The Clinton/Trump First Debate: Blah, blah, blah at Hofstra

I got very up for the debate but in watching it I recalled a number of Super Bowl’s that have excited me in the past, but only until the kick off.    To hasten to the nub, Trump won the first half and Hillary the second half and the contest itself, at least according to the general consensus (including members of Trump’s own camp who think he had opportunities he blew).

I have said before that winning to me means swaying the relatively few undecideds one way or another.   I was looking for signs of that but nothing jumped out at me, hence my boredom as neither candidate said anything I haven’t heard before.

Since the debate I have seen attention paid to Trump’s blustering bully show in the second half of the contest, implying that Trump’s performance and Clinton’s response might have garnered some votes for her.   After all he interrupted her some 51 times to her 17, the kind of overbearing treatment most women can relate to and resent.   He also accused her of lacking the stamina needed to be president, another macho move which backfired in that she was the one who still looked strong and focused at the end while he looked tuckered out and incoherent.

Perhaps the irony of that was obvious enough without needing to put a point on it, but I wish Clinton would have come up with some sort of zinger, like asking Trump if he needed some water or to rest for a minute.

But Hillary had another way to put Trump down in the form of  Alicia Machado, a Miss Universe contest winner of some twenty years ago.   She was exhibit ‘A” of Trump’s mistreatment of women and he obviously didn’t see this coming.  The pageant owner back then, Trump had called her nasty things in public when she put on weight after her crowning and humiliated her in other ways.

While all of that undoubtedly made women who can’t stand Trump stand him even less, I have no idea what impact that has on undecided women.  The point that Trump has often been piggish with women has been made over and over again.  However, last I saw he is pretty even in the polls.   So, a lot of women have taken this into account and still back him, obviously more concerned with other issues, or perhaps even attracted to his strength and decisiveness.  In turn, they are able to ignore his more ugly qualities or see those warts as indications that at least he’s not a phony (I think he’s the king of phonies, but leaving that aside…)

Rather than the women’s issue per se, I think Hillary might have changed some minds a bit by her appearing more presidential than Trump, including her ability to get under his skin and to prompt him to wander off into a land of non-sequiturs.

Still, I am anxious about just how well Clinton did even though bookmakers have given her a four point boost according to The Guardian.   While concluding Clinton had won the debate the news source qualified that with:   “Yet if the unpredictable 2016 race has confirmed anything, it is that Trump’s bluster has frequently confounded pundits and resonated with voters.”

The resonance has largely stemmed from Trump’s ability to give voice to many of the estimated 70% of us who “feel the country is headed in the wrong direction.”  This is the headwind that Hillary must continue to buck right down to election day and where Trump did cash in during the contest’s first thirty minutes in which he played pin the tail on the Hillary.  Except he stuck several tails on her and they all said “status quo”.

Hillary only promises to try to make things better which pales along side of Trump’s promise to make things great (again).   Given our deep divides as to even what “better” means and the ongoing congressional gridlock, the chances of Hillary’s modest goals seem dubious.   Trump’s assertions reside in fantasyland, but being human many are dissatisfied enough to bet on a dream.

What will be the mood of the undecideds come election day?  I know one of them who has articulated perhaps the most common thread among that largely idiosyncratic constituency:  “I would like to know what Trump would do, but I’m afraid to see.”

P. S. – The Guardian article mentioned above portrays the debate well along with some of its aftermath.


While I think I have a sense of what either Hillary or Bernie would do or at least try to do as president, I have no idea when it comes to Donald Trump, other than he will try to build a wall on the southern border, because that is one of the few concrete proposals he has made.  I believe he has blown the issue way out of proportion, one of the tricks of a demagogue, but successfully enough that I actually might be in favor of building the stupid wall just so we can stop arguing about it.

While there is much that concerns me about Trump as president, right at this moment I feel most uncomfortable about the Donald’s need to win as a way of continuously building up his ego.  It is as if he needs to continue to notch wins lest he will start shrinking like the wicked witch of the west when doused with water.  Criticism is Trump’s water.

My concern is:  How will he define being a winner as president?  In business winning is to make money and then make more of it.  Winning either a primary race or the presidency (or a game of TV survivor) is even more clear cut.  You win the contest or you are a loser.

But being a winner as president is really a matter of opinion and subject to never ending debate.   Obama takes pride in the nuclear deal with Iran;  Republicans call it a terrible deal.  Trump calls it the worst ever.  Years after the fact historians look back and judge presidents as more or less a winner than they were judged in their time.  And those judgements keep changing over time, too.

There are few clear cut presidential wins like the surrender of Germany and Japan.

Of course, Trump would always act like he is a winner, but since there are no simple ways of keeping score, I think that would unnerve him.   As you may have noticed, he doesn’t react well to criticism.  It takes the gloss off his shiny sense of self.  Last week, for example he did a four western state campaign swing which could have been a victory tour, but because he is a vindictive sort, it was more of a “grudge tour,” as a Washington Post article described it.

He spent much of his time attacking a number of people who as the Post put it, had”done him wrong.” Among the malefactors were Republicans who have yet to endorse him, like “low energy Jeb” and the female Republican governors of South Carolina and New Mexico, Nikki Hailey and Susana Martinez.

The last named happens to be chair of the Republican Governors Association in addition to being a Latina, a backer the self-proclaimed party unifier could particularly use.  But in his unique way of courting support he told a crowd in New Mexico their state was in trouble and their governor needed to do a better job.

If president, given Trump’s diaphanous skin when it comes to criticism, he should be glowing red and seething under the hot light of the 24/7 coverage that comes along with the presidency.  And criticism might eventually sprout from his present true believers who at some point seem likely to feel let down once again by a politician.

The kinds of changes Trump has promised could only be carried out if he were elected king.  At a time when a gridlocked Congress elected by a polarized populace hinders changing much of anything, at what point do King Donald’s subjects begin to question his reign?

Sure he would blame everyone else for getting in his way, but after all he did say to a crowd just last week that “Politicians have used you and stolen your votes. They have given you nothing…. I will give you everything. I will give you what you’ve been looking for for 50 years. I’m the only one.”

Being the “only one” doesn’t leave him much room for excuses.

At what point do some of his ardent fans look behind the curtain of the all powerful Oz and see a little man at the controls projecting a phony awesome image?

P. S. – The Washington Post article mentioned above can be found at:

“The Science Behind Trump-Mania”: The Bloomberg Poll

Regular readers know that my disdain for Donald Trump of only a couple of months ago has given way to the excitement of a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  I just can’t wait to see more.   How far can reality TV go before it is our collective river of reality, not just one of many tributaries?  All the way to the presidency?

When can I laugh at the man again and not worry about it?

Although the Donald is riding a great wave right now, the waters figure to get more and more choppy in the months ahead, something I will speculate upon as time goes by.   But I’m riding his surf board piggy back until the upsurge.   No matter how it eventually plays out, the future of The Candidate reality show is secured.   It’s a big hit that figures to remain big for months to come.  Perhaps the great greatest success of this consummate narcissist.

There has been endless theorizing how Trump has pulled this off, but the recent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register poll breaks it down as well as anybody, so let’s take a look at what they have to say:

“Donald Trump‘s startling transformation from reality TV star to serious presidential contender in the eyes of some key Republican voters happened because he’s been able to sell himself as the straight-talker most candidates aspire to be, a Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows.

A look underneath the poll’s headline numbers, which put Trump atop the GOP field in the state that holds the nation’s first nominating caucuses on Feb. 1, suggests the New York real estate mogul is making the sale in large part because of qualities that aren’t part of the average political résumé. Everything that conventional wisdom says would torpedo his candidacy is instead making it stronger.

Penchant for brash pronouncements: Thirty-seven percent of Iowa’s likely Republican caucus-goers say the billionaire’s willingness to “tell it like it is” is the most attractive feature of his candidacy, according the poll.

Lack of political experience: Trump’s next best-scoring assets, at 18 percent each, were his success in business and the fact he’s not a career politician.

Ostentatious lifestyle: His outsized wealth came next in the list of qualities that voters find attractive, with 12 percent saying they like it because it might free him from outside influence. Seven percent said Trump’s most attractive quality was that he’ll do what he says he’ll do.

“I think he would be a good change to have the government run more like a business,” said Trump supporter Garrison Reekers, 43, a deputy sheriff from Belle Plaine, Iowa, who participated in the poll. “He can afford to pay his own way so he doesn’t have to take special interest money.”

So there you have it, or much of it.  Go to the poll and you can find caucus goer mentality sliced and diced in numerous ways.  Two points stick out in my mind. First, that of these projected caucus goers, 35% of them don’t believe President Obama was born in the United States, with the number rising to 46% of Trump supporters.   OMG! Are they still around in such numbers?

Funny, as the birther movement was forging my image of Trump as political clown, it was planting the seeds of his present campaign.  I lose. The Donald wins. (So far).

Second, while Trump gets a favorable response in terms of most campaign issues, especially the economic ones like world trade and job creation (in the 80’s), his worse two ratings are in “working with congress to get things done” (43%) and “improving race relations” (42%)…….

If predominantly white Iowans (over 90% in the state), many of them supporters, see Trump as weak on those last two issues, can you imagine the rest of the country giving him higher marks?

How do you become elected president if race relations and working with congress are your two weakest suits?

Well, it depends on how frustrated and angry we are down deep with our present collective circumstances.  How desperate we are to find a simple solution in the form of a savior.  As shocking as it would be here, it wouldn’t be the first time in history a dictator has been elected.

The 2016 Presidential Election: The View from 30,000 Feet

Queen Hillary officially threw her crown into the ring last Saturday.  Let the games begin.

I hear it was a good speech, with a touching topper being a little vignette about her mom’s childhood.   I hear Hillary touched lots of issue bases as well.   Maybe not a home run, but she gets credit for a line drive double at least.

That is unless you can’t stand her to begin with.  Her and her husband, Bill, the potential first FGOTUS.   (doesn’t work as well as FLOTUS or POTUS, but that mirrors the unshaped nature of what would be a ground breaking, possibly risque role, that of first gentleman).  

Who among us that remembers the Lewinsky scandal can think of “cigar” in the same way as before?  But it certainly is interesting to contemplate POTUS Hillary and FGOTUS Slick Willy, isn’t it?   A curiosity factor that might sway the vote of the Kardashian and Housewives of Almost-Every-American-City fans, as yet an untapped demographic.

My tone might suggest I’m one of those who can’t stand the Clintons.  But that would be wrong.  It is not that I love them but I do respect their abilities not only as politicians but as rulers.   What I can’t stand is what the Republican party has become ( a few election cycles ago I would have voted for John McCain for president had not GWB grabbed, maybe stole, the nomination).

Whatever.   The key illumination was flashed decades ago by that now dead but once larger than life character/writer/womanizer Norman Mailer:   “Americans don’t vote for someone, they vote against someone else.”

And I’ll be voting against all those Republicans out there.    If either Bush III or Ohio Governor John Kasich survive the endless night of the long knives otherwise known as the Republican primaries I might think about it a bit, but I’m still likely to vote for Hilary.

She is at least as smart and as tough as those guys with much more experience of the inner workings of Washington and other capitals around the world, in short the  most capable.

I still like and respect President Obama, but my sad conclusion is that he is too professorial to be a great president, especially in these chaotic, confusing times when it comes to the world order.  Far preferable to a gun slinger like “W”, who shot our way into the Iraq mess, but still not quite up to shining in an admittedly impossible job.

I’m hoping Hillary is the best of both.  At least, no one is better prepared to be our next president.

As for her campaign thus far, I like the slow roll out.  What’s the rush?  Who’s queen here anyway?  From 30,000 feet she’s all one can see.   Everyone else needs growth hormones.  So, keep em guessing, all those detractors in the press and the other party who are just waiting for more targets to stab.

And one thing in her favor is her trio of democratic challengers, who are more sparring partners than detractors, especially Bernie Sanders, the foremost, the rarest of politicians in that he says largely what he thinks, and has for many years.  But he is a self-proclaimed Socialist.  Reminds me of the book The Scarlet Letter, though his is “S”.   Sort of a Democratic version of Ron Paul, with that sort of chance.

Let the Republican phalanx  of candidates slash and dash each other playing king of the small hill (sorry Carlie, but like Charlie Tuna…) .   Mount Hillary will await for the survivor.  Most important for the queen right now is to craft an image that is fresh and fun (I mean, within reason here), to counter Clinton fatigue and the image Republicans will continually paint as “a third term of Obama’s failed policies” along with being one Clinton too many, old old hat.

Here’s the big picture:   Most of us already know who we will vote for as president.   Either Hillary or almost anyone but Hillary – we probably need to set some parameters lest we include Charles Manson and such, perhaps drawing the line just past Donald Trump, but you get the picture.

There are tons of polls, but I can’t find one that simply asks:  If the election were held today, who would you vote for?  Hillary or someone not Hillary?  I’d be interested in what they’d come up with.

I agree with those who argue that there are really very few “independent voters” these days.  The Dem-leaning, but relatively  impartial professor, columnist, etc. Larry Sabato estimates real independents to be around 5%.  Things have become too polarized.  When the bullets are flying, you are either on one side or another.

I’m a case in point.  I think of myself as independent, but I’m really a Democrat by default.    Hillary has my vote barring some truly icky skeleton popping out of the Clinton closet. (Please, Bill…

These next 17 months of trench political warfare which most of us will come to loath is aimed not at we vast majority of decideds, but at the 5%  of the fully fickle. If you have followed this blog for years perhaps you recall my story about my bartender friend Bob, who made up my one person poll prior to the 2012 election.

As to the question of who he was voting for, he said:  “Well, I don’t like Obama, but Romney is a Mormon and they’re really scary.  Maybe I’ll vote for my dad.  He’s a good man.” I think in the end Bob wound up not voting.

In any case, think of him in upcoming months as you are being strafed by attack ads through your TV screen or hand grenaded via your mail box, its not aimed at you.

It’s all Bobs’ fault.

A Plug for Fareed Zakaria GPS (Global Public Square)

Soon today Hillary Clinton is supposed to announce her candidacy for president.  Whoopty Doo!   Who besides a relative handful of political news junkies cares?  Like there has been a shred of doubt in recent months.   The p-junkies are excited because they love to dissect the candidates, like football draft analysts, coming up with ticklers like Jeb Bush, the supposed leader in the Republican half of the race, prompts no enthusiasm in focus groups in New Hampshire….or Rand Paul is too thin skinned to do well under the stress of campaigning or the surprising amount of money (31 million) Ted Cruz has scraped together already.

My long shot Republican candidate is Ohio governor John Kasich, but he hasn’t even declared, so no use wasting any thought on him right now, either.  I just want to establish early credit for making the pick if by some miracle he jumps up in the Republican primaries.

That’s enough for now on the presidential race.   Barring something startling, I doubt I will comment upon the race again for months.

That was a roundabout way to making a plug for Fareed Zakaria’s show called Global Public Square on CNN on Sunday’s at 7:00 a.m. Pacific Time.  It is my favorite political news show because it puts events in perspective, which I generally find lacking in most political chat shows.  And it takes on worldly important topics instead of dwelling on our American media preoccupations with campaign analysis, shootings (often racially related), graphic disasters or the abuse of some group’s “individual rights”.  I record the show and often watch it in segments during the week.

This morning Fareed kicked off with his perspective on the Iran Nuclear deal.   Similar to the presidential election, I don’t want to spend much time analyzing that issue until things sort themselves out more in the next couple of months.  But Fareed puts the deal in perspective, something which may help as pros and cons of the “deal” are aired in weeks to come (what will be the deal, if there is one, is unknowable at this point).

You should be able to find the video segment here.  And a written version is available here.