Last week’s debate was about what we could have expected. Hillary robotic and scripted, but looking surprisingly healthy and energetic (kudos to her makeup artist), dressed in her usual uniform. Trump off his head again, conspicuously sniffling and rambling on about himself. If the debate performance is any indication, we’ll be playing “Hail to Hillary” in January. As depressing as this is, it is hardly tempting to think of Trump blathering on from the Oval Office either.
Trump began in a tough, belligerent mood effectively attacking Hillary for some 20 to 30 minutes. But then Hillary brought out the shiny object – the reflection of Donald Trump. She challenged him on his secret income taxes, and although he returned a shot at her emails, when she posited that his refusal might be due to the possibility that he wasn’t as “wealthy” as he claimed, he took the bait doing his usual grand stand boast about how “well” he was doing. When she came at him on his numerous bankruptcies – wherein many hardworking people were “stiffed” by Trump – he had to go for that one too suggesting maybe the work wasn’t good enough and defending himself on the grounds that the law allows it.
It was more like a kitten playing with a feather on a stick than a knight with a lance. In any case, this isn’t about Hillary not producing her emails. This is about Donald Trump playing a game with her in a nya, nya, nya-nya fashion at the expense of the voters. It’s not about him showing her the tax returns – it is about him showing us the tax returns. Her violation of honor with regard to her behavior, her emails, and her violating our trust does not excuse him from violating our trust or acting dishonorably (or hiding his tax information). This is arguably more vital in our future than her emails. Tying the two together as some sort of “gotcha” set is irrelevant to us – we want to know who a potential president is beholden to. His answer here was totally unacceptable.
The evening led off with a question on the economy and jobs. Of course, the real point is really reckless government spending and over-built public programs. But there was no one there to talk about that because the “Republican” on that stage was a Democrat. Instead, we had the usual; Hillary advocating more programs, daycare etc, and Trump agreeing with her on these key areas. Trump took off on NAFTA where he argued against it citing Bill Clinton’s signing it into law. NAFTA, in fact, was a product of cooperation between Democrats and progressives. It has had advantages in some areas and disadvantages in others. Instead of arguing the merits, Clinton just sloughed off the blame, leaving it on Bill’s lap. There was no one there to argue against it on principles and the bigger picture. So this, too, was a dud.
Clinton asserted that as a Senator she had voted against the CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement) expansion of NAFTA. Then, Trump played the “I said it first” game claiming that Clinton had supported TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership). This has been written about quite a bit because of its development in secret. It has been a bone of contention with many candidates, so his attack on her changing her position when she saw the details fell pretty flat with anyone still thinking in the audience.
In the meantime, while touting his tax cuts he promoted his punitive tariff ideas. These tariffs, he argued, will bring these jobs home like a caveman with a club brings back his woman. Trouble with this is that while this would supposedly punish the American businesses that have moved to other countries and those countries to which they have moved, it is the ordinary American people who will pay the tariff, every time they try to buy a car or shop at Wal-Mart – and that’s a lot of people.
By now we should all know that business never pays. Consumers pay. A big deterrent to growth of jobs and our economy are ideas like Trump’s $15/hour minimum wage, mandated paid maternity leave, and “government-funded” daycare. If he wants jobs in America he needs to help create a climate favorable to business, not try to punish them for trying to turn a profit.
A question about law and order came along with Trump being all for it. Clinton favors federal “retraining” of local police and gun grabbing. Instead of discussing the meat of this issue – that we should resist any effort to move toward a federal state police, which is prohibited by any informed reading of the Constitution, and an assertion that the Second Amendment is part of the fabric of America and will not be abridged in a wrong-headed civilian disarmament plan – Trump just repeated that we need “law and order” and that he supports Clinton’s gun grabbing at least insofar as banning certain weapons and using the “no-fly” list to deprive citizens of their fundamental rights. Oh, he made a big point of having the endorsement of the apparently mindless NRA and the Fraternal Order of Police, which is fine, but isn’t an issue.
Clinton, like a bullfighter with a frenzied bull, took another pass at him with a flashy cape. She brought up his vaunted misogynistic behavior by introducing us all to Ms Machado, a former winner of one of his beauty pageants, who had gained weight. She told us all that he called her “Miss Piggy” because she lost her slim figure and “Miss Housekeeping” because she is Hispanic. Instead of getting back to the point, he took the opportunity to deride Ms Machado further and sarcastically complimented her on her becoming a U.S. citizen (he didn’t let it rest there either – he went on the air the next morning to elaborate on his chauvinism and further insulted the woman saying she had gained a “massive amount of weight”). Does America care about this? Should a President be talking about this? And, for that matter, does Trump think that the greater part of the voting public is all in perfect physical condition? More likely most of his base would like to lose 20 pounds. (So, in fact, should he – after all, he’s no “10” himself.) Does he think this is going to win him some votes maybe? No surprises here – we could all have predicted that he wouldn’t come off being mistaken for a gentleman. Perhaps not since Jane Austen’s Persuasion have we encountered a more effete and shallow character. She baited him with his praise of Vladimir Putin, charging that it was irresponsible to urge him to hack Americans. Instead of countering with questions about Benghazi or the transfer of uranium to China or any number of other transgressions, as usual, it was all about himself. He had to defend himself and, of course, Putin. (Maybe it wasn’t Putin! Maybe it was China!)
Although a Luntz focus group found Hillary had come out better by 16 to 5, the rest of the country proved Trump right: he could shoot a couple of people in cold blood on 5th Avenue in New York and not lose any of his zombie followers. Online polls gave him the win. But in the cold light of the next day it was clear he’d shot himself in the foot, again. Even his surrogate network, Fox News, had to admit that viewers gave it to Hillary, 61% to 21%, and that is a pretty sorry performance for the “Only One Who Can Fix Things.” And again, this isn’t to say Hillary is fit to be President, either. But she turned in a fairly competent performance and more or less obliterated the unfortunate images of her fainting and stumbling last week. A major plus in her column.
A lot of pundits have observed that it wasn’t so much a good performance on her part as an unspeakably bad one on Trump’s. I would disagree, considering how much ground she covered from where she was a week ago to her appearance during the debate. Frankly, if I were Hillary I’d be tempted to vacation in the Greek Isles like Newt Gingrich did in 2012, and let Trump just keep going on stage and defeating himself with his strained vocabulary of about 100 words.
It isn’t so much that anyone wants to say Hillary looks good as a leader, but the objective analysis of this debate clearly shows Trump to be a funhouse monkey, and her, a grandmother at least. If America isn’t ready for an adult, however corrupt, they’ll have to see what life is like with a six-year-old in the White House. It is difficult to choose – it’s not so much a case of the two doors and the lady and the tiger. It is no lady and two tigers. We can’t win no matter who appeared to win that debate.