Digby's Hullabaloo
2801 Ocean Park Blvd.
Box 157
Santa Monica, Ca 90405

Facebook: Digby Parton

@BloggersRUs (Tom Sullivan)

thedigbyblog at gmail
satniteflix at gmail
publius.gaius at gmail
tpostsully at gmail
Spockosbrain at gmail
Richardein at me.com


Mother Jones
Raw Story
Huffington Post
Crooks and Liars
American Prospect
New Republic

Denofcinema.com: Saturday Night at the Movies by Dennis Hartley review archive

January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 July 2007 August 2007 September 2007 October 2007 November 2007 December 2007 January 2008 February 2008 March 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 August 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 February 2009 March 2009 April 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 September 2009 October 2009 November 2009 December 2009 January 2010 February 2010 March 2010 April 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 March 2011 April 2011 May 2011 June 2011 July 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 December 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013 December 2013 January 2014 February 2014 March 2014 April 2014 May 2014 June 2014 July 2014 August 2014 September 2014 October 2014 November 2014 December 2014 January 2015 February 2015 March 2015 April 2015 May 2015 June 2015 July 2015 August 2015 September 2015 October 2015 November 2015 December 2015 January 2016 February 2016 March 2016 April 2016 May 2016 June 2016 July 2016 August 2016 September 2016 October 2016 November 2016 December 2016 January 2017 February 2017 March 2017 April 2017 May 2017 June 2017 July 2017 August 2017 September 2017 October 2017 November 2017 December 2017 January 2018 February 2018 March 2018


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The worst debate performance in history

by digby

I wrote about the debate for Salon of course:

If someone had told me 10 years ago that the first general election presidential debate of 2016 would feature a CNN chyron that said “Awaiting the Historic Clinton-Trump Debate,” I would have thought you were crazy. If you had told me the polls would be tied going into that debate I would have thought the world had gone crazy. But that’s where we are and last night’s debate showed how far we’ve gone down the rabbit hole.

My preview of the debate yesterday focused on the fact that Trump’s “serious” debates at the end of the primaries, when there were fewer rivals, gave us some clues about how he might perform in the main event. He was aggressively incoherent and sometimes completely unintelligible, proving repeatedly that he had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. This has actually been obvious from the beginning of his campaign if you watched his rallies and interviews. It’s just that his personality is so remarkably bizarre that I think the lack of substance is easy to overlook. (I confess I have been somewhat surprised that so many people find his rambling “braggadociousness” appealing enough that they fail to notice that he is ignorant about everything important to the job of president.)

In recent days with the hiring of campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and CEO Steve Bannon as well as sage advice from his pal Roger Ailes, Trump has been tamed just enough to read a stump speech on a Teleprompter, and he’s sounded a bit more intelligible. So there was always the possibility that he would have done a little bit of prep work, read a briefing paper or two and otherwise taken the debate seriously. It is the most important office in the world, after all. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little cramming on the details before appearing in front of 100 million people to make the case for why you are the best person for the job.

Trump’s campaign made it very clear that he wasn’t doing any of that, but I think many political professionals assumed there was a large element of spin involved. He had to have at least done some practice debates, right? But it turns out that for the first time his campaign was telling the whole truth. Last night Donald Trump demonstrated not only that he didn’t prepare but that he has no underlying knowledge of the subjects a president is required to know. He simply tried to bluff his way through with incoherent misdirection, hostility and sarcasm, even as he made the absurd claimed that his temperament is his best quality. He gave the worst debate performance of his short political career. In fact, it may have been the worst debate performance of any political career.

I wasn’t sure whether or not Hillary Clinton would be able to handle him. It’s disorienting to see someone spout gibberish at such an important event, particularly when it’s combined with Trump’s narcissism, as when he oddly asserted that Clinton only started talking about jobs in response to his candidacy, or that NATO created a terrorism policy because he goaded them into it. (That’s ludicrous, of course.) But she handled him well, with humor and authority, proving that it can be done.

The reviews all seemed to indicate that Trump’s best moments were his early comments on trade policy. Which is probably true but it’s actually not saying much. He name-checked some Rust Belt states where the issue is particularly salient, which shows that he may have had some coaching, but his obsession with the subject, to the exclusion of all other economic concerns, is one-dimensional to say the least. In fact, it doesn’t seem to be economic at all, and is better seen as an illustration of his crude nationalism. He shows no interest in workers as people. They are nothing more than statistics that prove America is being screwed over by foreigners. Trump seems to think that screwing workers is an American billionaire’s prerogative.

In fact, Clinton deftly turned the tables on his populism by painting him out as a rich Republican swell just like all the rest, hitting him repeatedly on his business practices and failures. As Washington Post reporter Robert Costa said on MSNBC after the debate:

She yanked him toward the Republican Party. She said, “You’re not going to be able to run as an outsider, you can’t be a populist.” She said, “You’re just like George W. Bush, you’re trickle-down economics like Ronald Reagan, you’re supply-side, Trumped up. This is a candidate whose real appeal is that he’s non ideological, that he’s not running as a partisan Mitt Romney, George W. Bush Republican, and she said “I’m not going to let you.”

I don’t know whether anyone was convinced by that but it was one of many moments that confused Trump and pushed him off his game. When Clinton hit him for saying he hoped for the housing collapse, he reacted with a very plutocratic answer: “That’s called business, by the way.” He made the same mistake later when she pointed out that there were times when he hadn’t paid any taxes by saying, “That makes me smart.” These were just two of many errors, lies and flashes of ignorance, temper and petulance that characterized Trump’s embarrassing performance.

The simple fact is that Hillary Clinton dominated him. The debate was all her thrusting and him parrying over and over again. By the end he was visibly slumping and seemed confused. And since being a “winner” is so central to his candidacy and his personality, the loss is even more devastating.

The pundits are all wondering if that means Trump will bother to prepare for the next two debates (if he deigns to show up at all). But that may not be something he’s actually capable of doing. His former co-writer Tony Schwartz, who knows him well, says that Trump has an extremely short attention span and is unable to study or learn in any concentrated way. But just because he has no interest in or ability to learn any substance, it doesn’t mean Trump won’t make changes. From his comments at the end of the debate and later in the spin room, it appears that he believes Clinton wasn’t “nice,” so he plans to attack her personally by bringing up her husband’s infidelities at their next meeting. He won’t be better informed or more controlled, he’s just going to take the gloves off. But she’s got a much thicker skin than he does, and unless he learns how to take a hit it’s highly likely she’ll be able to get the best of him next time too. It turns out that along with a thin skin, Trump has a glass jaw.