The first Presidential debate was loaded with awkward moments that are worthy of individual coverage. Sadly, most will be discussed by mainstream media in the form of quick fact-check articles that skim over the individual issues. Those types of articles are important, but in this election it’s not nearly as important as the psychological effects individual moments will have on voters. We already know they’re both liars, so pointing out how Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton fibbed is relatively worthless.
The perceptions and effects during the moments of interaction themselves will have much more sway over the voters. Awkward moments can be the deciding factor.
One of the most awkward moments came when Hillary accused Trump of supporting the Iraq war. Her case, which happens to be the one that will be used by every fact-checker out there, is that he gave a half-hearted approval of the invasion on September 11, 2002, one year after the terrorist attacks. There are many ways for Trump to go about handling this issue that would make him out to be on the right side of it. Instead, he chose to invoke Sean Hannity.
There were lots of issues discussed tonight. But none quite as important as the stunning lack of Sean Hannity calls. https://t.co/JeFvzKmTzZ
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) September 27, 2016
Just let that loop a few times.
Donald, the reason that nobody wants to call Sean Hannity is because nobody actually believes Sean Hannity when it comes to you. He is your public relations ambassador at Fox News. He and Ann Coulter are the unofficial co-chairs and founding members of the Donald Trump Media Fan Club. Why would anyone want to ask him if you were against the war from the start? Of course he’ll say yes. If they asked him if he saw you walking on water, he’d swear that he saw it with his own two eyes. Sean Hannity has about as much credibility on the topic of Donald J. Trump as Andrea Mitchell would have on the topic of Hillary R. Clinton.
The most damaging part about Trump’s use of the “Hannity defense” is that it makes it appear as if he’s lying. He was so adamant and animated about it that it came across as desperate. It was insincere. Telling us to “call Sean Hannity” makes us ask the question, “Is that the best you can do?”
In other words, using a dubious media source as his best defense makes him seem guilty of Hillary’s accusations. Moreover, it paints Hannity as a puppet by proxy. If he is Trump’s go-to defense on issues, then Hannity’s own reputation is tainted. Viewers will think that Trump is lying and Hannity is his minion.
I hate to give Trump advice (not that he would listen), but there’s a very easy answer to questions about Iraq. Since it’s very difficult to write incoherently to mimic how Trump speaks, I’ll state the case in plain English:
“The only claim against my opposition to the Iraq War is an off-the-cuff, lukewarm answer to a silly question on the Howard Stern Show. He asked if I was for invading Iraq and I said, ‘Yeah, I guess so.’ Compare that to Senator Clinton who had access to intelligence briefings and the collective knowledge of Washington DC to inform her on the issue. She didn’t say, ‘I guess so.’ She approved of and voted for the invasion and occupation of a country that had nothing to do with 9/11. As a businessman without her access to information, I still came to the early conclusion that it was a bad idea. Instead of asking me about a four word answer on the Howard Stern show, ask her how she could have been so terribly wrong while in the position to do something about it.”
If Trump’s team wants to take that and change it to match his speaking style, I believe you could put this to rest.