My Stream of Consciousness During the 2016 Trump/Clinton Debates (4/4)

Once again, keep in mind that:

Blue text is for Hillary.

Red text is for Trump.

Green text is for the moderators.

The Lunatics Are Running the Asylum

The real, true, and SOLE winner of this debate was Chris Wallace. After Lester and Anderson’s awful moderation the first two outings, he was a breath of fresh air. He kept the audience and candidates under control without picking sides or inserting himself into the proceedings either. I just wanna say that upfront. In fact, he is probably the single best moderator of any debate I’ve seen, general or primary.

I will give Hillary credit on wearing red white and blue back to back at all the debates. That was actually pretty cool. I still think the unicolor pantsuits look ridiculous but it makes me wonder why other candidates don’t do this with their ties, or a future woman candidate couldn’t do this with dresses.

Once again, Hillary drills home her gun policies, and even gift wraps it in a “toddlers shoot themselves every day!!!” variation of her “think about the children!!” scare tactics . Not even 15 minutes in, and she’s already driving home her two least attractive talking points. Then for good measure, she gets into abortion. I completely agree with her on this, but I’m just saying it’s an unpopular and divisive topic. If ever there was a time to be slippery and two-faced, this was it. In fact this raises the question–why is she okay with being crooked on other issues for political expediency but not this? Are her political instincts just that terrible?

More than any other third debate, this just feels like retreading old ground. Like, once again we have Hillary deflecting yet again to this asinine Russia stuff. It didn’t work the first two times, but hey third time’s the charm, right? And again, yes, it turns out she was right. But my point is this came off as deflection coming from her since she’d constantly use it whenever legit criticisms were brought up. As Trump says to a burst of laughter from the crowd, “How the hell did we get on this from open borders?”

Trump’s saddest, probably most derisively quoted moment comes around this point. “No puppet! No puppet! You’re the puppet! No, you’re the puppet!”

I think Hillary’s best moment was focusing on Trump’s inability to be trusted with the nuclear codes. That was viscerally effective in a way her other attacks against him, which focused purely on moralizing, failed.

Hillary didn’t believe enough in her own “trumped up trickle down economics” line to trot it out a second time, instead opting for “trickle down on steroids.”

The ultimate irony for me is that Chris Wallace, without even trying to pick a fight with Trump, did far better at shutting him down than either Anderson and Martha at the last debate or Hillary in any of them. When Trump yells out “CORRECT!” and Wallace just kinda brushed him off, after a pause, with “….thank you, sir” that got an audible laugh out of me the first time I saw it, especially with Trump’s stupid, self-congratulatory expression afterwards like he just said something really profound. I think that’s how Hillary should have handled Trump, as if he was a stupid little kid, ignore his insults like you would a child’s and continue discussing policy over him. It seemed to work great for Wallace here, while Anderson/Martha sacrificed their integrity as neutral arbiters and Hillary looked as stupid as Trump by arguing with him on his level.

Another really bad moment for Trump comes when he brings up the fact that he didn’t even apologize to his wife for assaulting other women, as if that’s some kind of mark of pride or evidence that he did nothing wrong. Instead it just lends more proof to the fact that he’s a chauvinist pig.

It’s the halfway mark and one thing I noticed: Hillary isn’t smiling anymore. Throughout the first debate, her toothy grin was completely insufferable and smug. In the second, it was there but cropped up far less often as Trump turned the room against her and even she saw it. Now, she just looks downcast and frustrated, probably as she’s realized she underestimated Trump and how effective his strongman tactics would be with people as opposed to her…wonk strategy.

There was an off-Broadway Performance called Her Opponent which also proved conclusively that Hillary’s loss in the debates can’t be blamed on sexism alone either.

When Hillary goes on about how offensive Trump is for the millionth time here, I just want to throw something at the TV. This really was the worst run campaign in modern history–she thought if she just threw around enough “isms” at every debate, the commercials and the DNC she’d somehow win this thing. It obviously wasn’t working by this point but she just keeps running with it. What’s the definition of insanity again?

The low point of the debate is when Hillary tries to deflect from talking about the Clinton Foundation’s pay for play, Wallace justly interrupts her to get on topic, and then Trump barges in. So, since Hillary won’t answer the question, Wallace gives the floor to Trump. He talks about the foundations ties to Saudi Arabia and their bungling of Haiti, and as Trump talks about how the Saudis treat gays, she laughs about it. A great moment for Wallace, everyone else looks like a joke. Trump for interrupting his opponent as she made a mistake and Hillary for being crooked in not answering as well as cruel for laughing at atrocities abroad.

The scariest moment is when Trump implied that he would not accept the results of the election. I wasn’t looking forward to Hillary being President, but I WAS looking forward to seeing how this would play out in a morbid fascination sense. If Trump didn’t concede I was curious to observe what we as a country would have done. Now, it’s just as likely he wont go down quietly, but he has the power of the office behind him.

Trump says ”Should have gotten it!” in reference to losing an Emmy. It got everyone to laugh, and even Hillary had to admit it was funny. He’s the king of deflection, for better or worse. He takes serious accusations like his comments on women and not stepping down, and somehow makes everyone laugh and forget how scary it is if even just for a moment.

So much of this debate is just trading the same barbs for the millionth time. It’s ridiculous. Meanwhile, climate change, universal healthcare, basic income, legal weed…none of these important issues get discussed AT ALL. It’s really extraordinary when you think about it. Again, you expect the petty barbs and stupidity from Trump, but for Hillary to get down in the mud with him is just really something else. Imagine being homeless, or struggling to pay your medical bills, or being in jail for a trumped up weed possession charge and seeing this debate. Knowing that America would rather wallow in the spectacle of these two idiots trading the same five insults over and over. It must be infuriating if not depressing.

The real winner of the election overall has to be Bernie Sanders. He’s the one person BOTH candidates try to embrace, suck up to, and claim to be the successors of. It just shows who really should have been President. It blows my mind Hillary was supposed to be the safer choice. “All Trump has to do is call him a socialist and he’s done!” Yeah, and how boring and blunted would that one attack have gotten? Meanwhile with Hillary, Trump had a whole slew of really effective attacks he could use. She had ZERO because every attack she had was incredibly hypocritical considering she or Bill were guilty of the same or worse. I doubt very much Bernie would have rolled around in the mud and debated personality either. Say what you will about him, that man cared deeply about policy.

And then we come to probably Hillary’s scariest position, the no fly zone, which Russia made clear it would consider an act of war. She justifies it by describing that same heart-strings picture of a boy in Syria…give me a break. That really does seem to be this woman’s eternal MO, use the old “think about the children!” to justify shitty, terrible policy ideas. It’s sad about that boy, but that’s a lazy, piss poor excuse to take in 60,000 people when we can’t even take care of our own, who may harbor anti-western sentiments, plus provoke war with Putin over a country in the Middle East that’s none of our business.

Another completely amateur, tone deaf mistake comes at the end when Hillary mentions Trump’s ad in the NYT in the ’80s saying exactly the same things he was campaigning on in this cycle. At a time when Americans were sick to death of crooked, two faced people like Hillary pandering, lying, trying to be different things to everyone they talked to, why she thought this attack would work is beyond me. It just shows how insanely out of touch she is. She thought if she could bring up how Trump criticized the government during a Republican administration it would make him look bad. Really, people loved Trump precisely because he also called the GOP bigwigs out on their bullshit, and because he was consistent. Hillary just gave Trump the strongest endorsement she possibly could have, and she’s too stupid to realize it. And really, what’s wrong with criticizing the government, especially since the ’80s when neoliberalism and neoconservatism took over? She acts so outraged that he would dare suggest that we could do better, when really that seems like a perfectly valid reason to get involved in politics.

“Such a nasty woman!” That was Trump’s lowest moment of the debates. He was pissed about what she was saying but couldn’t think of anything better to parry with, so he resorted to a lame, petty insult. That was the soundbite that dominated the next day. Along with the earlier “No puppet! You’re the puppet!” attack it’s probably the most iconic moment of this debate and possibly the whole debate cycle. I still think the real standout moment of the cycle ought to be Hillary’s moralizing on the Access Hollywood tape the last outing, coupled with Trump’s deflection and visibly turning the crowd onto his side. That moment provides a far more valuable example of debate strategy than some insipid quotes from Trump here.

It’s Finally Over

Overall, this is somewhat redundant because it’s just the same half a dozen talking points being brought up for the millionth time. As I said, the best thing about this travesty is Chris Wallace as moderator. Hillary and Trump are the same. Trump was his typical crass, shoot from the hip self and Hillary continued her tone deaf “He supported the Iraq War…(and so did I), He’s hiding something in his tax returns…(and I’m hiding my emails.)” crap strategy. Watching these in hindsight and for a second time, it’s just shocking how bad Hillary did. I never bought into the “she blew him away!!” spin at the time. Unlike my friends and the media, I recognized that Trump didn’t do quite as terribly, and Hillary didn’t do nearly as well, as everyone claimed. Frankly, I think people convinced themselves of what they wanted to believe.

I knew Hillary had failed to land the finishing blows like Obama did to Romney, or Bill Clinton to George Bush, which is what she NEEDED to do as the polls were tightening. The conventional wisdom going in was that if Trump looked like her equal up there, he would win, because it was never supposed to be close in the first place. And lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. Not that Trump was as knowledgeable about policy as her, but the point is these debates weren’t about policy, they were about personality–an area where they were equally flawed. Hillary allowed it to become a contest of personality because she focused on Trump himself rather than the issues, and that is and always will be her own responsibility. No amount of blaming Bernie for existing, or Comey for doing his job, or Russia for fanning the flames which were already present is going to change the fact that Hillary fucked this up beyond belief.

Trump definitely won the second debate, but the first and third were more evenly matched with both being terrible. And for that reason, I think I have to say Hillary is the single worst debater I’ve ever seen, at the very least, the worst general election debater. With all that time to prepare, she should have either come up with better zingers or, and this would have been my recommendation, just ignore Trump and talk policy. Don’t refer to him by name, just say “my opponent.” Don’t look at him, look at the audience and moderator. Don’t respond to his insults, and don’t sink to his level. Just talk policy and keep it civil. Look like the adult in the room, and the voters will notice. She didn’t do any of that, and let herself get just as petty and crude as Trump did…and it was all for nothing since her attacks all fell totally flat because she misunderstood what voters cared about.

I considered not even doing reviews of these debates since they were such a trainwreck and everyone already knew it. I figured since these were recent that it wouldn’t be necessary. But now that I’m finished, I’m glad I did. I gained some new insight and I think I’ve proven once and for all that a lot of the media was giving Hillary a pass when she didn’t deserve it. Yes, Trump was terrible and is shaping up to be the worst President ever…but that doesn’t mean Hillary wasn’t shit at the debates and campaign too. In fact, that makes her performance all the more inexcusable. A couple of people in my inner circle have said she only did so bad because her opponent was so unconventional that no one could have prepared for it. “If she had faced Romney or McCain, she would have dominated,” they say. I just don’t buy that. Romney tried the tough guy act in 2012 and Obama made him look like an idiot. But that’s only because Obama is charismatic as hell. Hillary was “a policy wonk” by her own supporters’ admissions. I don’t think she would have been able to pop Romney’s bubble either, just as she failed with Trump. In any case, her team had half a year to review Trump’s performances at the GOP primary debates to craft a strategy. They learned nothing, and Hillary repeated all the same mistakes as Jeb Bush.

1 Comment

  1. This entire election was a trainwreck. Even though Trump was usually amusing to watch but by the time of this debate I already knew there was no way I could support Hillary. I had not approved of anything she or Obama had done so there was no reason to watch this mess. Again you analysis seems very fair and balanced.

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