wants the Supreme Court to overturn or change. Apparently, it is just as repulsive to Clinton to utter the word “Constitution” as it is for her to say ” Radical Islamic Terrorist”. And that really, really frightens me.
Trump did a decent job highlighting differences on their economic approach as well – he’d cut taxes, he’d get rid of ObamaCare, he wants income growth through economic growth. Hillary wants higher taxes, expansion of ObamaCare and income redistribution. And when it’s seen in these stark terms it baffles me why anyone wouldn’t see through the outright ludicrousness of Hillary’s stance – but that’s for another day.
Hillary lied almost incessantly during the debate but did so convincingly – if you hadn’t read a lot of the Wikileaks or known her history carefully you could be forgiven for thinking she was presenting herself as moderate, steady and almost thoughtful. But lie she did. And obfuscate. Her answer on the Heller decision (regarding a person’s right to bear arms) was almost laughable in its spin and falsehoods. Her responses on the Trans Pacific Partnership illustrated her double dealings and willingness to change positions when it suited her purposes to do so. Worst of all was her tremendous duck on Wallace’s question on the Clinton Foundation and the entire “pay to play” scheme at the State Department – moving immediately to talking about the Foundation’s charitable work and then somehow segueing into Trump’s taxes. It was truly awful – but she made some of it sound good if you didn’t know or understand the underlying facts.
Which brings me to another issue. Trump does understand the underlying facts – but he often fails to communicate them effectively. When debating he speaks as if he was talking to a political insider – someone who spent most of their time either in the political arena or just outside it closely looking in. He uses obscure references or names that directly touch on the underlying issue but have little or no relevance to the average listener. And so he ends up sounding as if he were speaking in gibberish. I sometimes watch this happen and think he must be almost consumed with frustration – there’s just so much to say about Clinton – so many lies and illegal dealings – that it all wants to come out at once – and instead nothing does.
Trump really fell down at two points during the debate. He withered under Clinton’s attack on his treatment of woman. His “nobody has more respect for woman than I do” response eliciting nothing but outright laughter from the audience. More importantly was his repeated refusal to say he would accept the election results. His statement of “I will keep you in suspense, okay” absolutely guaranteed what the headlines and focus would be the next morning. Given all the revelations around the DNC’s outright interference and duplicitous election tactics it’s easy to understand Trump’s feelings but that was neither the time nor the place to make them known.
When I watched Trump I saw a man who believes he is coming from a point of righteousness – a man who is morally offended that everyone cannot simply see the truth of it all – how obvious it is what a crook and a liar – how corrupt – Hillary is. And his frustration stymies him. As does his ego.
When I watched Hillary I saw a Cheshire Cat who swallowed the canary. She sat smug, mostly calm – knowing she is in the very process of getting away with it all. Knowing she is so very close to winning.
In spite of the weight from every reason why she should lose.
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