The First Presidential Debate… Can we be honest about this?
The first Presidential Debate was watched by 80 million people… many of whom could vote in November.
I watched every moment of the debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and then I watched and read the coverage of the debate, from left to right, in the days that followed, and I also watched the reactions to the debate on social media. In other words, I’ve paid attention.
And I can now say, without hesitation, that it’s the nuttiest political race I’ve ever seen by such a margin that it often leaves me speechless. Here are my 10 points on the debate and what has followed… it’s time to be honest.
- Donald Trump is not used to debating anything with anyone, let alone someone like Hillary Clinton on national television during a Presidential Debate… he underestimated the situation and he didn’t practice nearly enough. For those two reasons he deserved what he got.
- Hillary practiced plenty and managed not to alienate too many people, but it’s hard to say how well she did because she was up against Donald Trump. (See above.) If she gained any supporters from the undecided middle, it could only be the result of viewers deciding not to vote for him.
- There was a lot of fuss about who won the debate, as if that sort of determination actually matters in some way, and if you had to pick a winner, it was Hillary. For sure. No question about it, the latest polls show Hillary winning by a 2:1 margin. Trump supporters leapt into action claiming victory, but I’m really not sure why. Better to talk about what she didn’t do or hasn’t done or how he’s not a politician and what he’ll learn for next time… anything but wasting time claiming victory when such a claim is certain to be short lived, wouldn’t you think?
- What followed the debate was nothing short of astonishing. It started when Hillary brought up the beauty-queen-that-Donald-called-Miss-Piggy-because-she-had-gained-weight… and there’s more to that story, but who cares? No one would have except that Donald Trump decided to justify his comments about her weight in a Twitter campaign that started one night, went on until dawn… and then continued the next day and the day after that. That’s all I know… and all I want to know about that.
- In the words of GOP strategist Karl Rove… “… we are at a stage in the campaign where a candidate’s most valuable asset is time. When the debate ended at Hofstra, both candidates had 42 days until voting ended. Trump devoted five of them to a message that was off-putting, unimportant, and unflattering.” And that’s Karl Rove, people. A man who has never seen a tax cut he didn’t love.
- Trump’s tax problems aren’t necessarily a game changer unless Trump allows them to be, or if they get significantly worse, of course. Just like Hillary’s emails haven’t moved the needle in quite some time now. All the voters persuaded to vote against Hillary because of her email debacle are already in Trump’s camp. All the voters who don’t care about anything but Trump for President no matter what are already solid Trump supporters. Now the challenge is to gain support from those in the middle. Trump should remember that because he didn’t last time out.
- Now the punditry is saying that Donald Trump is planning to come out swinging, raising the topic of President Bill Clinton’s infidelity and how Hillary referred to various women as bimbos, I believe was the term used. I’ve also read that his advisors are all trying to stop him from taking this disastrous course, so we’ll just have to wait and see what he does… but rest assured it’s a terrible idea that can only make him look bad and her better.
- A message to Trump supporters… Hillary may be everything you think she is, but regardless, she’s still smart, prepared, and compared to Trump, experienced. You don’t have to like her, but there’s no denying that she’s an accomplished politician, and that’s not nothing. Yale Law, Law Professor, First Lady of Arkansas and the United States two times each… U.S. Senator, NY… Secretary of State. You don’t have to like her or trust her, but stop thinking that anyone can have her resume without having mad skills and deep bench knowledge of many subjects.
- Trump has positioned himself as the guy who knows how to get things done. He’s the larger than life billionaire who is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work fixing all the things the Washington D.C. politicos have broken over the last 30 years. That message was fine for the primaries… it’s not enough to win a national election for president. Trump knows what makes business in America tick, and that’s what he better start talking about… jobs, prosperity, more jobs, more prosperity. If Donald comes out swinging like the Tasmanian Devil at the beginning of the next debate, spewing statements about Bill’s indiscretions… you’ll know he’s headed for big trouble.
- Hillary, on the other hand, is in danger of putting many voters to sleep. I’m not saying that what she says is necessarily so terrible, but it’s just not interesting… it’s no different than any other Democratic candidate I can remember. Her supporters say that she’ll be a better president than she is a campaigner, but those in the middle and even some Democrats may sleep through Election Day. The degree to which she fails to excite the electorate will dictate what Democratic turn-out looks like this election year and too few in some states could be problematic.
My two cents on this political circus…
This has been and continues to be the goofiest political season I’ve ever experienced. There’s more media coverage than ever before because today it’s television plus, plus, plus. We’ve got the Internet, obviously, and don’t forget all those newspapers that were supposed to be dinosaurs a few years ago.
And with all of those media outlets filling time, you’d think the coverage would get better, but no. It’s become shamefully bad. Much of the time, it’s inaccurate in some meaningful way. And as to being fair and balanced… well, that joke is now told about more than just Fox News.
News departments are profit driven today, but they never used to be. When Walter Cronkite was sitting behind the desk at CBS, the news wasn’t expected to turn a profit, it was something the network did to impress and attract the audience. Now we have more editorial than news, and even what passes as real news, often isn’t.
Allowing news to blur with partisan editorial has polarized us… we’re a population divided by us and them. We’ve become sports fans… we wear our colors and pledge allegiance to one party forever more.
The problem is that being a fan of a team isn’t supposed to be the result of a cognitive process, as is choosing to support a candidate for public office. I’m originally from Pittsburgh, so I’m a Steeler fan. I didn’t think my way into being a Steeler fan, I just always was a Steeler fan.
That’s what too many Republicans and Democrats have become, and never the two shall meet. People didn’t used to automatically adopt every position one party takes without question. Neither are we supposed to believe what one party says without listening to the other. To allow any of that is to be robbed of your ability to think for yourself.
The problem is that I think we get the candidates we deserve. If we turn into a raving bunch of fans ready to root for whomever wears red or blue, if that’s all the thinking that goes into our political support for a candidate, then that’s the sort of political races and candidates we’re going to get. If that’s all we ask for, that’s all we’ll receive.
We used to be better…
During the late 1960s and 1970s, we were politically divided too. We all got the same news every night on television and every morning in our newspapers, however, and then we divided up along the lines of our respective interpretations. And even though we didn’t agree on much back then, we also weren’t ready to kill someone because of seeing a Hillary bumper sticker on someone’s car.
Today’s Trump supporters are on fire. They scare Hillary supporters half to death. That’s not good for either side. Haven’t we learned that polarization isn’t productive? Aren’t we tired about hearing why one side or the other isn’t the right choice, at the expense of hearing anything about why either should be chosen?
Haven’t we yet learned that one side can’t do much without the other?
I want some specifics, don’t you? I don’t care who called who a bimbo. It’s only a few weeks until Election Day and we’re still talking about irrelevant nonsense, split down the middle, locked in a deepening deadlocked partisan divide.
As of today, Hillary wins the election hands down. The next debate has to show Donald in a new and much better light if he is to regain any momentum. He not only needs to practice, he needs to show the country that last time was just his first time out… nothing more. If he does that, then maybe he still makes a respectable showing, even if he still doesn’t win.
If he doesn’t… if he gives us anything close to a repeat performance of the first debate, then it’s over… he’s done… and I’m sorry to say it, but he will have done it to himself.