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.