Remember back in the day when Premier Danny Williams of Newfoundland used to get under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s skin by calling him Steve? This week, Hillary Clinton employed that same tactic in the first presidential debate, refusing to call the Trumpmeister anything but ‘Donald’. And it appeared to rattle him. At least something had him sniffing and guzzling water like a camel with a leaky hump.
It is hard to find a pundit who will say that Trump won the debate, although Fox News did report that “online polls” suggest Trump won. However, when most online polls are so easy to manipulate through multiple voting, it’s hard to give them the same weight as the more scientific. Trump also claimed the next day that he won the CBS News post-debate poll. But then CBS News tweeted that they actually did not conduct a poll… so yay, Donald?
But c’mon! He lost. Almost every reputable pundit, Republican and Democrat agreed.
In Monday’s debate, Trump managed to say that lurking like a vulture in 2008 to pick the bones of those destroyed by the house crisis was ‘good business’. That not paying taxes is ‘smart’. That firing at Iranian ships would not start a war. That Rosie O’Donnell ‘deserved’ being called a pig. That President Obama should thank him for pushing on the birther issue. That he did not say that climate change was made up by the Chinese — when there is Twitter evidence to prove that he did say that. The list of typical Trump cow droppings was legendary, but as has proven to be the case this very strange election cycle, it is hardly likely to matter. If nothing else, the American people have become pretty inured to Trump’s “semi-exact” (lying) statements.
But the overwhelming take I got from all this is — what incredible arrogance, what hubris!
Not to go out and lie blatantly like that and expect it not to matter to the 80 million viewers, but to go into a debate in front of said viewers so woefully unprepared.
Trump’s campaign had said before the debate that he was unprepared, perhaps thinking they could lower a bar already at ground level to subterranean depths.
They got it right. He was completely unprepared. Because he thought he could wing it like he does at his rallies.
The trouble is, at his rallies Trump can string a fairly incoherent bunch of syllables together and as long as he hits his key words, like ‘illegal criminal immigrants’, ‘radical Islamic terrorists’ and ‘the wall’, his followers eat it up.
And he feeds off the energy.
But going into a setting where the studio audience has been instructed to be quiet — though the very audible laugh when Trump said his temperament made him a good choice for president broke that rule — means you can’t feed off the crowd. And every word is heard, not drowned out by supportive screams.
So people heard him very clearly when he rambled and dodged and evaded.
But his biggest mistake was walking into a debate with a candidate who had been preparing for weeks, and scoffing at her for that.
One of Clinton’s better lines was, yes I prepared for the debate, and I’m prepared to be president. Unsaid, but deeply implied was the ‘unlike you’.
What kind of ego does it take to think that you can debate off the cuff and win? A yooge one to be sure. Because if Trump proved nothing else, he proved that winging it is scary. And brought up the valid question, what if he wings it as president?
And Clinton played her part. She wasn’t dazzling, but she obviously had studied what would get under Donald’s skin — questioning his wealth, his tendency to refuse to pay contractors, his refusal to release his tax returns.
The longer the debate went, the more unappealing Trump’s behaviour became. He was constantly interrupting and was finally reduced to yelling ‘wrong!’.
Then, after the debacle was over, he blamed a faulty microphone. People are saying it’s a conspiracy, sad. And then said, predictably, that the moderator, Lester Holt, was obviously leaning to Hillary.
Well, there you go. It’s not his fault. And the next day he insisted he won.
I’m betting he finds a reason to cancel the next debate. Really, we’d all be winners, cuz who wants to watch that again?
Carolyn Grant is Editor
of the Kimberley Bulletin