I never think Trump does particularly well in these debates, which are a forum he’s clearly not comfortable in. But I also just don’t get the conservative #NeverTrumpers who keep tweeting over and over again that he has whiffed and face-planted on every single point.
Really, he hasn’t. He does well on some things. Hillary scores some points too, but she is far from compelling. Her habit of smirking in an arrogant and disdainful manner is really off-putting.
I won’t rehash the whole debate here. As before, just a few random points.
1. Hillary’s strongest moment was one for her own base. It won’t resonate at all outside of her base. It was her defense of unfettered abortion. Not the series of untruthful points she disgorged about Roe v. Wade (on which, as a matter of law, she was comprehensively wrong) and Planned Parenthood. Those were just long-debunked left-wing boilerplate. But she managed to sound crusading and emotionally engaged about abortion as a “right,” and that will play with her base.
2. On all other matters, Hillary was straight boilerplate, and entirely without substance. She wants to create jobs and help families. My goodness, why didn’t someone think of that before? Alert the media! (She also wants to give free college to the kids in every family with a household income of less than $125,000 a year. I don’t really think the people are dumb enough to fall for that one. For one thing, too many of them know that you don’t necessarily bebop along from year to year with the same income. Fewer and fewer people do that anymore – something Hillary would know, if she actually knew anything about economic life for most Americans in the 2010s.)
3. She did put forth the novel idea of appointing a “trade prosecutor.” Yeah, that’ll help. Keep our capital gains tax rate just about the highest in the free world, keep overregulating our entire economy into uncompetitiveness, and appoint a trade prosecutor to shake foreign countries and their companies down. They’ll be beating our door down to invest here and buy our stuff.
4. Her riff on a no fly zone in Syria was idiotic. I mean that sincerely, not as a dramatic exaggeration. It is idiotic to talk about a no fly zone in Syria at this point. You and what Napoleonic invasion force are going to shove a no fly zone down Russia’s throat, Hillary?
5. Astonishingly, a chorus of NeverTrumpers thought Hillary was wiping the floor with Trump in the foreign policy/national security segment. Trump had his own moments of, er, inadequate briefing, but he surprised me by knocking it out of the park on the actual situation in Aleppo.
Even among the better commentators on Fox, no one but the ex-military contributors gets it right. Aleppo isn’t “about” atrocities and suffering now, in the sense that that’s the primary, driving dynamic there. Aleppo is about Russia, Iran, and Assad retaking territory. They don’t care who they have to kill, and there is nothing we’re in a position to do about it.
Trump got that. On that topic, he clearly was adequately briefed – unlike almost everyone else we hear from in Washington, D.C.
6. OK, the obligatory “Trump said he won’t accept the outcome of the election” section. I’m watching Megyn Kelly melt down over that at this very moment. Certainly, all the NeverTrumpers melted down.
Apparently they slept through the whole Al Gore episode in 2000. It seems they’ve also been sleeping through the strategically placed alarms raised by Jeh Johnson about the integrity of the election, because you’d think being concerned about it was beyond the pale.
But Jeh Johnson has raised one type of alarm – about potential election system hacking – and another type of alarm has been raised by actual, documented instances of thousands of false, illegal, invalid voter registrations right now – vulnerabilities in the system that may affect this election. There’s enough out there to generate legitimate concern.
It’s stupid, a form of know-nothing-ism, to demand a caveat-free endorsement of this election’s integrity before it happens.
Yet that’s what many of the usual-suspect conservatives were doing on Twitter. Now, I have a criticism of Trump, which is that he should have rephrased the proposition so he could answer it the way he really wanted to. Ted Cruz would have done that, and could have done it in his sleep. There was a right way and a wrong way to approach this question, and Trump didn’t get it right.
But his critics are simply in a demagogic snit about the topic, demanding a catechistic response from him that isn’t merited by the facts and conditions of the real world. Given history, known facts, and probability, it’s actually a virtual certainty that there will be fraud in this election. The people seem more likely to understand that than the talking heads. Their ears will hear that Trump understands it too. The old-consensus usual suspects are categorically wrong on this one.
8. I don’t remember exactly what Trump said there at the end, when he spoke into his microphone, sotto voce, out of annoyance. “What an awful woman,” or something like that. He really didn’t help himself with that comment. You’ve got to have more self-control than that. You’ve got to.
9. Trump nailed gun rights, and did pretty well in general not rising to bait. Hillary melted down on the “no borders” question from her paid speech, first making a gibberish point about “energy,” as if that had explanatory value, and then segueing immediately to “Russian hacking!” – about which she seemed incontinently enraged. She didn’t bother to link “Russian hacking!” in any logical way to Trump, but in her next set of comments, she just started in blaming him for somehow being connected with it.
All right, I’m out. Can’t take anymore. I suppose the Luntz panel will have something for us to chew on later. One of the candidates probably said something silly that I don’t even remember, but at least the moderator, Chris Wallace, didn’t. That was a relief.