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I just watched the debate—this Tuesday morning—on YouTube. I knew how it had gone beforehand—that Hillary had won it hands down—having woken up when it was at mid-point (3:45am CET) and followed the live commentaries and reactions on my Twitter feed. Strictly on form, I thought Trump wasn’t too bad for the first twenty minutes or so, though the content of what he said on trade and jobs was pure Trumpian bullshit. He is a total ignoramus on these subjects—as on every other—with no idea WTF he’s talking about. And for the last hour of the debate, he reverted to being his typical Donald Trump self, from A to Z. Everyone watched him, so no explanation required. Borrowing from Andrew Sullivan’s live blog of the debate, Trump was like a drunk in a bar, incoherently ranting and raving. Echoing what I and millions of people have said countless times, it is simply beyond belief that such a person could be the presidential nominee of one of the two major parties and with an actual chance of going to the White House. If I had to choose between Trump and Marine Le Pen, I would the latter in a split second. The fact that Trump has gotten this far is not only a damning indictment of the Republican Party—which deserves to die as a result (though it won’t)—but also of a very large portion of American society.
As for Hillary, her performance was tops IMO: articulate, calm, poised, nerves of steel, in command of the issues… In short, she was Hillary Clinton. There has not been, in my lifetime at least, a presidential nominee who knows policy better than she and is more qualified to be president. As for her debate persona, of being supposedly over-rehearsed, robotic, smug-looking, “too much head and not enough heart” (dixit WaPo’s Chris Cillizza), and whatever snarky reproach Maureen Dowd will no doubt level at her: bof… It’s of zero importance so long as she killed it on substance. Sure, form does matter greatly in debates, but Hillary had no problem in this department last night. For those who think she did—that there were problems with her facial expressions or body language—what could she have possibly done differently? Please tell.
I have no idea what effect the debate will have on the polls. Anyone who has been supporting Trump up to this point—who has given the slightest credence to his bullshit, cares not a whit about his lies and insults, and has not been repulsed by his persona and horrified at the mere thought of him being president—is not going to rethink that support on account of his performance last night. They love the way he is. Some soft Trump supporters—e.g. working class Democratic voters in the Rust Belt states, moderate Republicans—may now declare themselves undecided to pollsters and perhaps consider voting Hillary or sitting out the election. On verra. The main effect will be to calm down Democrats who have been panic-stricken at the tightening of the race and been freaking out as FiveThirtyEight’s chances of Hillary winning have headed south into the 50s. Hillary’s debate victory should arrest her polling descente aux enfers and cause the numbers to uptick a point or two. Nate Silver, for his part, thinks she’ll see a gain—though if she doesn’t, then it may well be panic time.
Slate’s Michelle Goldberg has a good instant comment on the debate—in which she called Trump a “walking phallus”—”At the first presidential debate, Hillary proves she’s got this.”
Vox’s Ezra Klein, “The first debate featured an unprepared man repeatedly shouting over a highly prepared woman: The coherence gap between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was devastating.”
Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, “Donald Trump’s first presidential debate confirmed he has no idea what he’s talking about.”
New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, “Ranting bully Donald Trump came unglued in first presidential debate.”
Anyone want to take bets on Trump bailing out of the second debate?
UPDATE: Arthur Goldhammer has a must-read meditation in The Nation (September 28th), “What would Alexis de Tocqueville have made of the 2016 US presidential election? Feverish thoughts from a moment of ‘extreme peril’.”
2nd UPDATE: David Wasserman at FiveThiryEight (September 29th) has something to calm the nerves of those terrified by the specter of a Trump victory, “‘Missing’ white voters could elect Trump. But first they need to register.”
3rd UPDATE: David Roberts at Vox (September 29th) has a must-read commentary that tells us what we’ve been sensing but does it very well, “The question of what Donald Trump ‘really believes’ has no answer. It is a category error.” The money quote is the very last sentence.
See also WaPo’s Chris Cillizza (September 29th), “This is the single most remarkable thing I have read about Donald Trump in a very long time.” Really frightening.
4th UPDATE: Ex “Bernie bro” Isaac Saul explains, on his A Grain of Saul blog (September 27th), his salutary change of heart: “I wrote that I despised Hillary Clinton. Today, I want to publicly take it back.” He adds: “After months of thought and research, I’ve come to enthusiastically support Clinton.”
For idiot Bernie bros out there contemplating a vote for Jill Stein, or politically illiterate millennials who think Gary Johnson is cool because he smokes reefer and should therefore be president of the United States and leader of the Free World, please read Thomas Geoghegan’s tribune in the venerable lefty In These Times (September 26th), “3 reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton that have nothing to do with Hillary Clinton: We can’t ignore the ways that having a Democrat in the White House matters.”
5th UPDATE: Danielle Allen, a political theorist at Harvard University, writes in The Washington Post (September 30th), “I’ve come to admire Hillary Clinton. What on earth happened?”
See also in WaPo the op-ed by Ruth Marcus, “Most people grow out of middle school. Not Donald Trump.” The WaPo report she links to on Trump’s childhood (at ‘hurling rocks’) is a must-read.
6th UPDATE: Politico Magazine has a lengthy investigative report (September 30th) by journalist Garrett M. Graff, “What the FBI files reveal about Hillary Clinton’s email server: New documents tell the full, strange story of a technophobic VIP, a sloppy State Department, and the jerry-rigged computer that held it all together.” A friend, who works for the state of California, linked to it on social media with the following comment:
The State Department’s IT was FUBAR, so she let her aides come up with ways she could do her job without using their system.
Basically, she bypassed the petty rules and dysfunctional bureaucracy so she could do her job serving the public.
I think most of us who work for the government have done something similar at one time or another.
When you do that, and it comes to light, you have to say: Yes, I made a mistake, I’m sorry. You have to take the fall, because you can’t condone the rule-breaking, even if you know rule-breaking is sometimes necessary to get the job done.
And the people who use this uncomfortable situation to try to impugn your integrity (and I think most of us in government have encountered them)? Screw ’em. Seriously, fuck those people. They are a blight on the goodness and basic decency that is at the core of public service.
7th UPDATE: We’ve all read about how Donald Trump stiffs contractors and other people who do work for him, which is, at minimum, prima facie proof that he is a sociopath, indeed an outright criminal. It is beyond comprehension how, knowing this indisputable fact about Trump—which he all but confirmed in last Monday’s debate—anyone could possibly vote for him (but do his supporters, who live in the alternate world of Fox News, AM talk radio, the Internet réacosphère, and Alt-right websites understand the extent of it?). If you, dear reader, know persons who say they are voting for Trump, please send them the account by New York-based singer-songwriter Christine Lavin, “Read what Donald did to his wedding caterer, it will make you sick,” and then ask what they make of it.
8th UPDATE: See the latest salvo by the (politically centrist) Washington Post Editorial Board (September 30th), which has been on a tear against Trump—as have the near totality of the paper’s regular columnists, conservatives included (e.g. see this latest one by Michael Gerson)—”The clear and present danger of Donald Trump.” The editorial is the first in a series the Post will be running “on the damage [Trump] could wreak unilaterally as president.”
9th UPDATE: Here are The Washington Post’s (great) editorials on the concrete dangers that a President Trump would pose:
10th UPDATE: Staunch GOPer Tim Miller—a founder of the America Rising PAC and former spokesperson for Jeb Bush, entre autres—has a broadside that needs to be read by any Republican out there, “The conservative case against Donald Trump: Six reasons Republicans should not vote for Trump in November.” I obviously do not share his view of of Hillary—and we no doubt differ on countless other matters as well—but he hits a bull’s eye here in regard to Trump.