And now for something… well, a little different. Instead of live-blogging last night’s debate, I decided to just compile my notes into my morning news post, arranged in chronological order. So…. awaaaay we go!
To preface: What do the candidates have to do to be seen as the winners of this fracas? Well, the expectations for the two are considerably different. Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I has to try to sell herself as experienced, stable, honest and trustworthy – and let’s face it, the ship on those last two has long since sailed, and the first two are taking on water fast.
The Donald, on the other hand, has to appear reasoned, stable, knowledgeable and Presidential. At this point in the race, if he can avoid any major gaffes and not actually foam at the mouth, he wins.
Moderator Lester Holt – a registered Republican – just has to keep the wheels on the road. So, what happened? Here are my noted highlights.
Opening segment: “Achieving prosperity.” Hoo. Her Imperial Majesty leads off with all the predictable proggie talking points. She has no idea how to create jobs – instead she goes on about “investment” Translation: Taxing and spending. Trump listens while polishing his “eagle-eyed stare.” He goes on about keeping American jobs here but offers few specifics. Still, that’s been a winning meme for him so far. But he agrees with Hillary on paid leave and minimum wage, disagreeing only on “numbers?” Holy crap. He just conceded a major point to Her Imperial Majesty. Point: Her Imperial Majesty.
Her Imperial Majesty: “OMG trickle-down economics!” “Donald was fortunate…” Really? Seems to me he earned it – building things and developing properties and, oh, by the way, employing many, many people.
The Donald: “Secretary Clinton and others should have been doing it (fixing economic problems) for years. For years! Why are they just talking about it now?” Hits her on runaway cronyism. Good zinger. Point: The Donald.
Her Imperial Majesty: “Infrastructure! Clean energy! Solar panels! Invest, invest, invest! That’s a lot of jobs!” A lot of jobs paid for by taxpayer dollars, filtered through several layers of government – not a mention of the private sector.
9:21: Trump goes on the attack. Hits Her Highness on NAFTA, on TPP – “You were in favor if it, then you heard I was against it.” Her Highness: “I was for it, then I was against it.” High-energy Donald is back; Her Imperial Majesty responds by repeating her original talking points. The Donald goes on to slam her on regulations. Point: The Donald.
9:30: Lester Holt has lost control. The Donald is dominating the discussion.
The Donald: “Typical politician. All talk, no action.” Point: The Donald. Still: On tone, he’s walking awfully close to the line; he’s hectoring, interrupting, and wandering off topic. He could stand to dial it back a bit.
Holt hits Trump on his tax returns. “As soon as the audit is over, they’ll be released.” Refers to his financial statement. “I’ll release my tax returns as soon as she releases her 33,000 emails!” Might be the winning line of the night. Cheers from the “promised to be silent” crowd. Her Imperial Majesty responds with a condescending smile, and points out that her own returns were released. She’s trying to hit The Donald on trustworthiness and honesty – not a card she should be playing. Point: A draw; Her Highness made a good zinger on his taxes.
The Donald misses a good chance to hammer Her Majesty on her emails, pivoting instead to his bank accounts, buildings and Imperial debt. Good points but he missed a good chance. Point: Her Imperial Majesty.
Her Imperial Majesty nailed The Donald on bankruptcies; “I used the laws of the nation.” “She doesn’t mention the tens of thousands of people who are doing great and love me.” Points out jobs he has brought in under budget, ahead of schedule. Good point but fell a little flat. He’s getting distracted. Point: Her Imperial Majesty.
On to a discussion of racial tensions and law enforcement: This may be Her Majesty’s strong point in this debate; in speeches, The Donald has been all over the map. Her Highness’s first statement, though, was mostly platitudes and “OMG guns!”
The Donald: “Secretary Clinton doesn’t want to use a couple of words: Law and order.” Not a bad line. Mentions his endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police. Mentions over 4,000 people killed in Chicago since President Obama took office. Advocates for stop-and-frisk. Her Imperial Majesty replies in part: “We should stop people on the no-fly list from buying guns!” Nobody – Holt or Trump – asks Her Majesty what other Constitutional rights she’s willing to take away from people with no due process. The Donald in fact agrees with her on the no-fly list. Fail on both sides.
On inner-city communities: The Donald: “I’ve been in these communities. I’ve been all over. You stayed home, and that’s OK.” Her Majesty: “I’ve been preparing for being President.” I’m calling that one a draw.
Birtherism! DRINK! The Donald points at Her Imperial Majesty’s consigliere Sid Blumenthal as the founder of Birtherism. Pivots back to his “close relationship with the African-American community.” Her Imperial Majesty answers with an Imperial snort, then claims The Donald was sued in 1973 for racial discrimination. Really? You have to go back to 1973? “He has a long history of engaging in racism.” This may play well; bullshit, but it may play well. Point: Draw.
On to security:
Her Imperial Majesty opens with an attack on The Donald’s “softness on cyber security.” Really, Your Highness? You, of all people, are going there? The Donald points out his endorsement by over 200 general/flag officers and ICE (their first political endorsement.) Nails her on the corruption of DNC that was revealed by an email hack. Completely misses the chance to nail her on emails. I think The Donald took this one, but only narrowly, with a minus for missing a big chance. Maybe the big chance of the night.
ISIS: Her Imperial Majesty: “We’ll take out ISIS.” The Donald: “You created a vacuum that allowed the rise of ISIS.” Her Majesty: “I hope the fact-checkers are on the ball.” Translation: “Help!”
The Donald: “We have to knock the hell out of ISIS.” No specifics, but his point that you don’t give out military plans in advance is well taken. Her Imperial Majesty’s body language is telling – a condescending smirk and an eye-roll. Point: The Donald. Her Majesty’s smirk will be replayed. But The Donald is still spending too much time haranguing the moderator on how he was against the Iraq War.
Her Majesty defends the Obama Iran nuclear deal. The Donald responds: “We defend Japan. We defend Germany. We defend Saudi Arabia. They aren’t paying what they are supposed to be paying us.” It’s a cogent point; we’re getting too broke to defend the world. Trump hits again on the 20 trillion in debt; it’s a point he needs to hit harder.
The Donald calls the Iran deal “one of the great giveaways of all time.” Hits the Obama Administration on the payouts made mysteriously at the same time Iran released hostages. Her Imperial Majesty replies: “Oh, we’re successful at inspecting Iranian facilities.” Really? When did that happen? Point: To The Donald on substance, to Her Imperial Majesty on delivery.
Final question to both: “Are you willing to accept the final outcome as the will of the voters.” That’s a weak close; of course will answer with a variation of “yes.” Her Majesty says yes and takes a gratuitous shot at The Donald. The Donald ignores the question and makes his “Make America Great Again” point, but says “if she wins, I will absolutely support her.”
Summary: We saw some of The Donald from the primary debates: Combative but undisciplined, talking off the cuff on almost every point. Her Imperial Majesty was mostly focused but showed little energy and no passion. She was, however, better prepared; she had at least some kind of response to every point The Donald made. She was obviously delivering rehearsed comments at almost every turn, which did make her at times seem stiff.
I’m calling this a draw. When you compare performance against expectations, The Donald may well come out ahead on points; his combativeness sells well with the folks who were already supporting him. I don’t see this debate changing the game much. It’s still a tight race, and the momentum – slightly – is with The Donald.