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Debate Prep and Live Blog of the Presidential Debate

Debate Prep and Live Blog of the Presidential Debate September 26, 2016

USA

Perspective: 

This is not the most important election ever. There will be another election in four years. A Republic that survived Richard Nixon, Warren G. Harding, James Buchanan, and Woodrow Wilson will survive President Clinton or Trump.

Still we should hope for the best, even if we often do not get it. The leader of the Free World matters.

The biggest issues of the election are the future of the Courts, nationalism versus internationalism, and how to respond to economic decline in parts of the United States. There has also been a dispiriting discussion on immigration, particularly (and harshly) directed toward undocumented people from Mexico. The #blacklivesmatter movement has made issues of police treatment of the African-American community an issue.

Background: 

2016 is a mildly GOP year. Most Americans do not like the direction of the country and the Democrats have been in the White House for eight years. People appear ready for a change. Weirdly, both parties nominated people that most Americans do not like. Former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (HRC) has always had a large portion of the population who strongly dislikes and distrusts her ethics. She is a bad campaigner, joyless and forced. She may be the worst joke teller to run for office in my lifetime. Donald J. Trump (DJT) has no government experience, has a history of saying things that would finish most candidates, has serious ethical problems, a distant relationship with the truth, and  is loathed by more people than any major party candidate ever. He enjoys doing things his way and is great at punching back at a foe.

Trump has trailed for most of the campaign, has almost no get-out-the-vote operation, and is being badly outspent. Still the Republican base has mostly come home and in a GOP year, he is keeping it close. Clinton has had a very bad three weeks and concerns about her improper private server, her lies about that server, and whispers of serious health problems have dissolved most of her poll lead.

Given her huge leads in big population centers like New York and California, the US could be headed for another GOP President that gets a minority of the popular vote and wins the electoral college. It is easy to see Trump doing this. A wild card is the Libertarian candidate who is running in high single digits. Will Governor Gary Johnson be able to maintain his significant vote? What about Evan McMullin in Utah? Can the Mormon candidate be a spoiler in what is a must win state for Trump? If McMullin were to win Utah, it is possible (though never likely) to see the election producing no electoral college majority.

I called the race well early in the year (HRC was an easy pick for the Democratic Party once Biden and other heavy weights passed), but missed the Trump surge. The collapse of the Rubio candidacy, better on paper than in the booth, was also a surprise to me.

If the election were held Tuesday, I believe HRC would win based on her grassroots organization. Ted Cruz was able to beat Trump in several states through organization. On the other hand, I think DJT has momentum and his supporters are more enthusiastic. If the debates do not change the direction of the race, then Trump looks like a narrow electoral college winner.

Pennsylvania is the race for DJT: win and he is in, lose it and it hard to see him wining given HRC leading in Virginia.

What a Debate Can and Will Not Do:

A debate can win or lose an election: ask Rubio about his fall in New Hampshire after his robotic Rubio performance. However, presidential votes are (generally) not as fluid as other races. Both parties usually are fighting for the ten percent of Americans who might change their minds.

I think this race is different. First, many GOP voters are only voting against HRC and are worried about DJT. Second, many Americans perceive HRC as untrustworthy and physically weak.

HRC can end the health story by a looking and acting healthy. Ted Cruz rocked DJT in some debates, but the multiple candidate format saved him several times.

On the other hand, DJT faces a similar challenge to the one Sarah Palin faced in her Vice-Presidential debate. Palin needed to show some knowledge to make people comfortable with the idea she might be President. She probably achieved that goal. DJT is much more experienced as a television communicator and if he can be serious, then he can change some minds about voting for him. If people tune in to watch a train wreck and he is competent, then he wins.

Donald J. Trump can win many hearts and minds in this debate, but he can also confirm negative impressions he is not up to the job. Shouting red faced Trump who appears ignorant of important facts would cement the small, but real Clinton lead.

The debate cannot change those voters’ minds who will vote for anybody rather than pick either Trump or Clinton. #neverTrump and #neverHillary voters oppose the candidates based on decades worth of HRC and DJT stuff. However, the comfort factor of voting for DJT is weak in the GOP and a bad performance will not increase votes for HRC, but devastate GOP turnout.

Bottom line: Trump is the debate. If he blows it, he will almost surely lose. If he gets a draw or win, then he will move into a narrow lead and consolidate his base.

And now a live debate blog: 

Who will get the advantage of crossing the stage and shaking hands? Mr. Trump is much taller than people realize and this is an advantage.

Amazingly the HRC hatred, I can call it nothing else, has reached weird dimensions in my social media feed. I find people arguing she will use a body double tonight, because her health is so bad. This is (needless to say) absurd, but no less absurd than believing that President Obama is a Muslim or was born in Kenya.

My social media feed is also alive with racist, anti-Semite, and other trolls all of whom favor one candidate. Nothing this ugly has happened in my lifetime.

A man with no particular qualifications to be in Congress is pulling into the lead for President and the Democrats nominated the only person in America who could lose to him.

Simultaneously, my social media feed has folk who see the end of the Republic if Trump is victor as if a nation that survived James Buchanan cannot handle Donald John Trump. They also don’t understand why any decent person would vote for the roué forgetting that Vegas strikes some as a preferable governing class to Washington.

Now for ninety minutes we get to hear from the two candidates and can hope for some sanity.

Hyperbole flows. This is not the most unpredictable race ever. We could start with 1856, move to 1860, and throw in 1960.

These are two people who have liked each other in the past, used each other for personal profit, who will now pretend to hate each other. One-third of voters under thirty are voting for third party candidates.

We have an intoning moderator.

The audience will remain silent. Why? This is a foolish rule.

For some reason HRC has worn a Maoist red pant suit and DJT a blue tie and a suit that needs a press. He has gained weight.

First question: Why are you the best choice for job creation?

HRC: her grand-daughter has a birthday. She wants jobs in infrastructure. She wants jobs in small business. She wants a fair economy: equal pay, profit sharing, and higher minimum wage. She does a check list of left-of-center programs. Free college should be called “give more money to more administrators with part time teachers.”

DJT: China is winning. Jobs are fleeing. We have a winning flight. We are a piggy bank for China. We are building plants in Mexico. “Ford is leaving.”

Some of this is not true. Free trade has produced more new jobs.

“We have to stop our jobs from being stolen.” Stolen used to be called competition.

Mexico and China are the villains. Taxes will go down: job creator. Free trader Ronald Reagan is cited.

HRC: We need a tax system that rewards work. There would be a big tax cut for the rich, if DJT wins. HRC takes on Trump as a friend of the rich. She has decided to call “the Donald” “Donald” and so seek to diminish him.

DJT: repeats his same lines on China. He is now arguing for tariffs. Politicians have not done anything. HRC should start fixing things. DJT will not let companies leave. He will drop taxes on Americans . . . DJT: you don’t tax a company, you tax us. Our products will get more expensive.

HRC: We had the worse recession in years. This is because of the very policies DJT advocates.

Trump calls this collapse in real estate (which cost friends and family their homes) and buying up the remains: “Business.” This seems unwise.

HRC accuses DJT of denying climate change. He says this is false.

“I have been specific.”

DJT: We invested in solar panels and that was a disaster. “We are losing so much.” He is painting a dark picture . . . but Obama is fairly popular. Is this wise?

On the other hand, most of us think the country is going the wrong way and so the DJT message will work for some.

DJT: NAFTA is the worst ever. TPP is bad.

HRC: “Donald: you live in your reality.”

DJT is a boorish, clown.

DJT: I am going to cut taxes big league. You are going to raise them. I am going to cut regulations.

This is a strong moment.

HRC keeps her cool. We are getting shouting DJT.

DJT: “wealthy are going to create jobs” . . . he talks quickly and so maybe this sounds like detail. He is attacking “politicians” and that is smart as only rats in plague ridden Constantinople are less popular than American politicians with Americans.  “We have no leadership . . . ”

HRC: she is so fake and rehearsed and he is so blow hard that if I did drinking games, I would start. I don’t, so I will not.

HRC:   Free college: give money to my biggest supporters for ineffective work and propaganda.

DJT: “typical politician” is a good line . . . candidate says we are in a bubble . . . attacks Janet Yellen.

Question to Trump: no tax returns?

“I don’t mind releasing.” He will release his taxes when audit is over. He is proud of the money he makes. We need this kind of thinking.

This is the unbearable versus the insufferable.

HRC:

I have released 40 years of tax returns. First, he isn’t as rich as he says he is. Second, he is not as charitable as he claims he is. Third, he owes money to Wall Street and foreign country. He is trying to hide something

DJT: We have third-world airports. Good line: “Time for someone who understands something about money.” It’s politicians who have caused these problems.

HRC: Attacks business acumen. She says he is a fraud.

DJT: “unbelievable company” . . . “taking advantage of the laws” . . . “I take advantage. . . ” He says: “My obligation is to do well for myself. . . ” He is advertising his own hotel. He describes himself as a builder.

HRC won this round.

On race relations:

HRC: we have to restore trust, we need best training for police, well prepared to use force only when necessary. She is for “criminal justice reform.” She argues for gun control calling it an epidemic.

DJT: “law and order”  .  .  . Charlotte “I have investments. . . ” and now we go full Nixon: “law and order.” Talks about police endorsements. Strong round for Trump since he does not expect to get minority votes. Talks about shootings in Chicago: thousands of shootings. We have to stop violence with “law and order.”

DJT is for change. HRC is not for change. That is losing argument for HRC. We have to be “strong” . . .this is an argument by adjective.

DJT is for more police, “stop and frisk.” He is against bad things. He is for good things. We need relationships, better relationships. This is a word salad. There are bad things and we need “law and order” in the inner cities.

HRC points out the “dire picture” that overlooks rising African-American middle class. Violent crime is down. Too many people in jail . . . and some of that is based on race. Clinton is pounding away on law and order . . . and justice.

DJT may win this point for now, but HRC is winning the next two generations of voters now.

HRC handles implicit bias well. There is “implicit bias” for all of us. “We need retraining.”

DJT: disagrees with NRA on “no fly lists.” He agrees “quite strongly.” He accuses HRC of calling African-Americans “super-predators.”  He is for “stop and frisk.”

DJT: “The African American community has been let down . . .”

HRC: “I prepared to be President.”

DJT: HRC started “birther” movement. This is his defense . . . for perpetuating it. “I got the President’s birth certificate.” Trump lies about his knowing about the birth certificate.

This is genuinely weird.  He says he did the President a service . . .

HRC:  She says DJT based on a “racist birther lie.” He started his career with racial discrimination. DJT has a long history of engaging in racist behavior. President Obama was bothered by it.

DJT: HRC attacked Obama first.

DJT lost this round. He did not “admit guilt” on a law suit over race and “settled.” Of course, this means he did not think he could win and so gave up. The government was happy if he would just stop his overt racist practices. As Trump would say: look it up. His Dad, Fred, was . . . not good.

HRC: Takes on Putin and cyber-attackers. No cyber-attacks. “Donald is unfit to be commander in chief.”

DJT: I have been endorsed by over 200 admirals and generals. . . I have been endorsed by the border control. “We are in a mess.” He says: “I will take the generals over the hacks. . . ” He then talks about 400 pound kids hacking the DNC. He then says HRC took advantage of Bernie.  DJT talks about “the internet” as if it was a commodity . . . as if you could go buy a “cyber” for young Barron.

HRC: She has a plan to defeat ISIS. She says we need to “do more.” Trump gives a word salad of strong adjectives. HRC speaks in complete sentences that say good things, but sound like things we have heard before now. DJT does not sound like he knows any details, but HRC sounds as if she does not get the country disliking our direction.

This is a draw, I think.

Question about homegrown terrorism . . . how would you stop it specifically:

DJT: HRC and BHO got out of Iraq too fast and so created ISIS. She has spent a long time trying to take out ISIS. We should have left some number of troops, maybe 10,000. This is a DJT rhetorical move: give a number (say 5 billion) and then say maybe 6 billion . . .

HRC: She accuses DJT of lying. We “need an intelligence surge.” We need to vacuum up intelligence. . . she gives a shout out to NATO. She accuses DJT of attacking front-line allies in Islamic world in the USA. She says DJT of alienating our allies.

DJT: The Middle East is a total mess. “Iran deal . . . another beauty.” We have a candidate for POTUS that “has not given a lot of thought to NATO.” Come on.

This candidate is profoundly and proudly ignorant about NATO. He takes credit for NATO shifting toward terror. This is amazing.  DJT has now gone quite mad. He is becoming the Muppets in the balcony.

Hugh Hewitt: aren’t you embarrassed by this mess? He is now claiming . . . he has the temper to be President of the United States.

HRC: He has said Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia should have nukes. . . with a cavalier attitude toward nuclear

“A man who can be provoked by a Tweet should not be near nuclear weapons.”

DJT: We defend Germany, Japan . . . they do not pay us. “We are losing a fortune.”

“We cannot defend Japan.”

“We are not keeping up with other countries.”

“I would not do first strike.”

China should “go into North Korea.” Iran has “power over North Korea.” We are now in a world where China and Iran will do our bidding and help us. How? Perhaps, we can get magic beans and give them to the Chinese and Iranians and so they will do our work.

HRC:  “We will honor our mutual defense treaties.” HRC is a grownup. “We put a lid on their nuclear program.” HRC sounds more like Reagan than the Republican nominee. We will “stand up to bullies” here or at home.

Sting.

DJT: “We are losing billions and billions of dollars . . . ” DJT says HRC has no business ability. HRC will not take care of things.

HRC: I have stamina, because I have done real things.

DJT: She has experience, but she has bad experience.

HRC: accuses him of misogyny.

DJT: Rosie deserves what she gets. “It’s not nice. She was not nice.”

Are you welcome to accept the outcome?

HRC: says yes.

DJT: says . . . “I want to make America great again.” He attacks the election system. “If she wins, I will support her.

Bottom Line:

Trump was angry. He had no command of facts. He told several lies.

Clinton was rehearsed. She had many canned lines.

HRC is a liberal Democrat and I disagree with her. She is obviously competent and knowledgeable. She looked fighting fit.

DJT was incompetent, angry, and simply lied twice obviously. He might be more conservative than HRC. Maybe. He also lies and has anger issues and is easy to rattle.

HRC is not getting my vote, but she won that debate. DJT lost. She looked healthy and that should end her “health issues.” She scorched him on race and sexism. I also think she is a crook.

But she won. . .

 It’s Just Politics:

Deciding who should get our vote is a prudential decision with moral implications. One can make a bad argument for voting for a person or an immoral one, but in any election good people can also disagree. There are good reasons to support either candidate and (I think) totally persuasive reasons to support neither Clinton nor Trump. Still this is an area where being wrong is easy. I have dear friends who will vote for Trump and others who will vote for Clinton. So it goes.

Christmas is coming and by then we will know the outcome (God willing) and life will have moved on to happier topics. This matters, you make the best case you can, commit yourself, and then you see.

 

 

 

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Bias alert: I am the heir of a family tradition of Republican votes stretching back to the Civil War era. I have written critical things about both Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump. I am not endorsing any candidate in this election.

 

 


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