The first debate between the two least-admired nominees in electoral memory was a puerile display; an embarrassing 90-minute bum fight detrimental to the viewing public and inimical to a Republic which once had higher standards.
At the end of 90 minutes, it is clear that Trump knows little to nothing about foreign policy, global economics, and how the Constitution works; while Hillary knows little to nothing about integrity, honesty and how the Constitution works. They are – both of them – unfit for the office, with Hillary being worse.
Yes, Lester Holt asked Trump many negative questions (about tax returns, the “birther” issue, the Iraq War, and Hillary’s presidential “Look”) that pushed Trump into a corner, and were designed to make him look bad, while pointedly avoiding any topics that could make Hillary uncomfortable or unhappy.
Yes, Hillary Clinton was atrociously awful each time she got off script, her face alternating between the evil smile of a Disney villain, and icy blank stares, with a stammering cackle occasionally thrown in.
Yes, the debate, if divided in two (the first 30 minutes and the last 60) could be grounds for believing the result was a split decision, with Trump winning round 1 and Clinton round 2. But that’s not really how it works. Because at the opening bell, Trump came out swinging some very sharp elbows, made some effective and pointed arguments for half an hour, but then wilted over the next 60 minutes.
Was Trump able to effectively call out Hillary on virtually any lie she told? No. When her email scandal came up, she dismissed it as “a mistake” and Trump dropped the argument. Certainly, he wasn’t hoping that Holt would help him out, was he? Another opportunity emerged when the topic of cyber security arose, and Trump was unwilling or unable to point out how her unsecured server was the definition of disastrous cyber security.
This babbling ineptitude extended to himself, as well. Trump spent a lot of time on the defensive on a number of issues, and it didn’t go well. His bumbling enabled the conversation to focus on his own comparably minor scandals and controversies, giving serially corrupt liar Hillary Clinton an opportunity to paint a picture of equivalency, or worse still, elevating Trump’s boorishness to the same level of her own criminality. Hillary flatly referred to Trump as a racist multiple times and Trump’s response was to say how he had “settled without an admission of guilt,” or hired some minorities to make amends.
No mention of Hillary’s support for Black Lives Matter, or opposition to Right-to-Work policies. Barely a mention of the cover-up of Benghazi. Omission of Hillary’s secret paid speeches to Wall Street, the global crime syndicate known as the Clinton Foundation, Hillary’s failed policy proposals, poorly made cases against the disastrous Iran deal, and the global conflagration created by the inept, incompetent Obama / Clinton regime. Lester Holt did his best to protect Hillary from having to answer devastating questions, but Trump did almost nothing to address this lack of transparency.
Instead, Trump focused on how the Clinton campaign has released ads that were not nice to him, endorsed constitutionally questionable and flawed policies like prohibiting those on the no-fly list from gun ownership (due process), or “prohibiting” companies from leaving America to relocate overseas for business purposes (free market).
No candidate for President in recent memory has been as corrupt, venal, and deceitful, and no one is more undeserving – not only of the office – but of even being considered a legitimate candidate as Hillary Clinton; but the wrong prosecutor was on stage to make the case. He spent more time defending himself and talking about accomplishments in the private sector than talking about how his policies would benefit the country, missing the opportunity to contrast himself with Hillary’s failed ideas.
There were hopes that his prowess displayed in the GOP primary would actually allow him to bring an effective indictment of the case against Hillary and for the implementation of a Republican agenda for America. But Hillary Clinton is not one of the other 16 contenders for the GOP nomination. Trump seemed to forget that he still hasn’t gotten the job; he’s still interviewing for the position.
Hillary learned much from the Republican primary; more than anything, that Trump cannot withstand attacks on his wealth or his business. It is his biggest weakness. She casually and meticulously threw direct and indirect attacks on his personal history and record, and his responses upended any headway he’d made on attacking Hillary. His repeated interjections and interruptions were boorish and unhelpful, serving only to illustrate his inability to handle insults and criticism. Meanwhile, Hillary watched with a Cheshire grin on her face.
Clearly, with two more debates on the schedule, Trump needs to make changes if he hopes to gain any ground lost. In-depth study on foreign policy, better answers on the birther controversy, fewer braggadocious defenses of his business dealings (like on paying no taxes “I’m smart”), a better line of attack on Hillary’s long-term corruption and deceitfulness. Clinton was effective only when she was needling Trump and getting under his skin. Her policies were clearly retreads of leftist wishlists going back decades.
Trump was able to survive the GOP primaries by virtue of the multiple competing agendas and voices on stage each time he debated. That advantage is gone now. If he cannot effectively, persuasively, and consistently make the case against Hillary, he does not deserve to win. He has a lot of homework to do.