The face-off between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was the most anticipated presidential debate since Jimmy Carter finally agreed to debate Ronald Reagan in 1980 after skipping the first two.
Clinton’s goal was, or should have been, to come off likable and trustworthy.
Trump should have aimed to conduct himself mild-tempered and presidentially.
Both failed in those respects.
Clinton was constantly on the attack, trying to cause Trump to explode in a Happy Gilmore-esque rage. To the billionaire’s credit, he did not take the bait and toned down the duck facing.
But beyond not erupting, Trump really did not really accomplish much.
I’m still trying to figure out what Trump was attempting to do on Monday night and it was apparent that he was not well prepared for the debate.
In fact, I’m starting to wonder if the Republican presidential nominee spent the weekend watching Saturday morning cartoons and internet cat videos.
Trump lacked polish, attempting to ramble his way out of uncomfortable questions and he did not offer a cohesive message. And while he landed a few jabs at his Democratic opponent, he became distracted with Hillary’s assaults and debate moderator Lester Holt’s management of the event.
Ipt should be noted that Holt inside pitched on Trump the private citizen far more than Clinton the ex-US Senator and former Secretary of State, particularly on his claimed opposition to the War in Iraq.
Why does that even matter as Trump was not a member of Congress and did not have a role in the matter, while in contrast Clinton did. But the Team Trump best not use the moderator’s one-sided handling of the candidates as a crutch to justify a disappointing debate. Yelling at the refs after a bad call doesn’t win a game- practice and preparation does.
Trump did seize a few openings, and in some cases created one. Trump rejected Clinton’s “mistake” on the email scandal specifically citing both the intentional nature of her actions and how Clinton’s staff have pled the 5th. Trump needed to expand on that.
Where Trump truly got lost in the weeds was the issue of his taxes. It became apparent in the primaries that the billionaire has no intention of releasing them for reasons that can only be speculated- and following Harry Reid’s attacks on Mitt Romney from four years ago, Mrs. Clinton went into full speculation mode, going so far as to declare that Trump did not pay anything in taxes at all.
Amazingly it was as if Trump did not see the question coming. Trump needs to find a better answer than being under audit and a deft pivot to an issue equally uncomfortable for Clinton.
Hillary’s attacks on Trump’s obnoxiousness didn’t really reveal anything about him that people either did not already know or assumed yet instead of counterpunching with citations about Clinton’s own terrible behavior with White House staff (documented in a few books authored those who worked in in the executive mansion during her husband’s administration). Instead Trump just kept arguing that her accusations were off base.
A ninety-minute debate means that the candidates will be speaking for no more than 45 minutes. That’s not a lot of time and that’s not a lot of information and canned responses for a participant to have to commit to memory and regurgitate.
People in this country do not want to vote for Hillary Clinton. No matter how much the media papers over her scandals, dishonesty, and failings, the public can smell through the packaging.
But Donald Trump has to demonstrate he is a presidential candidate worth investing their confidence and hopes in.
Trump did not do that on Monday night and he did not do that the days and nights he should have been preparing for the debate. It was more of the “I’ll just wing it” mentality that he got away with in the presidential primaries because he was never in a one on one debate situation and was on a crowded ballot most of the time.
Fortunately even the press is claiming Hillary did not score a knockout and as we’ve seen in the 1984, 2004 and 2012 presidential debates, underperforming in the first one is not fatal.
But if Trump has a repeat of Monday night’s performance, it’ll indicate that he is incapable of growing as a candidate and thus nobody should expect him to grow as a president.
And that would be fatal as the election then becomes a pure turnout game. And Republicans don’t win those in presidential years.
And though he won’t lose the election badly, thanks to being paired up against the most corrupt presidential nominee in American political history, Trump will still lose and a horde of unintended consequences will follow, from unprecedented radical court rulings courtesy of newly Clinton appointed judges to an executive department that will make the unilateral excesses of the current administration look tame.
Grow up Donald.
Do your homework.
Recognize that your communication style needs work.
Quit pitching your resorts.
And do better.