A few debate thoughts

A few debate thoughts September 27, 2016

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADonald_Trump_and_Hillary_Clinton_during_United_States_presidential_election_2016.jpg; By Krassotkin (derivative), Gage Skidmore (Donald Trump), Gage Skidmore (Hillary Clinton) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

So I watched the debate.  I even took copious notes.  But it was painful and unpleasant to watch it — and the reality is that, when it comes down to it:  fundamentally, I support neither Trump nor Clinton, and I feel a certain amount of ironic relief that my vote, in Illinois, simply doesn’t matter; yet, at the same time, I still harbored a certain amount of hope that Trump would surprise us all with a stellar performance that would leave us rethinking our opinions of him.

Yes, that hope was irrational.  And, yes, that hope was dashed.

The 90 minutes were full of missed opportunities — how could he have failed to dig into Clinton’s e-mails when Holt raised the question of cyberwarfare, for instance?  (Especially given the recent news that Obama himself e-mailed her on that server.)  And he had plenty of time to recognize that he’d be asked about the “birther” issue, and concoct an explanation or a timeline on the question, and come up with rehearsed answers to the other questions that were highly likely, if not nearly certain, to be raised.

But he didn’t.  His answer on the “Birther” question was disjointed, trying to bring in Blumenthal but in a way that no one really had a chance of understanding.  His attempt to clarify that he really did oppose the war in Iraq was similarly confused:  he seemed to be claiming that the Howard Stern interview that suggests the contrary “doesn’t count” because it was a throwaway line before he or anyone else was giving it serious thought, but then he seemingly got stuck and, for all I could tell, just repeated “Sean Hannity! Sean Hannity!” which likely meant nothing to most viewers.

He tried to defend himself against the accusations of racism by citing his nondiscriminatory Palm Beach club, which I imagine was meant to be placed in a historical context of “we did this at a time when other clubs were still discriminating,” but he didn’t say that, so he ended up sounding foolish.

And the tax return issue?  He would have been better off having released his returns a long time ago so that it’d be old news; if there’s some way in which releasing the exact details is a problem due to the ongoing audit (I’ve read statements that it’s a bad thing because then millions of Americans will start “crowdsourcing” ways for the IRS to “catch” him) he could release an abbreviated version, say, the 1040 without the schedules.  And maybe people don’t care, but why not eliminate this as an issue.

He had a few good digs at Clinton, hammering her on supporting the TPP and then changing her tune when it became clear it was a losing position, for instance, and he did have, well, at least some substance:  for instance, stating that he wouldn’t keep jobs in the U.S. by means of a magic wand but by means of taxes/tariffs.  He countered the (unstated) assertion that the economy is doing great with the statement that the stock market is in a bubble and as soon as interest rates rise we’ll see a crash.

His response on the question of “race relations” was very weak, turning it into a question of crime, and, thus, “law and order” — and, I’m sorry, but the same-named TV show makes that phrase seem very cliche.  Granted, he had a more-or-less reasonable response to Lester Holt’s attempt to fact-check him (“Stop-and-frisk is unconstitutional.”  “No, a discredited judge made that ruling and the new mayor of New York declined to appeal.”), but he then flailed around for what should have been a compelling statistic, 3,000 shot in Chicago so far in 2016.

But at the same time — well, with respect to Clinton:  remember when I was initially quite impressed with Carly Fiorina, and the detailed, thought-out answers she had to questions, until I realized that it’s always the same answers, because that’s what she had memorized, and her debate strategy was to wait for the right opportunity, and then jump in with those memorized bits?

Well, it was pretty much the same thing here.  Her memorized bits included:

  • A list of what she’d do to “build the economy for everyone” — raise the minimum wage, equal pay, profit-sharing, paid family leave, and making the wealthy pay their fair share.
  • The label of Trump’s tax plan as “Trumped up trickle down” – a phrase that is awkward and clumsy but she clearly wants to make work as much as Trump’s Lyin’ Ted and Crooked Hillary.
  • A line about how Trump supported the housing crisis because he’d make money, and a recitation of 9 million lost jobs, 13 trillion in lost “family wealth,” and we are “now on the precipice of a better economy but can’t go back to old policies.”
  • A very obviously planned line that I have scribbled down as an accusation that Trump was going to “join the debate by saying more crazy things.”
  • A label of some tax proposal as the “Trump loophole” because he would benefit personally.
  • A list of reasons why Trump isn’t releasing his tax return:  that he’s not as wealthy or as charitable, or that he owes money, or that he’s paid $0 in taxes.
  • A recitation of people that he “stiffed” in his business (which I was confused by at first until I realized it was a list of creditors who lost with Trump’s bankruptcies).
  • A recitation of positive things about black communities — e.g., “vibrant black churches,” meant to counter Trump’s statement of the woes of black communities.
  • And, finally, a recitation of “mean things” that Trump is on record as having said.

Now, I understand that memorized bits is a part of how these debates work.  And Trump would be better off with some memorized bits himself, but either rejects the concept or is unwilling to spend his time on it.  But it became increasingly jarring to hear these memorized bits.  (That’s one thing about Cruz — if it were him against Hillary, at least when he’d be reeling off these facts, you’d know that it wasn’t because he memorized these bits with the plan to throw them in whenever they fit, but because of his superior memory.)

In the end, I doubt any Trump supporter will reconsider and switch to Clinton, nor vice-versa.  But to be honest, I can’t even see any undecided voter making a decision in favor of one or the other of these two based on what they saw tonight.

And one last thing — more of a question, actually:  when did people start pronouncing individuals who believe in Islam, “MOOOs-lims” instead of “MUHs-lims”?


Image:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ADonald_Trump_and_Hillary_Clinton_during_United_States_presidential_election_2016.jpg; By Krassotkin (derivative), Gage Skidmore (Donald Trump), Gage Skidmore (Hillary Clinton) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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