It’s hard to believe that 100 million Americans watched the same debate. The most-watched debate in history turned out to be a Cliff Notes version of Trump’s last 15 months.
And nothing will have changed because of it. And we in the media are partly to blame.
As for Secretary Clinton, she demonstrated the attributes expected, and required, of a president. She was disciplined, composed and, most important, prepared. She was so well-prepared, that when Donald jabbed her for spending time on debate preparation, she coolly smiled and replied, “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president, and I think that’s a good thing.”
For the millions of Clinton’s supporters, as well as those terrified of her losing, she brought the performance of a lifetime.
And then there was Donald, the same immature, 70-year-old child. The same egomaniac who started his campaign by disparaging Mexicans and immigrants and continues to offend indiscriminately; the same immoral, arrogant real estate developer; the same policy-less, fact-less, faux-Republican; and the same lazy, attention-whore entertainer.
Instead of answering a question about cyber-security, he defended his bedfellow, Russian President Vladimir Putin, disputed what the FBI has asserted and then went on a fat-shaming rant. “It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could be lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”
Donald demonstrated more of the same petulant arrogance regarding his income, success and, most startlingly, how he avoided paying taxes. The gibberish Donald spewed in response to moderator Lester Holt’s challenge that he make his tax returns public is best left to audio … but worth a listen. When Clinton called him out for not paying federal taxes in a specific year, Donald snarked, “That makes me smart.”
Smart is not the adjective I would use.
In another instance, Clinton accused Donald of not paying a small-business contractor for work on his golf course. Deny it? No. Instead, he responded, “Maybe he didn’t do a good job, and I was unsatisfied with his work.”
But again, this is who Donald is. He is childish, and lazy. He has never wanted to campaign. He has never wanted to fundraise or organize. He’s running the laziest campaign in history. Instead of hard work, he’s throwing rallies and going on TV shows.
But he has an excuse for all of it. For the primaries it was: I’m not fundraising, because I’m not beholden to special interests. Now that it’s easy to fundraise, as the Republican nominee … sure! Bring on the fundraising.
Oh, and instead of learning about issues, he speaks his mind … from the gut. He’s a different kind of candidate. Spend time actually preparing and practicing for the debate? Of course not. He’s the “Babe Ruth of debating,” and he doesn’t need to work on response-lines.
So if it was such a one-sided performance, how will it change nothing among voters?
Like any election, there are entrenched voters on both sides. It truly doesn’t matter who it is, what is said or how much money is spent. The other issue is that the media is treating this embarrassing Trump performance like every other embarrassing Trump performance of the last year and a half — by giving him all of the attention. It doesn’t matter if great journalists try to expose Trump as the fraud he is, because it is the attention itself that fuels his insane campaign.
To put it another way, it doesn’t matter how brilliant Clinton was because every highlight shown, or sound-bite discussed, is about Trump. How are voters supposed to judge her policy-command, professionalism, temperament, performance and so-on, if all they see is Trump?
It is an attention game that Trump can’t lose. Was he totally outclassed in the debate? Absolutely. Did he gain any supporters? Absolutely not. The good news is that independents and millennials looking at the alternative candidates saw they have to choose between two options: a hard-working, professional adult, and Donald — a lazy, petulant 70-year-old boy.