Applauding the Punditocracy Pile-On

Applauding the Punditocracy Pile-On September 27, 2016

Image credit: By U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tommy Gilligan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
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The media pile-on has begun…and I couldn’t be happier. I think the same could be safely said for Hillary Clinton.

I realize this is the height of hypocrisy, but I’m now thrilled that the media’s herd mentality is leading it to jump on Donald Trump’s rambling–indeed often incoherent–grimacing, defensive, and alternately hectoring and oddly passive performance during the debate.

In the end, it was Trump who lacked the stamina (and discipline) for the 90-minute debate.

While I was right to warn of the coming punditocracy pummeling–not an act of clairvoyance, admittedly–I was wrong about which candidate it would likely target. I think that’s largely due to Trump’s abysmal performance.

The Donald was so bad that even the Fox News website called the debate for Hillary. They’re instead pivoting to attacking the debate moderator, Lester Holt.

Far from grading Trump on a curve, a few commentators actually said Hillary exceeded expectations. I can’t agree; I think she shined mostly in comparison to Trump’s devolution into primary debate mode. He started the debate by doing his best to seem presidential, but that lasted all of eleven minutes.

Keith and I watched the first half hour of the debate with the sound off, before rewinding the recording to rewatch it with sound. We were testing the conventional wisdom that you can learn all you need about a debate by pressing the mute button.

And, indeed, we did find our experiment highly instructive. (The split screen certainly helped.) We saw that shift in Trump’s demeanor, though we thought Trump was coming unglued and lashing out. Actually that descent occurred long after we turned up the sound.

What we were seeing were the cartoon pouts, frowns, and glaring squints so many of the pundits remarked about afterward. In the end, the debate did indeed come down to optics…and acoustics.

What we were missing were the frequent loud sniffs booming through Trump’s microphone. Will that become the new version of the over-played sweating of Richard Nixon in the Nixon/Kennedy debate?

It’s too soon to tell, but Snifflegate will undoubtedly give birth to countless comedy sketches. Ask Gerald Ford if that might have any effect. (Okay, so you can’t because Gerald Ford is still dead.)

Trump’s snorts may or not be something to sniff at–sorry! But what effect will The Donald’s drubbing have on the next debate? Well, he’s already made it clear that next time the gloves will be off.Firefighters in hazmat suits

Bring a hazmat suit for the October 9 town hall debate.

Yet, just as there seems to be a hard ceiling on Trump’s support, he also has a solid floor. His core supporters probably would stick with him even if he did shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue, as he infamously boasted.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton had everything to lose and little to gain coming into the debate. I actually think she may have managed to move the the needle a bit in her direction, at least around the margins. But there are precious few persuadable voters out there. Certainly, she’s never going to sway the “lock her up” crowd.

But Hillary may have nudged some wavering voters to vote for her instead of Jill Stein or Gary Johnson.

Perhaps even more importantly, Trump might have spurred some of his marginal voter–the ones uneasy with his “excellent temperament”–to either vote Libertarian or stay home. (I loved the laughter after that claim.)

Mrs. Clinton did an excellent job of pulling back the curtain to reveal the Wizard of Id.

Before the debate, the election had terrifyingly tightened to a razor-thin margin in favor of Clinton. The debate probably wasn’t a game-changer, but I think Hillary’s calmly commanding (and often eviscerating) performance may have finally shifted the narrative.

Yes, I’m a hypocrite. But to the media, I say: Pile on to your hearts content. I’ll bring the popcorn.

Popcorn frog

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