Top 5 Takeaways From Last Night’s Presidential Debate
Here's the scenario: While during the dying moments of the Denver Bronco’s football game, a ‘Breaking News Alert’ flashed on TV screens. What's this?
Unbelievably, Republican candidate Donald Trump was holding an impromptu press conference with four women whose personal stories about the Clintons have gone unreported, dismissed, even ridiculed. Names recognizable to Baby Boomers who lived through the sexual morass of Bill Clinton’s presidency – Paula Jones and Kathleen Willey, and those who have gone unnoticed – Cathy Shelton who was attacked by a laughing Hillary Clinton reminiscing about her success in getting the confessed rapist off, and Juanita Broaddrick, whose long term claim against Bill Clinton for a 1998 rape has never been refuted. The women would sit in the audience at the debate.
It was something Aaron Sorkin would have never written into The West Wing, but there it was unfolding an hour before the two candidates were set to meet to debate… issues of substance like the national debt, ISIS, Syria and Russia, immigration, jobs, racial division.
Besides Trump's promise to direct his Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to go after his opponent – which in any other election other than Nixon versus McGovern in 1972, would have been not only unthinkable, but unnecessary, here are...
Top 5 takeaways from the town hall style debate that followed the early presser.
1. Donald Trump may have said that Hillary isn’t a quitter in response to a request from a member of the audience that each candidate say something complimentary about the other, but in fact, Trump’s no slouch in that department, either.
He didn’t give up on Friday night when the salacious tape was dumped by the media less than 48 hours before the debate. As GOP leaders ran for the exits, with some even calling for their candidate to bow out of the race – a step without precedent in the history of U.S. presidential elections and one without process in place at this late stage of the race, Trump chose not to go quietly, if at all.
Instead, he was his own man and true to his “call it like I see it, tell it like it is” self. For his supporters, it will have worked. For undecideds and those who were disturbed by the tape, it remains to be seen how effective his stand will have been, but it was nothing short of gutsy. Possibly just the kind of attitude needed to deal with Vladmir Putin.
2. Hillary Clinton can be rattled. She comes to this debate with decades in the public arena and is a well-known policy “wonk” who comes prepared, as she did in the first debate. Trump was widely criticized for skipping debate prep in favor of campaigning in the days before that first round and the distractions of the past two days couldn’t have helped him focus, but he was armed with solid data about, for instance: Obamacare’s increases in premiums and tax code reforms. His references to Clinton and the DNC running an unfair campaign against her primary challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, hit the mark. He name checked all the right boxes, albeit failing to connect the dots for the viewers. Clinton pal, Sidney Blumenthal, was considered so unethical that President Obama forbade Clinton to appoint him to an official post in her State Department. Jonathan Gruber is the architect of Obamacare who smugly admitted that the law was designed as a fraud on the “ignorant American voter.
The average voter may not know these names – Trump needed to suggest quick Google searches.
He missed a chance to note that Clinton took a $710,000 tax deduction using the same provision in the tax code he did, and should have hammered home that she was, in fact, Secretary of State during the setting of the line in the sand in Syria in August 2012.
He needs to hit those issues hard in the next week.
3. Clinton needs to watch game tape tomorrow. The smirks came at all the most inappropriate times – when faced with her complicity in shaming and degrading her husband’s victims, for instance. The pandering to the African-American and Muslim audience members was obvious and insulting. She needs to get the body language right next time.
4. The media needs to be removed from the process. Raddatz, of CBS, actively engaged in debate with Trump, going so far as to explain Clinton’s rather pathetic attempt to use Abraham Lincoln in her defense with regard to her comments about having to have a public and a private position on issues. It was unprofessional, although still short of Candy Crowley’s participation on President Obama’s team against Mitt Romney. CNN’s Anderson Cooper at times sounded like a prosecuting attorney in a courtroom and he may come in for some criticism for the follow-ups, especially when he pressed Trump for a confession to wrong-doing toward women based on the “locker room” talk from ten years ago.
Could we please have the two candidates sitting at a round table over coffee with a pile of newspapers before them, going through the headlines next time? It might be boring, but it would be one-on-one.
5. Although the American public may not have won, popular culture has.
Hollywood elite like celluloid tough guy Robert De Niro feign shock about Trump’s morality (!) and rock stars express outrage. Mr. Obama has called Beyoncé a role model for his two young daughters; check out the diva's lyrics in her Super Bowl half-time performance. She and her husband, rapper Jay-Z, have been frequent guests at the White House and active fund-raisers for the Democrats during the Obama administration; you might want to check out his beautiful, romantic, respectful lyrics about women.
Real people have to go to work tomorrow morning in the real world. The spectacle will have garnered great ratings, but so does news about plane crashes.
OK, One more bonus point...
*6. Hillary Clinton may not realize it, yet, but she handed Trump the best ad of the election when she went on at some length about her deep understanding of the need to recognize and protect classified material gained through her service on the Armed Services Committee as a senator. Major ooops. He needs to seize on that and not let go for the next 30 days.
Another, final debate will follow on October 19 – more than enough days for additional drama, not to mention sex, lies and videotape.