David Levi Strauss / Debates / Dispatch / The Race

Dispatch 28: It’s Just Words, Folks. It’s Just Words

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I believe that Donald Trump lost the 2016 Presidential race for good in the first fifteen minutes of the second debate. After staging a pre-debate press conference with three women who have accused Bill Clinton of sexual harassment in the past and then seating them in the front row of the gallery to glower at Hillary, marshaling his entire family to march into the debate as “spouses,” and petulantly refusing to shake hands with his opponent, he seemed spatially disoriented onstage, even more nasally challenged than in the first debate, and generally cowed into submission.

The one thing Trump absolutely needed to do in this debate was to staunch the bleeding from the Access Hollywood video by stopping the defection of Republicans and other voters in swing states from his campaign. To do that, he needed to clear the air by coming out strongly and apologizing directly and convincingly. Instead, he again dismissed his speech on the tape as generic “locker room talk” (“It’s one of those things . . . frankly, you hear these things, they’re said . . . people say this”) and then stated that the things he said on the tape weren’t nearly as bad as ISIS beheadings and torture. From that point on, anyone who was in any way “undecided” or “uncommitted” was no longer listening.

If they were, they would have heard Trump throw his running mate Mike Pence under the bus over Syria, threaten to throw his opponent into jail if he is elected, and accuse the moderators (especially Martha Raddatz) of being on Hillary’s side. They would have also seen him smirk like an insecure teenager on the split screen, and then sneak up behind Hillary as she was speaking to the voters seated onstage and loom over her menacingly. In the last half of the debate, he finally found his rally voice, and repeated all his usual talking points fairly effectively. But if this had been a prizefight, Rudy Giuliani would have thrown in the towel after fifteen minutes, and Anderson Cooper would have thrown his body across Trump’s to protect him from further unanswered blows.

Hillary Clinton managed to keep her cool despite Trump’s adolescent antics, as did Martha Raddatz, and they both showed superhuman restraint when Trump began to pontificate about his vast knowledge of military matters to these two longtime experts. Talk about locker room talk. His assertion that Assad and Putin are both “killing ISIS” was especially galling.

After the debate, CNN commentator Van Jones speculated that Hillary did herself a lot of good by not knocking Trump entirely out of the race in this debate. By holding him up, she kept him in the race for the time being, giving him time to bleed out. He’s got thirty days to go.

David Levi Strauss
Sunday, October 9, 2016

LINK to all David Levi Strauss Power 2016 Dispatches

[Photography: Jon Winet. October 9, 2016. Iowa City, Iowa.]

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