The Donald went into last night’s debate with Her Imperial Majesty Hillary I badly damaged. One would be inclined to say he is, in fact, finished.
But he still has a chance to pull this out. It’s a long, long shot; after watching the legacy media howls of outrage and the mass GOP defections over the release of a tape of Trump talking about women in a way that is frankly disgusting, I’m guessing the GOP would stand a better chance of winning if The Donald would drop out and let Mike Pence assume the nomination.
Yesterday The Daily Caller‘s Tucker Carlson said on Fox News that he wonders if the howls of outrage from the legacy media may get so egregious that there may be a backlash effect; I think he’s wrong. The die-hard Trump supporters may support him more vociferously now, but he’s going to lose a lot of votes over this. My stance remains unchanged; he’s a flawed candidate, but still preferable to the deeply and fundamentally corrupt Dowager Empress.
But unless he has a few stellar weeks coming up, he’s done. That’s what he was facing going into last night’s event, humorously dubbed by fellow Colorado blogger Stephen Green as the “Sex, Lies and Wikileaks Debate.“
So, on to my debate notes:
The Donald’s audience is seated in the front row. None of them look happy. Ivanka in particular – a well-regarded, intelligent young woman by all accounts – looked distinctly uncomfortable. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall during Trump HQ discussions immediately prior to the debate. Slick Willy and daughter Chelsea are likewise in the front row; if I were ol’ Slick, I’d be a little nervous about where the evening’s discussion was headed.
First question: A placid question about “bringing the country together.” Her Majesty responds with platitudes; that’s really the only way to answer a question like that, and Her Royal Highness is practiced at talking a lot without saying anything. The Donald agrees in substance but points up the difference in his outsider status. Slams the failures of Obamacare and the Iran deal, presumably pointing up his status as a negotiator. His demeanor is uncharacteristically subdued. No point won on either side.
Anderson Cooper hits Trump on the sex-audio tape leak on the second question. Not unexpected. He repeats his apology, then deflects by talking about ISIS and other threats around the world in an attempt to place the comments in some kind of perspective. The Donald is dull and rambling; Cooper is trying to pin him down. Trump made a good attempt to deflect, but the damage is probably done.
It looks like Her Imperial Majesty is going to go for the throat – “I never before questioned a Republican candidate’s fitness for office.” Well, of course she has – but she has a good line of attack here, and she’s going to stick to it. It will be interesting to see if she can bait Trump into a meltdown. Point: The Dowager Empress.
Trump responds: “It’s just words. I heard them before, when Hillary was running for Senate…” Again, a counter-argument and a deflection all in one. He’s trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Aaaand The Donald, replying to another question on the tape, pivots to slam Bill Clinton’s record with women, and Hillary’s attacks on those women to protect Bill. He points out that the Clintons talk about his words, not their own deeds. A fair point. Her Imperial Majesty replies with a comment about “her good friend” Michelle Obama (it’s generally accepted in the Imperial City that there is no love lost between the Obamas and the Clintons) saying “when they go low, you go high.” Then she proceeds to go low. The Donald slams her back, correctly pointing out that it was her 2008 campaign that started the Birther nonsense, and brings up the Wikileaks releases and the DNC email leaks. He hits her again on 33,000 emails deleted after a subpoena. Interesting; The Donald’s demeanor is much calmer and more focused tonight.
Oooh! Hillary replies with “everything he just said was false,” and the audience booed! And when Trump snaps back at her, there was cheering. Interesting. Point: The Donald.
Her Highness: “I take classified materials very seriously.” Now I’m wiping Harpoon IPA off my laptop screen. Trump replies by slamming Her Highness on deleting emails. “You should be in jail!”
The Donald is starting to show signs of irritation; he’s interrupting Her Majesty. Anderson Cooper is trying to get him to stop. Trump challenges Cooper directly about not bringing up the emails. This will play well to his committed base; it’s unclear how it will play to undecided voters.
Question on Obamacare: Hillary will solve Obamacare’s problems by applying more of the same, on the principle of “when socialism fails, socialism harder!” It’s just a matter of having the right Top Men in charge, you see. The Donald, in reply, describes skyrocketing costs – “their method of fixing it is to go ask Congress for more money, when we’re $20 trillion in debt already.” He’s right. Advocates opening markets across state lines, increasing competition, accuses Her Imperial Majesty of pushing towards single-payer, mentioning that Canada’s single-payer system has Canadians coming south of the border for immediate care needs.
Cooper hits Her Highness on Slick’s comments on Obamacare being “crazy.” She deflects. by basically saying “yes, we did a crappy job the first time.” Trump misses the best reply: “So if you did a crappy job the first time, why should we trust you to do better the second time around?” Point: Tie. Nobody won a clear advantage on this question.
A Muslim woman asks both candidates how they would deal with Islamophobia. The Donald replies with statement on self-policing by the Muslim community and the need for more immigration screening. It’s unclear how this self-policing will happen, but he has a point. Her Imperial Majesty answers in platitudes, accuses The Donald of dealing in “dangerous speech.” Point: Narrowly to The Donald. His response was reasoned but hit at one of his better campaign points.
Question to The Donald on his former statements on a complete ban on immigration on immigration from Muslim countries. But as he’s answering, moderator Martha Raddatz is hectoring him – there’s very little pretense of impartiality. Trump totes ‘extreme vetting’ for Muslim immigrants. Again, this is one of The Donald’s stronger points. Her Imperial Majesty wants an increase of immigrants on the current system, which won’t sell well. She excuses it by saying “we need to do our part.” The Donald missed a great line of response: “Why aren’t the other Muslim countries doing their part? The Saudis, the Jordanians, the Qataris, the Turks, have taken zero refugees.” Disappointing that The Donald left that one laying on the table. Another wash.
Finally a question on the Wikileaks releases: “Is it OK for a politician to be two-faced?” Her Imperial Majesty deflects by talking about a movie about Abraham Lincoln? What the f…? She deflects by talking about how the big bad Russians are trying to influence the election. By revealing what you actually said, Your Majesty? Her comments on the Russian attempts to influence our election border on paranoia. Trump replies by pointing out that she’s blaming her lies on Abraham Lincoln: “Honest Abe never lied. That’s the big difference between Lincoln and you (pointing at Her Imperial Majesty.)” Zing. Point: The Donald.
New question on taxation: “How will you ensure that the 1% pay their fair share?” Drink! The Donald hits Her Majesty on her lack of attempts to change the tax code when she was a Senator, accusing her of favoring her wealthy donors – there’s probably something to that, but he makes the point badly. His message is about growth, but he takes forever to use the word. A good message poorly delivered with his rambling delivery. Her Imperial Majesty responds by accusing The Donald of “not paying taxes in over twenty years,” then hits the usual proggie “tax cuts for the rich” talking points. She’s more tightly focused and on message, though; she’s wrong on substance but wins on delivery. Point: Her Imperial Majesty.
“Invest” = “Spend.”
Trump is getting bogged down in meaningless details about his taxes before hitting Her Majesty on “all talk, no action.” He’s rambling.
New question on Syria. This is a tough one for Her Royal Highness to defend, but she handles it capably; she’s the opposite of The Donald, in that she has a bad message very capably presented. The Donald replies that Her Majesty was in contact with the Obama Administration during the Syrian meltdown. “She talks tough about Russia, but they’re ahead in nuclear weapons development. They’re new, we’re old and tired. She talks tough, but she doesn’t even know who the (Syrian) rebels are.” Points out that everywhere we go to unseat a regime, the people that take over are worse. True enough. Slams her on favoring the Iran nuke deal. Point: The Donald, but only narrowly; the best arrow in his quiver would be the giveaway of 20% of American uranium production to Russia, but again The Donald left that one laying on the table. Another point Trump left on the table: Her Royal Highness is essentially calling for an air war with Russia over Syria. What could possibly go wrong?
Question on how each candidate would be a leader for all Americans. Trump: “I will bring economics to all the people.” Huh? Goes on to make some points about trade and job growth – essentially, the way to fix poverty is with job growth and industry. True enough. The Donald is finally starting to hit his stride now, in the last half-hour of the debate. Her Imperial Majesty: Platitudes. “I want every American to feel he or she has a place…” Because she’s all about the feelz. Brings up a story about an adopted child from Ethiopia: “Will he deport me if he’s elected?” I’m calling bullshit. Point: Narrowly to the Donald, but again he’s presenting a good message with poor delivery.
The Donald slams Her Majesty on the Benghazi debacle. It’s nice to see one good zing he didn’t leave on the table. Touts his ability with social media. Her Majesty replies that Trump doesn’t have the disposition to be President. His reply: “I’m shocked to hear that.” Laughter.
Her Highness on economics: “BOOOOOOOOSH!” No mention of anemic 1-3% growth over the last eight years.
Wrapping up: The Donald describes the amount of his own money into his campaign; slams Her Imperial Majesty on her own wealth and how much money she made (through influence peddling) and asked why she didn’t contribute to her own campaign.
A question on energy. The Donald hits the Obama Administration on energy policy, particularly on grinding regulations shutting down entire sectors – like coal mining. This is Trump on solid ground – he talks about steel companies, energy production, all issues he’s more familiar with – but again, his delivery is rambling. Her Imperial Majesty, on the other hand, is bopping mechanically from programmed talking point to programmed talking point.
Her Majesty would have a “trade prosecutor?” What? To prosecute under what statute? Because, you know, fuck due process! Points about “clean, renewable energy” and “climate change” – Drink!
She revitalized coal country? Seriously? She, amazingly, delivered that line with a straight face.
Final question: “Have either of you found anything you respect in one another?” Her Majesty: She respects his children, by implication respecting him as a father, although she doesn’t come out and say that. The Donald: “I will say this about Hillary – she doesn’t quite, she doesn’t give up, and I respect that.” A nice platitudinous answer to a platitudinous question. On that note, it ends. One more debate on Oct. 19th.
Summary: The debate was a shit-show, as expected. The Donald needed an absolute blast-off to recover from a poor first debate and a catastrophically bad couple of weeks since; he didn’t get it. He may have made a narrow win, but he needed more than that. The difference in the two was stark: The Donald presents a good message poorly presented, while Her Imperial Majesty presents a bad message with a more polished delivery.
Watch the polls over the next week or two. I’ll be surprised if we don’t see Her Imperial Majesty start to pull ahead. I’d love to be wrong – but I suspect I’m right.
Get ready for the most deeply and fundamentally corrupt President in American history.