Previously on Election 2016…
In the first debate Donald Trump’s strong initial performance faded at about the halfway mark as focused answers gave way to discussions about leverage and a back and forth with the moderator about his support for the Iraq war. Trump’s major initial point, that the benefits from trade are at best mixed, continued his long-running theme. His parry on the question about his tax returns – he would release his tax returns after Clinton released her missing emails – was brilliant and earned a cheer from the assembled crowd. Even his forceful, if not necessarily accurate, push back against the moderator on the question of his support for the war in Iraq was a refreshing change of pace from previous Republican hopefuls that simply went along with questions as framed by their opponents.
Donald Trump erred when he got into a monologue about leverage. Devoting so much time to a finance and business topic that is not well understood by the general public was not a good use of his time. It was also counterproductive to mention Sean Hannity so many times in a couple of sentences about Iraq. Whatever their disagreement about the war the most this accomplished is that Hannity may get a few more listeners.
Hillary Clinton barely edged Trump and that is a bad thing for her. How could a trained lawyer with three decades of experience in the public eye – half that time as a Senator or Secretary of State – barely beat a real estate developer and reality show personality in a debate with a friendly moderator?
Round 1 Aftermath
The hits against Trump started before he had even left the building. Cokie Roberts of ABC News commented on his disdainful facial expression and his bullying tone. A YouTuber created a “Trump Drinking Game” video where he drank every time Donald Trump interrupted Hillary Clinton and claimed to have alcohol poisoning at the end. Isn’t this odd? Democrats are usually not concerned for decorum or politeness. Why is it a problem now? Also, if Hillary Clinton is too delicate to deal with a brash New York City personality, how would she fare against leaders from hostile countries? After all, it seems unlikely that Golda Meir or Margaret Thatcher would have demanded special courtesy because they were women.
The Clinton campaign brought up Trump’s treatment of former Ms. Universe Alicia Machado as an example of his attitude toward women. Machado turned out not to be the credible source the campaign had hoped and they moved on. Incidents like this are to be expected in a campaign but it also revealed volunteers at Wikipedia that were only too willing to sanitize the page about Machado and remove information that may have had a bearing on her credibility.
The Fact Checkers
Clinton called on the fact-checkers several times during the course of the evening and even directed people to her website to get her campaign’s spin live. ABC got into the act immediately after the debate with several fact checks. One examined Trump’s assertion that the Clinton campaign was the first claimed, back in 2008, that Barack Obama had been born outside of the United States. ABC News brought up their fact-check’o’meter and declared his claim false; except of course that it wasn’t. There is nothing wrong with fact checking as candidates can mis-remember – sometimes deliberately – when speaking in public, but the media is more interested in political point scoring.
Round 2 Pre-game
The Friday before Sunday night’s debate saw the release of more Clinton emails, and a recording of Trump from ten years earlier. Any guesses about which topic received more air time and column inches?
Trump appeared on Access Hollywood in 2005 and boasted of the appeal of money and fame while describing his advances on a woman. He was crude and raunchy but he said that he stopped when the woman rejected his advances. The war on women was back on! The press worked itself into a lather to get the word out and even worked several questions into the start of the debate. It didn’t seem to have had a huge impact with a poll taken the morning of the debate indicating unchanged support among Republicans.
Are Republicans the woman hating trolls the media would have us believe?
It seems more likely that Republicans realize that they are being played by the press. This recording has been in an archive of the company that produces Access Hollywood and someone was waiting for the opportunity to release it. Convenient, isn’t it, that this bomb drops just as early voting is starting?
The sudden concern for decorum is also suspicious. Years ago Glenn Beck did a segment on his radio show where he read through a best seller book list. Each of the Fifty Shades of Gray books appeared on the list individually as did their box set. Beck and his on-air team gently mocked the taste of the people who made those books best sellers and commented on the state of the culture. On television, Game of Thrones is a popular series with a huge following that doesn’t seem concerned about its sex and violence. Magazines and popular music regularly go there too. American society is no longer nearly as Victorian in its tastes as the press would have us believe.
The media also neglected to mention that Trump was a registered Democrat when he appeared on the show in 2005. But this is not the kind of gotcha they like to play.
Finally, the ‘Trump as woman abuser’ line is somewhat less effective when it is being deployed in the service of the wife of Bill Clinton. Hillary may not have been party to Bill’s transgressions but she did lead the ‘bimbo eruption team’ to contain and neutralize women who threatened her husband’s political career. Trump’s press conference with women who have serious claims about the behavior of the Clintons over the years is a firm reminder that he is not willing to be a punching bag. Aside from the meme, does anyone remember why Mitt Romney had ‘binders full of women?’ No, because Romney didn’t defend himself and let the opposition frame the statement. Donald Trump is not going to go down that road.
To be continued…