It was as predictable as it was tragic: on Drudge shortly after the debate, his debate poll showed that over 90% of Matt’s readers—almost as high a percentage as that of black Americans who believe Barack Obama has been a great President—believed that Donald Trump won. At CNN, the percentages weren’t as lopsided, but still reversed: about 70% believed Hillary won. Confirmation bias rules supreme in such settings, and bias makes us stupid. Fortunately, as my analysis of these two awful candidates should have proven by now, I have no biases in this race. I would like to see both candidates lose,and badly. Indeed, as both are the political equivalents of virulent cancers on the culture and potentially the office they seek, I would like to learn that both have mysteriously vanished without a trace, like Judge Crater, Ambrose Bierce, Rick Moranis, or Gilbert O’Sullivan
Observations on last night’s debate:
1. The conservative websites are whining about Lester Holt serving as the “third debater” last night. In a word, baloney. Holt did all right, not great, in an impossible role, primarily by letting the combatants talk; in fact, a heavier moderator hand would have been preferable. The birther question to Trump and the “Presidential look” questions were undoubtedly moderator shots at Trump, but shots like that are opportunities too. Trump didn’t handle either well. Character is the issue with Trump, not policy, and those were character questions that he should have been prepared for. Maybe he was; maybe those pathetic answers were Trumps’ idea of good ones. Yes, Holt pressed Trump on the ultimately irrelevant issue of whether he was or was not in favor of the Iraq invasion and when, but that was also an appropriate approach for a moderator, and it gave Trump a chance to clarify his position, if one can ever use “clarify” and “Trump” in the same sentence.
As an aside, I wonder if “Sean Hannity can back me up” is the lamest defense ever uttered in a Presidential debate. It may be.
2. Trump was Trump, that’s all, and perhaps a slightly less offensive and more substantive version than usual. Hillary was smug, with a frozen smile and an expression that said, “Boy, is this guy an idiot!” all debate long. That’s a big mistake, for virtually nobody likes smug. Trump’s expression toward Hillary was usually one of a wary and respectful foe. He was listening, she was sneering. Her repeated call for “fact-checking” was weak, and appeared to be appeals for assistance.
3. The statement that most screamed out for a fact-check was Hillary’s statement that the 2008 crash was caused by “trickle-down” economic theory:
“We had the worst financial crisis, the Great Recession, the worst since the 1930s. That was in large part because of tax policies that slashed taxes on the wealthy, failed to invest in the middle class, took their eyes off of Wall Street, and created a perfect storm.”
The collapse was, in fact, in largest part because Democrats Ted Kennedy, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and others pushed to relax regulations to force banks into giving sub-prime mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them, and regulators were asleep at the switch when Wall Street hucksters packaged the bad loans into unstable “products” that poisoned the economy. No serious analyst has blamed the collapse on tax rates, and the vilified “Bush tax cuts” are still in place, eight years into Obama’s administration, surviving a period where Democrats controlled Congress and the White House. Her statement is either a lie or ignorant nonsense. Trump was not quick enough or prepared enough to challenge it. That’s his failure.
4. Trump’s insistence that the New York stop-and-frisk law was not declared unconstitutional was just plain wrong. Fact-checkers will say he was “lying”: no, he’s a dolt.
5. Trump didn’t propose or explain very much that was specific enough to criticize. Again, that’s his modus operandi. How he gets away with it is a mystery, but he does, which understandably drives the news media and his critics crazy. It’s going to be great, I’ll fix it, I’ll make them pay, I’ll cut a deal, blah blah ibbity poo. That’s good enough for his ignorant and angry fans. What he did best last night was describe what’s gone wrong and going wrong under Obama, despite official Democratic denial: the debt, the infrastructure, the slow recovery, the Middle East, the Iran deal, ISIS. Hillary had no valid answers or defenses for any of those, and she ignored the debt repeatedly, as well she might, for there is no excusing it, and Democrats are culpable.
6. Holt’s worst question of the night, and one of the stupidest questions ever asked in any debate, ever: “How are you going to bring back the industries that have left this country for cheaper labor overseas? How, specifically, are you going to tell American manufacturers that you have to come back?”
Does he think this is like asking a spouse who’s moved out to come back? What does Holt think? If a country has moved operations out of the country, it’s not going to move back because a President says “you have to come back.” That’s moderator incompetence. I don’t believe that a smart and informed moderator asks a question like that.
7. I also don’t think an honest or competent Presidential candidate answers a question about “creating prosperity” with this, as Hillary did in her very first statement:
“The central question in this election is really what kind of country we want to be and what kind of future we’ll build together. Today is my granddaughter’s second birthday, so I think about this a lot. First, we have to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top. That means we need new jobs, good jobs, with rising incomes.
I want us to invest in you. I want us to invest in your future. That means jobs in infrastructure, in advanced manufacturing, innovation and technology, clean, renewable energy, and small business, because most of the new jobs will come from small business. We also have to make the economy fairer. That starts with raising the national minimum wage and also guarantee, finally, equal pay for women’s work.
I also want to see more companies do profit-sharing. If you help create the profits, you should be able to share in them, not just the executives at the top.
And I want us to do more to support people who are struggling to balance family and work. I’ve heard from so many of you about the difficult choices you face and the stresses that you’re under. So let’s have paid family leave, earned sick days. Let’s be sure we have affordable child care and debt-free college.
How are we going to do it? We’re going to do it by having the wealthy pay their fair share and close the corporate loopholes.”
This is absolute boilerplate blather, and insultingly so. “How are you going to create more and better paying jobs?” “We’ll do it by creating more and better paying jobs!” The vague or hackneyed talking points Clinton mentioned—what are the “corporate loopholes”?— have nothing to do with creating prosperity or expanding the economy. Raising the minimum wage to levels Democrats have advocated are a good bet to lose jobs and hurt small businesses. More employee benefits like family leave similarly involve trade-offs that don’t lead to “prosperity.” The equal pay trope is a long-standing lie that has been debunked over and over again, but Democrats keep throwing it out and the facts be damned. However, even accepting the misrepresentations about the gender pay-gap, eliminating it has little to do with building the economy, which is what is generally meant by prosperity.
Later on in the debate, Hillary claimed that her “plan” won’t “add a penny” to the debt despite having the Treasury pay for everyone’s college degree (what else does “debt-free college” mean?) so even the most addled student can get the benefit of safe-spaces, trigger warnings, unenforced drug laws, leftist indoctrination, subsidized football and basketball, apartheid, speech codes, presumed guilt for rape accusations and no education in Western civilization or U.S. history whatsoever, free of charge. What a deal!
Stipulated: everything Trump says is blather, and less articulate, rambling blather.
8. Trump missed so many opportunities to zing Clinton that it became frustrating to watch all the fat pitches sailing over the plate without him even offering a swing. For example, it is laughable, after what we have learned about Hillary’s technical competence (that is, she has none) to hear her attempt to talk authoritatively about how to improve cyber-security. Under her, the State Department was unconscionably lax and incompetent in this regard, and either she is more ignorant of technology than the the average 12-year-old, or she should have been indicted. Trump, however, as usual, was winging it, faking it, and flying by the seat of his pants. That’s how he will be President too, of course. Got it.
9. What was Trump’s most damning utterance? There were lots of candidates. I’d rank them..
His absurd and obviously dishonest defense of not releasing his taxes
His offer to release them if Hillary releases “her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted.” Why didn’t he have some real fun, and pledge to release his returns if Hillary promised to sing a karaoke version of “Runaround Sue”?
His description of his father’s multi-million dollar business loan as “a small loan.”
His evasive non-explanation of his five year birther attack on President Obama.
His cynical and ugly “That’s called business, by the way,” retort, essentially confirming that, as Clinton said, he had hoped the real estate market would collapse so he could profit.
10. The one time Trump pointedly agreed with Clinton was when he said that the United States should violate the Fifth Amendment and due process by taking away the Second Amendment rights of citizens who are placed on a no-fly list. He’s an ignorant, badly educated non-lawyer, so he has more of an excuse for this totalitarian position than Clinton does, but he was the only one who mentioned it last night.
We should not elect Presidents who do not understand the Bill of Rights.
11. But we shouldn’t elect either of these two, and we have no other viable options. The debate did nothing to change that assessment, which has been an unavoidable one for a long, long time.
Who won? The question is meaningless in this context. My guess is that Trump’s poll numbers will rise, just as they did after all the Republican debates that he “lost.”Fool me once, shame on you (I’ll always remember how Charles Krauthammer on Fox pronounced Trump’s first GOP candidates debate performance an utter disaster that exposed him as unfit and unqualified, as I nodded in agreement); fool me 2,547 times, shame on me.)
The nation still loses either way.
Here’s a transcript.