Random Thoughts On A Most Unusual Presidential Debate

When a freshman in high school I recall the assignment of  watching the presidential debate between President Ford and challenger Jimmy Carter.  The line which rattled so many the following day was the President’s upside down statement that “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.”

Everyone knew that it was a slip of the tongue–and a large one at that.  It rattled many since it was made on live television with a large audience just ahead of a national election.  But after watching thy most pathetic and embarrassing display of shameless ignorance from Donald Trump in Monday night’s presidential debate I can only wonder what Gerald Ford would say.

Over the decades I have watched all the debates with Republican nominees from Reagan, the Bushs, Dole, Romney and then tonight the bragging, impulsive, counterpunching, big-mouthed Trump.  I have had differing policy viewpoints with past nominees but never have I witnessed such a chasm between a candidate and facts.  Never have I witnessed such boorish behavior in a general election debate.  Even when Trump was not speaking the camera allowed the nation to see his rude facial expressions.  He did not seem to posses self-control of any kind.

One odd thought kept going through my head as the debate continued.  Why was Trump breathing in hard through his nose over the 90 minutes.  Was it some sort of trick for keeping his words trimmed or not to lash out in some crazy fashion?  It could not be a cold, right?  After all Trump told Dr. Oz only a couple of weeks ago that he almost never gets colds and hasn’t had one in years.  Right?

I will give Trump credit for some debate skills such as when he was asked by moderator Lester Holt about how the economy is now improving, but the candidate instead turned his answer about jobs going to Mexico.   I consider his answers about trade to be his highlight and best moment from the debate.  He was able to pin Clinton down on her change of view regarding TPP.

By his own admission he did not commit time to mock debates or reading briefing books–and it showed–but even his detractors need to cede the point that Trump was definitely prepared for the trade issue.  I do not live in Ohio but I suspect that a person who is angry over free trade, or lives in a place affected by it, felt that Trump expressed how they feel.  But in real terms all that probably does not matter as they were already voting for the GOP candidate.  In contrast I did not think Clinton debated the trade point with any specifies or rebutted in a way to undermine his views.

One has to wonder how the middle class voter across America evaluates the fact that Trump received a large amount of money from his father to start a business or that the billionaire rooted for the housing crisis so to make money.  One has to wonder how the hard-working taxpaying citizen views a billionaire who proudly finds ways to avoid paying taxes.  “That makes me smart,” Trump said.  That was a most audacious statement.  And then there was his admitting to stiffing a small-business man from the money he was owed.

This was not in any way like the first debate I watched in 1976!

I know there was speculation about how much Clinton would–or should–pounce on the factually incorrect statements from Trump.  I will admit to being rather perplexed about the number of times Clinton did not push back harder when he got things wrong.  I know this was a calculated decision from the campaign but I wanted a more robust rebuttal to Trump’s lack of substance and his continual wrong statements.

The best line of the night was after Trump criticized Clinton for preparing for the debate. Clinton pounced back by saying it was a good thing that she was preparing to be president.  (And cue the applause.)

Finally, I was not sure if a large pan of brownies would have been the best item to be served for the debate or to eat my way through the bombast with lasagna.  In the end it was pasta and French bread.

But after what I witnessed I really should learn to drink.

Dan Rather Still In The Mix

I have always loved Dan Rather.  I even have one of his stories about radio broadcasting in my book Walking Up The Ramp.  There is always a place for Rather in our home.

So the news this weekend is really great when it comes to this famed newsman.

Dan Rather’s brand new weekly SiriusXM program, Dan Rather’s America, will debut the day after Monday’s Presidential debate. Live from Rockefeller Center in New York. Rather, who will turn 85 Oct. 31, shows no signs of slowing down. The program will air on Radio Andy (Channel 102).

From Friday’s announcement:

“I’m pinching myself that Dan has agreed to lend his iconic voice to my channel,” said Andy Cohen. “Now more than ever, I’m hungry to hear his thoughts and reflections about what’s going on in the world.”

In July, Rather covered the DNC and RNC for Radio Andy. The one-hour weekly show will feature a mix of commentary, special guests and calls from listeners.

What About Those Polls?

David Plouffe talked to Greg Sargent about the tightening polls and the response needs to be stressed.

Some polls closely capture where the race stands. But they’re very incomplete. The Clinton campaign is doing large samples for modeling surveys of everybody on the voter file. So you have a very good understanding of how you believe 100 percent of the electorate will be allocated on election day.

When you look at how 100 percent of the vote is likely to be allocated in Florida, I get very optimistic… I can get Donald Trump to within two or three in Pennsylvania, but I can’t get him to a win number. The same is true in Virginia and Colorado. I know everybody goes crazy about the latest Cheetos poll, but I feel very confident about both New Hampshire and Florida. So that puts her over 300 [in the electoral college]. Trump has to pull off a miracle in the electoral college.

America Is Ready For First Presidential Debate Of Fall Campaign

I think there is no doubt that today is the most important in this entire presidential campaign.  Tonight Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will take the stage at Hofstra University for the first presidential debate.  And America is ready!

With national and swing state polls showing a tightening race—though larger than normal shares of voters claim to be undecided (which I actually doubt) or considering third-party candidates (which I do believe until we get to the 11th hour and people get serious)—the debate will offer each candidate the opportunity to reintroduce themselves to voters.

There is no way to overstate how crucial this evening is to all concerned.  Between the public’s impressions of what is said, or the tone struck, or the body language used tonight and then how the press will report and analyze that in the days ahead makes this the largest tightrope walk in American politics.

And it is in the first half-hour (remember we are still dealing with a voting public who has a limit to what it can watch and retain) which will move the dial one way or another.  History shows that to be true as Politico reminded us this morning.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will debate for 90 minutes on Monday. But the winner likely will be determined in the first half-hour. That’s when Al Gore first sighed, Mitt Romney knocked President Obama on his heels, and Marco Rubio, earlier this year, glitched in repeating the same talking point – over and over and over. It’s when Gore tried, unsuccessfully, to invade George W. Bush’s space, Richard Nixon was first caught wiping away sweat with a handkerchief (during the moderators’ introductions!) and Gerald Ford in 1976 made the ill-advised declaration that, ‘There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.'”