I don’t even know what to say about that debate. In the first five or ten minutes, I thought for sure that Trump was going to be the next president. Clinton started awkwardly, and Trump killed.
Then the rest happened.
I’ll be honest. Monday night was the first time I watched either candidate in action. Previously, I had only read reports about them, or seen the occasional clip on a news or comedy show.
I was not prepared for the full force of The Donald. Once he went off-script, he mutated into somebody’s crotchety old grandfather, yelling at the television news, not caring in the slightest who hears him. And it’s not like it was a one-off occurrence. He kept doubling-down on it.
Still, there’s a little part of me that thinks, “Wow, it’s refreshing to see somebody running for office who doesn’t care about political correctness.”
I can see why he’s been successful. As, ahem, let’s say “unorthodox” as he is, he makes valid points. I don’t know a thing about trade deals, but I’d be inclined to agree that America’s aren’t great. And it is good business to buy property when the housing market crashes, if you’ve got money laying around. It is smart to avoid paying taxes, if you’re a billionaire. The problem is you can’t say those things in a nationally-televised debate when you’re trying to become president! He’s not trying to win the vote of billionaire CEOs, he’s trying to win the votes of undecided millennials, who mainly just want to hear that the rest of their lives won’t be one constant, meaningless struggle to pay bills.
Clinton had her share of cringe-worthy moments, too, by the way. Every time she tried to be funny, for instance. You could tell when she switched back and forth between rehearsed material and off-the-cuff remarks. I think she may have lost some male votes with that “he’s a bully to women” bit at the end, and it wasn’t even necessary by that point.
I still stand by my previous observation. Clinton is the devil we know, and Trump is the devil we don’t know. And there’s several others running if you don’t want either devil.
I came away with two other lasting impressions. The first is that I completely underestimated Mike Pence. I saw him sit down on CBS for a few minutes and deliver some world-class spin about how well Trump did. That guy seems pretty smart and, more importantly, personable. I don’t get why he isn’t the Republican nominee. I need to read more about him. I wrote before that he’s no Dick Cheney, but I’ll be damed if he doesn’t act exactly like Dick Cheney. (In the sense that he acted like an all-powerful puppet master, staying away from the spotlight, the kind of person who could do some serious damage as a vice president.)
The other surprise came from Clinton: I felt like she really threw down a gauntlet against Russia with some harsh words about cyber attacks. “And we’re going to have to make it clear that we don’t want to use the kinds of tools that we have. We don’t want to engage in a different kind of warfare. But we will defend the citizens of this country.” (From transcript.) Those sound like pretty strong words, and they didn’t come from Trump.
P.S. I thought it was pretty smart that Jill Stein went and got herself escorted away by police. Good publicity stunt. Where was Gary Johnson, eh? (Probably off trying to learn some geography.) And the other Independent guy whose name I don’t even know? More missed opportunities there.