From Donald Trump’s perspective, he did well in last night’s debate because he didn’t say some nasty things he was thinking. And, indeed, he did refrain from most personal attacks. But he also managed to reveal that he lacks presidential temperament and judgment.
He was easily provoked and distracted. He occasionally blathered. He accused Clinton of fighting ISIS her entire adult life. What was that about?
He considers all things under his businessman banner as justified, even if it means not paying taxes. About not doing so, he said, “That makes me smart.” Even though, as Clinton pointed out, this short changes the very people Trump claims to care about, including active military, veterans and schools. It prevents the support of a country’s infrastructure — something he described as woefully inadequate.
He used business to justify not paying people, even if they finish the job he hired them to do. He should have realized that many Americans who vote work for a living and can barely make ends meet. They would lose their homes if “stiffed” by their employers.
He was rude to the debate moderator, Lester Holt. He even abruptly said at one point to justify yet anther interruption: “You asked me a question. Did you ask me a question?” Holt was very professional and restrained. He did not take these moments personally, but they were dismissive. An occasional insistence on completing a thought or responding is fine in such debates. Trump took it too far — with Clinton and Holt. It revealed the volatile temperament he denies and a sense of superiority and entitlement that he so frequently manifests.
He did have some moments when he sympathized with the plight of people suffering from violence. But his emphasis on “law and order” implied reliance on racial profiling.
Clinton was superbly prepared. When the presidency of the United States is at stake, preparation is paramount. Yet, she was natural in her style and humorous when appropriate. She was serious and knowledgeable when the topics were about significant issues. She knew the facts with little reference to notes. Her nonverbal expressions were responsive to what was said by Trump rather than gratuitously derogatory and directed at him.
She used his words to support her premises regarding his disparaging views of women. She quoted him rather than making things up, what John King of CNN referred to post-debate as Donald Trump’s “casual relationship with the truth.”
What we saw last night was a presidential look that now includes women. Clinton demonstrated that being a woman doesn’t mean you lack stamina, as Trump stated. She was strong, informed, direct, relaxed, confident and capable at the podium. When he went low, she went high, which is the approach she attributed to President Obama when harassed for years by Trump about his place of birth.
For Trump’s part, he did manage himself in terms of vicious retorts. He was, however, easily distracted and comparatively uninformed. That he brought up in a presidential debate a feud he’d had with television personality Rosie O’Donnell, revealed a shocking lack of judgment, if not a fragile grasp on reality. With regard to having supported going into Iraq, he feebly replied that the press should “ask Sean Hannity” for the truth. This defense, let me be generous here, bordered on infantile.
Yes, we saw “presidential” last night. We saw an extremely accomplished woman who knows what matters, how the world works, that good businesses don’t take an anything-goes-approach to their people. Being in business does not justify making exorbitant profits on the backs of underpaid, unappreciated, hardworking people. Moreover, being president is not the same as being a CEO. It is also not a position earned by inheritance of a fortune in the absence of experience and knowledge. And it is certainly undeserved by a candidate who shows up to debate his opponent unprepared, pompous and petulant.