We’re all getting tired of this freak show of an election, I think; so while taking notes last night, I decided that I would forgo my usual images of emoting ursines in accompanying last night’s notes. (I identify with bears; like them, I enjoy scratching my back on trees, roaring, eating and I sleep a lot in the winter) Instead, I placed some strategically-placed Rule Five totty in the midst of my debate notes.
Going into the debate: The Donald needed a miracle to overcome Her Imperial Majesty’s growing lead in the polls. The conversation on the various news networks covering the debate focused on that and how he could achieve such a miracle. So did he? My notes on the debate follow.
The Donald started things off with a live Facebook video feed. I long ago eschewed Facebook, as it has the worst noise-to-signal ratio on the internet except for YouTube comments, and yet – and yet – events like this caused me to register a phony Facebook account to monitor them. So I watched. What I saw was a couple of Trump surrogates complaining about media bias; a valid point, but not one that’s going to sway many undecided voters. A few guests provided commentary, most notably Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and General Michael Flynn. Ivanka appeared in a recorded message seeking donations. All in all, fairly pedestrian pre-debate chatter.
Chris Wallace sets the stage – he decided the question, neither candidate nor their campaigns know what will be asked. And, no handshake between the candidates. I think they have come to really detest each other.
First up: The Supreme Court and how they should interpret the Constitution. Her Imperial Majesty talks in platitudes: The Court should “Corporations! The wealthy! Stand up on behalf of (enter your favorite special-interest group here.) No mention of the Constitution except as regards to confirming Her Majesty’s picks. Drink! The Donald: “Justice Ginsburg said something mean about me!” Then: The Court should uphold the 2nd Amendment and all the other Amendments – special mention to the 2nd, as it is “under attack.” No argument there. The Donald is calm, reasoned, talks in a measured tone about his list of judges, how they will interpret the Constitution as it was written; mentions the Founder’s intent. Good opening.
On gun control, Her Majesty: “I support the Second Amendment.” Spit-take. She goes on about loopholes that don’t exist. She thinks it’s OK to have a gun in your home for defense, as long as it’s secured so you can’t use it. The Donald on the 2nd Amendment: “D.C. v. Heller was correct, a well-crafted decision, and Hillary was extremely upset about it.” Her Highness goes on again about toddlers injuring themselves with guns, and repeats “…there is no doubt that I support the Second Amendment.” Spit-take. Again. More talk about loopholes that don’t exist and “common-sense” measures that aren’t.
Trump counters with Chicago. Good call. “I’m proud to have the endorsement of the NRA.” Point to The Donald.
On to abortion. A bit surprised to see this as a debate topic, as it hasn’t been a big issue in the campaign. Wallace asked him, “do you want to see Roe v. Wade overturned?” He says yes, because he will put pro-life judges on the Court – and if it is, the issue will go back to the States. Her Imperial Majesty: “I strongly support Roe v. Wade.” Talks about states putting restrictions on women’s reproductive rights, which usually means states trying to keep taxpayers from subsidizing those treatments. Still, this is (in my opinion) a losing issue for the GOP, especially with the sought-after Millennial vote. I’ve got to give Her Highness this point.
Moving on to immigration. Wallace: “Secretary Clinton, you have offered no plan to secure the southern border.” Trump goes first; hammers the Dowager Empress on amnesty, hammers her on crime committed by illegal immigrants, hammers on the drug trade: “We have no country if we have no border.” Touts his ICE endorsement, correctly mentioning that ICE has never before endorsed a candidate. Also, The Donald did a neat lateral arabesque to attack the Obama/Clinton foreign policy failures. Nicely done.
Her Imperial Majesty again brings up the girl she “…just met” in Las Vegas who is afraid her parents will be deported. I’m calling bullshit; I’m guessing that girl doesn’t exist. Her Majesty’s penchant for lying is well-documented. But she hits him on separating families, a point that has some legs. “I’m strongly for border security.” Spit-take. She goes on to repeat some platitudes.
The Donald circles around to hit Her Majesty on NAFTA (“the worst deal of any kind ever made”) and her previous support for a border wall as recently as 2008.
Great comment from fellow Colorado blogger Stephen Green, who is live-blogging the debate: “Clinton’s at her best telling stories about actual people, which is ironic given that she hates almost every actual person.“
The Donald makes clear the difference between legal and illegal immigration, which point he has not clearly made in the past.
Oooh! Wallace hits her on a mega-buck speech where she advocated for open borders. Trump: “Thank you.” Her Majesty complains that Wallace is quoting Wikileaks, blames the Russians for hacking American emails. Note: That doesn’t mean that the material in Wikileaks isn’t true. The Donald: “That was a great pivot off the fact that she wants open borders.” Zing. “I don’t know Putin. If we got along well, that would be good. If the United States and Russia got along well and went after ISIS, that would be good.” Agree. “Putin has no respect for the President, no respect for her (Clinton.)” The Dowager Empress repeats her complaint about the Russians.
The Donald: “She doesn’t like Putin because Putin has outsmarted her every step of the way… She has been proven to be a liar.” Her Majesty: “The United States has kept the peace through our alliances.” Where? Iraq? Syria? Libya? Yemen? Point narrowly to The Donald here; he hammered Her Highness on some good points, although she got some good slams in too.
On to the economy. Her Imperial Majesty goes on about infrastructure, clean energy, investing, raising the minimum wage… In other words, spend and regulate. “We’re going to have the wealthy pay their fair share.” Drink! The Donald had a tight little smile during that last, as though she was playing into his hands. He replies: “Her tax plan is a disaster.” Well, yeah. “Why aren’t other nations paying their share in defense?” But then he inexplicably invokes NATO – where some NATO members have long sheltered under the U.S. defense umbrella. Touts his plans on free trade, on commerce, but offers no specifics. Cut business taxes – a good plan, since our ridiculous tax policy is driving businesses overseas. But he was a little unsettled on that point.
Her Imperial Majesty: “He’s advocating for tax cuts! OMGWTFBBQ!!!!1111!!!” Well, yes. That’s one of the big reasons he has the support he has. Her Majesty: “Investments! Investments!” Translation: “Spend! Spend!” Wallace hits her on the similarity on her plan to President Obama’s 2008 stimulus, which was followed by years of 1-2% growth. Her Majesty’s reply: “Buuuuusssh! President Obama saved the economy! We need to spend more!” Claims her plan won’t add a penny to the Imperial debt, which is laugh-out-loud absurd. Wallace to Trump: “Even some conservative analysts say your plan won’t achieve what you claim.” The Donald: “India is growing at 8%. China is growing at 7%. We are growing at 1%. We have an anemic jobs report.” Zing. Repeats his usual points on trade and the loss of American manufacturing. These are his strongest points in this campaign, and he hit them well. Point to The Donald.
Her Majesty slams Trump for using Chinese steel in building. “You made it impossible for me to do otherwise.” Slams Her Majesty for being in the Imperial City for thirty years and achieving little or nothing. Her Majesty deflects by touting fluff work she did as First Lady? Really?
On to fitness to be President; Chris Wallace (who, by the way, has been tough but fair to both candidates” asks The Donald about his behavior with women. He deflects, blaming the Clinton campaign and invoking the Project Veritas tapes of Clinton campaign staffers provoking violence at Trump rallies. Good pivot.
Her Imperial Majesty says in effect, “All women should be believed when they allege sexual assault, unless they are accusing my husband.”
This is The Donald’s weakest point, and one of the biggest reasons he’s struggling in the polls right now is because a plurality, if not a majority, of American women don’t want to vote for him because of these allegations. He could have done a better job of deflecting, but honestly he doesn’t have a lot to work with. Point to Her Imperial Majesty in that round.
Her Imperial Majesty: “He applauds pulling, pushing and violence at his rallies.” The Donald: “Amazing that she talks about that, since her campaign caused the violence.” Zing.
FINALLY, a debate moderator hits Her Majesty on the Clinton Foundation, pointing out that contractors for rebuilding in Haiti were selected from Clinton Foundation donors. “I’m so proud of the Clinton Foundation!” Uh huh. Wallace: “You didn’t answer the question.” Trump: “It’s a criminal enterprise.” Observes that the Foundation took money from people who push gays off buildings and brutally suppress women – which is true. Points out that Haitians hate the Clintons, which jives with what I was told by a Haitian Uber driver a few weeks back. That’s a sample size of one, but still. Good pivots and counter-punches by The Donald.
Her Imperial Majesty: “He has not paid one penny in income taxes in years.” If he hasn’t released his tax returns, how does she know? The Donald: “The tax code makes that possible. If you don’t like it, you should have changed the law when you were a Senator. You won’t, because your donors take the same tax breaks.” Zing. Point to The Donald.
On the “rigged election,” The Donald claims “She shouldn’t have been allowed to run, because of her recklessness in handling secure documents.” Good point, but then he says, when asked if he will accept the results of the election, “I’ll tell you at the time.”
Huh? That won’t play well in Paducah. My jaw dropped a little at that one.
Her Imperial Majesty cites the FBI investigation, which is now tainted by outspoken FBI agents accusing Comey of being a creature of the Clintons; that dulled her counter-attack, but not completely. The Donald cited the Tarmac Summit, but it fell kind of flat. Point to Her Majesty on that one.
Next: “Will you put U.S. troops into the Middle East to fill the vacuum once ISIS is defeated?” Her Majesty: A flat no. She manages a quick pivot to “if you’re on the no-fly list, you can’t buy a gun,” without explaining which other Constitutionally defined rights she favors restricting with no due process. The Donald: “We had Mosul. When she (actually, President Obama) took everyone out, we lost Mosul.” A fair point; nature abhors a vacuum, and the Middle East really, really abhors a power vacuum. “The Obama Administration is only going after Mosul now to make her look good.” I suspect that’s not the only reason. Pivots to the Iran nuke deal, another strong point for The Donald; that was a catastrophically stupid deal, although the Obama Administration bears the blame for that.
Her Majesty tells people “Google Trump in Iraq.” Huh? “We got Bin Laden!” Funny, I didn’t know Her Imperial Majesty was ever a Navy SEAL. “We can take Mosul and then move into Syria and take Raqqa.” The old soldier in me wants to ask “What’s this ‘we’ shit, Kemosabe?”
Now they’re both talking over each other; for once, Her Imperial Majesty seems to have lost her temper. The Donald on the Wikileaks emails: “John Podesta said some horrible things about you, and boy was he right. He said you have terrible instincts. Bernie Sanders said you have bad judgement. I think they are right.” Her Imperial Majesty: “Ask Bernie Sanders who he’s supporting for President.” That one’s a wash.
On to Aleppo. The Donald: “We’re backing rebels (in Syria.) We don’t know who they are! We may end up with someone worse than Assad. If she did nothing, we might be in better shape!” Invokes the piss-poor screening of Syrian refugees – again, one of his strongest points.
Her Imperial Majesty on a no-fly zone over Syria; Wallace asks “If a Russian plane violates the no-fly zone, would you shoot it down?” Her Highness: “We’d have to make some deals.” Uh huh. Not really her strongest point. “We’re not going to let people in to our country who isn’t vetted.” The Donald: “We had a cease-fire three weeks ago. During the cease-fire, Russia took over vast swaths of land. We are so outplayed.” Admits she wasn’t part of that.
Final segment: The national debt. Wallace points out that debt is now 77% of GDP. “Why are both of you ignoring that?” Trump cites a message of growth, of jobs. Again one of his better points. “Political hacks are making deals – we don’t use our business people to make deals.” This will play well to his base; unsure how it will appeal to any undecided voters out there. But the pro-growth message is a good one.
Her Imperial Majesty: “I wonder when he thought America was great.” “I do not add a penny to the national debt.” That doesn’t even begin to pass the giggle test. She continues: “Invest, invest, wealthy and corporations pay their fair share, rebuild the middle class, spend spend spend spend.” Pure Keynesian malarkey.
Wallace points out that neither candidate addresses that entitlements are the biggest Imperial payout – by far. Final question: Would you make a deal to save Medicare and Social Security that would involve tax increases and service cuts?” Trump deflects by talking about growth (somewhat valid; robust growth would increase Imperial revenues) and Obamacare. Her Imperial Majesty: “I will raise taxes on the wealthy.” Again? “We (have to) have sufficient resources.” Meaning, more suction on everyone’s wealth from the Imperial City. “I won’t cut benefits.” But when she says in effect “Obamacare is good,” Trump interjects “…your husband disagrees.” Heh.
Stephen Green again: “Clinton says she’ll save entitlements by raising taxes on the wealthy, which is like putting an eyedropper of scotch in my glass and telling me it’s a drink.”
Both candidates are in denial on this issue.
One minute apiece for closing statements, which was not planned on. Her Imperial Majesty largely repeats her opening platitudes. The Donald repeats his boilerplate “Make America Great Again” and slams Her Imperial Majesty as a continuation of the Obama Administration. No handshake between the candidates.
Summary: The Donald probably turned in the best performance of all three debates. Her Imperial Majesty was well rehearsed, well prepared, but in this debate, for the first time, she was a) hit on the Clinton Foundation and 2) appeared to lose her cool. Both candidates hit their strongest positions and deflected their weakest points.
Still; Trump needed a slam-dunk in this debate, and he didn’t get it. I’m guessing that it won’t bump him much in the polls. His single biggest gaffe: Refusing to state that he will accept the results of the election. That’s going to hurt. He scored a bunch of points, but Her Imperial Majesty just needed to show up and not actually have a seizure on the stage; he needed a big win he didn’t get.
This was not a game-changer. Unless something dramatic and unexpected happens, Her Imperial Majesty will stay in the lead.