One of the factoids I gleaned from last night’s pre-debate scuttlebutt was that the face-off against Donald Trump at Hofstra University marked Hillary Clinton’s fortieth debate. That’s 40, 4-0. And we’re not talking debate society here. All of these were debates for high offices in the federal government.
As if that weren’t enough practice, Clinton reportedly pulled an all-nighter Sunday, going one-on-one against a Trump stand-in. The GOP nominee, in contrast, opted not to test his mettle against a Hillary surrogate. That may have been ill-advised for someone who tends to think in what could best be described as “stream of consciousness.”
Trump’s propensity for rambling when he speaks extemporaneously was evident during the primary debates, so it came as no surprise when he followed suit last night. But his running off at the mouth carries a hetfy cost. Apart from coming off as incoherent at times, his failure to finish his own thoughts compromises his chances to score political points.
Consider as a case in point Trump’s answer to Lester Holt’s question on who is behind the cyber attacks on high-level institutions in the U.S. and who do we fight it?
Here’s Trump, according to the transcript:
I do want to say that I was just endorsed — and more are coming next week — it will be over 200 admirals, many of them here — admirals and generals endorsed me to lead this country. That just happened, and many more are coming. And I’m very proud of it.
In addition, I was just endorsed by ICE. They’ve never endorsed anybody before on immigration. I was just endorsed by ICE. I was just recently endorsed — 16,500 Border Patrol agents.
So when Secretary Clinton talks about this, I mean, I’ll take the admirals and I’ll take the generals any day over the political hacks that I see that have led our country so brilliantly over the last 10 years with their knowledge. OK? Because look at the mess that we’re in. Look at the mess that we’re in.
As far as the cyber [sic], I agree to parts of what Secretary Clinton said. We should be better than anybody else, and perhaps we’re not. I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia that broke into the DNC. She’s saying Russia, Russia, Russia, but I don’t — maybe it was. I mean, it could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It also could be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds, OK?
Did you get that? Apart from cramming in every loose association floating around in his brain (“somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds”), he missed a golden opportunity to:
(1) use the question as a foray into the topic of Clinton’s emails and
(2) ask her how she knows that the Russians (whom she is sure hacked into the DNC) didn’t also hack into her private account (which she has insisted was unbreeched).
There were many other missed opportunities to nail Clinton that simply ended up on the cutting room floor. Just a few chronicled by Byron York were Obamacare (which is in or approaching its death throes), the Clinton Foundation (which is still under federal investigation), and Benghazi. York’s piece in the Washington Examiner faults moderator Lester Holt for not asking questions on these topics, but Trump shares some blame for not working them into his own comments.
My advice to The Donald is to slow down during the next debate. Take a moment to collect your thoughts. Less is actually more when ideas matter — and they have never mattered more.