Most Americans, twenty minutes into last night’s debate, would have most assuredly preferred a colonoscopy without anesthesia than be subjected to that. Hillary Clinton pushed her tongue into her upper dentures to force a smile and Donald Trump yelled.
Remember when people were excited to see the train wreck that would be a Trump vs. Clinton debate? The nation comes away from the experience diminished. So does Lester Holt.
Holt was not a moderator so much as a person who tossed in a stick of dynamite and let the candidates toss it back and forth until it exploded. He gave the Trump camp ample reason for bias. He asked about:
- Trump’s taxes
- Trump’s statement on Hillary Clinton’s appearance
- Trump’s birtherism crusade
He did not ask about:
- The Clinton Foundation conflicts
- Clinton’s support of Obama’s red line repeatedly crossed in Syria
- Clinton’s “deplorables” comment
In fact, Holt brought up the issue of conflicts with Trump and his taxes, but it never came up with Clinton and the Clinton Foundation.
Never fear though, Holt had an entire section of the debate dedicated to cybersecurity and let Donald Trump take the business to Hillary Clinton over her emails. Except Trump did not. Yes, there was a specific question about Clinton’s emails earlier in the debate, but Holt set it up perfectly for Trump to take on hacking and security of her emails and Trump repeatedly failed to litigate the issue.
For her part, Clinton failed miserably to build the case against Trump about stiffing middle class workers. She tried, but she did a very poor job of it. It came across flat and emotionless. But, like John Kasich, we now know her father’s occupation.
Trump came across stronger in the beginning, but as the night went on he yelled more and more. He interrupted more and more. He was more and more off putting and annoying. All Clinton had to do was smile and laugh at him.
The Clinton criticism of Trump turned out to be true. She repeatedly baited him and Trump took the bait every single time. He hurt himself on the issue of his taxes and then set himself on fire with the birther issue. Clinton, however, never knew when to shut up. She was the Neil deGrasse Tyson of politics, taking the joy out of Christmas songs by too much needless and boring exposition.
At the end of the night, Clinton outperformed Trump only because she came across as less angry. I moderated a panel of voters after the debate. More than half were absolutely for Trump, only one was firmly for Clinton, but almost all of them think Clinton came across with the better demeanor.
It was reflected in the debate spin room as Trump’s staff put on a brave show that reeked of despair. Keep your eye on the LA Times tracking poll, which though the numbers may not be good has certainly picked up on shifts of momentum. I suspect we are about to see a shift in Clinton’s direction that may become irreversible.
The big loser of the night, however, was not Trump or Lester Holt. It was America. Two unlikable candidates went into the debate and came out even more unlikable. Okay, and Ted Cruz is a pretty big loser too for defending that performance last night. Come on, Ted…