My Two Bits on the Presidential Debates of 2016
I had meant to give some thoughts on each debate separately… but, well, I’ve been lazy. So, now, after three debates and three morning after hangovers, I’ve scraped together some thoughts on the 2016’s Presidential Debates.
A pair of quick note: First, I’m not going to discuss the Vice Presidential Debate too much beyond this note. It seemed that the event was nothing more than two squabbling children both trying to talk over or one up the other. For Tim Kaine, I felt he was highly uncomfortable in the attack roll, a traditional duty of the vice presidential candidate. On Mike Pence, it was interesting to see not only articulate positions different from Trump, but offer his running mate little to no defense.
Second, these are my thoughts based from notes I took the night of each debate and are reflective of nothing more than my opinion.
- The first debate was moderated by Lester Holt of NBC News and things did not go well. It started before the debate when Donald Trump accused Holt of being biased and a “registered Democrat”… this wasn’t true, but Trump never offered an apology. At the debate Holt had little control over the candidates (Trump in particular) and made no real attempt to gain control. He allowed Trump to interrupt and talk over both him and Sec. Clinton. It was like Holt was afraid to challenge Trump in almost any way. In the end, it was much like Matt Lauer’s candidate forum, in that there was a heavy acquiesce to Trump, if not open bias for him.
- The second debate was better, it was a town hall style event with moderation from Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz ran a tighter ship and kept a more forceful grip on the candidates. This was despite Trump still interrupting, interjecting, talking over and complaining that he wasn’t getting enough time, only to be told he’d had plenty. It seemed to me that despite the complaints, Trump had been given more time to respond or follow up than Clinton had. This partially because he demanded it, and because even when the moderators wanted to move on he simply kept talking. That said, Cooper and Raddatz did a good job and asked good questions and tried to get the candidates to answer the audience questions. Though I would liked to have seen Cooper follow up more on the question of Trump’s statements to Access Hollywood.
- I had not held out much hope for debate three or confidence in its moderator, Chris Wallace from FOX News. But, it appears that I sold him sort. In fact he may have done the best job of controlling the candidates, granted they got off topic fairly far several times, but that was from Trump’s rather random answers and Wallace attempting to allow both candidates to answer charges made against them. So, I must say that I was impressed with Wallace by the end of the debate.
Things That Impressed Me
- Sec. Clinton’s answer on the emails from the first debate. She took responsibility and apologized in a frank and complete manner. First, I feel that, despite the opposition’s attempt to keep the story going, she put the final nail in its coffin. Second, it shows a massive difference between her and Trump in how they react to scandal.
- Clinton’s response to Trump’s statement about possibly not accepting the outcome of the election was also quite exceptional.
- Clinton’s calmness, my blood pressure was going through the roof watching, frankly her patience with his belligerence and staggering ignorance was nearly saintly.
- Donald Trump’s Gish Gallop, named for Young Earth Creationist Duane Gish, this is a rhetorical technique that involves throwing out a critical mass of assumptions and arguments in a rapid fire form, so much so that your opponent is buried in nonsense. This is not a good thing, but I can’t help but be impressed by Trump’s mastery of the technique.
- Trump’s malleability, prick his thin skin and flies off the handle, tweak his ego and he’s sputtering epithets, but, compliment his kids and he gushes. Again this isn’t a good thing, but just how easy Trump was manipulated was amazing to watch.
Things That Horrified Me
- Donald Trump’s behavior, he was rude, belligerent, bellicose and petulant. He repeatedly interrupted and talked over both moderators and Sec. Clinton… he interrupted Clinton 51 times in the first debate alone. Trump skulking around and invading her personal space in the second debate was creepy at best. And the “nasty woman” comment in the final debate was simply beyond the pale.
- Trump’s answer to Anderson Cooper on this creepy comments to Access Hollywood. He basically said that they were only words, Bill Clinton is worse and who cares because ISIS. Well, no, Trump was describing his own actions, that’s not just words. Further, what (or who) Bill Clinton did isn’t relevant, he’s not running and even if he was, how does that change any of Trump’s actions?
- Trump’s statements about the election being rigged and that he might not accept the outcome of the election and will “keep us in suspense”. This is simply unacceptable, US elections are not rigged and voter fraud is all but unheard of in this country. It’s also dangerous in that it attempts to soothe this electoral butt hurt by undermining the credibility of the elections and these (and all) elections are too important to sacrifice for Trump’s thin skin.
- When Trump said that the individuals on his Supreme Court short list were “great scholars” who would “interpret the Constitution the way the founders intended.”
- Trump’s consistent lies. I know politicians lie… a lot, and Hillary Clinton certainly has told some whoppers. BUT, the extent of Trump’s dishonesty is breathtaking. I could put any number of examples here, but there is one that certainly stood out, both because he said it in all three debates and because it was so blatantly wrong as to be funny. Trump said he had been endorsed by ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency of the US Federal Government. Now, ICE is a government agency and doesn’t endorse anyone, but that did not stop Trump from saying it each debate. He was endorsed by an organization that represents Border Patrol Agents, but not ICE.
- The “because I’m smart” comment about him not paying Federal income Tax was beyond asinine and made for Democratic attack ads.
- When Clinton respond to an attack in which Trump had blamed her for things that she had nothing to do with, she said something like: “So now that’s my fault too…”. Trump answered “why not?” Because it’s not fucking true you waste of sperm, that why!
Other Things I noticed
- Donald Trump seems not to have a strong understanding of foreign policy matters. This was on display with this praising of Vladimir Putin and his failure to see Russian aggression as a threat. Same with lack of knowledge about NATO and its purpose.
- He further seems to lack much understanding in the workings of the US Government as he seems to think that one US Senator has the power to single-handedly change American law.
- Nor does he have strong understanding of the US Constitution as his answers on New York’s stop and frisk policy and the Supreme Court’s D.C. v Heller ruling showed.
- Talking the country down. Trump spends an excessive amount of time talking about the problems he sees in the country, that’s fine, but that he discusses those problems as America being, “terrible”, or “sad”, or “pathetic” isn’t fine. So there is the descent of the Republican Party in my lifetime, from Ronald Reagan’s shining city on a hill to Donald Trump’s gold leaf toilet bowl.
- I feel that the change in tenor by the Clinton camp has been at least partially, in error. At the convention, the Democrats sounded a much more hopeful, pro American tone, this was in contrast to the RNC Convention which was very dower. At the time, I felt that message had resonated well. Now though, the Democrats are much more in attack mode, and I think the hope has been left out of the talking points. I find that disappointing.
Well, that much is pretty obvious… Hillary Clinton, three for three. Though I would add one caveat. When the first debate ended, I was concerned… Clinton had seemed to fade into the background and the focus shifted more to Donald Trump. I had feared that this might make her look weak or, worse, irrelevant. But, the spotlight wasn’t kind to Trump and his words painted a picture of a man that parades his belligerence and ignorance for the world to see. Frankly, his campaign died that night and on its death certificate the manner of death will be listed as “suicide”.
Sure, I’ll engage in some electoral tea leaf reading. At this point Donald Trump is an very similar, but worse, position as Mitt Romney was in 2012. That is needs, absolutely needs, to win each and every one of a similar list of “battleground” states. But with the exception of Ohio, he is doing poorly in all of them. Further, even recent polls showing him up in Florida may not help. Florida has early voting and so far Democratic ballots cast far out number Republican ballots.
In the end, I think that the Electoral College numbers will be somewhere around 350 Hillary Clinton to 188 for Donald Trump and the popular vote will be separated by 4% to 8% in Clinton’s favor. The real question is not Trump’s loss, but how many Republicans he takes down with him. Fivethirtyeight.com puts the odds on the Democrats taking back the Senate and I don’t make it a practice to argue with Nate Silver.
I’m working on some thoughts about local and state wide races that are important to me.. so expect that soon (trademark Blizzard Entertainment).