Hillary had a great night on Monday. She was calm. She was personable. She smiled. She didn’t cough. She was focused. She was prepared. She knew her stuff. She was presidential.
Trump had a terrible night on Monday. All he had to show up and not implode. He had to re-assure reluctant supporters that he could be trusted to at least play the part of a reasonable human being. For an hour and half.
He couldn’t do it. He lacked the attention span to follow his own thought through to construct a complete sentence . (Although perhaps we should give him credit for creating a new word). He was easily baited. He was angry and petulant. He also lied. Repeatedly.
He’s a reality TV star. And yet somehow, he didn’t understand how television works. He didn’t even pay attention to the television elements of the debate. In a split screen, the audience can see you. They can hear you. So when you sniff, glare, drink water and pull odd faces, the audience sees it. Had he watched even one debate reel, he would have known this. Hillary did. That’s why she was smiling- or at least that was the reason in the beginning.
All of this is true. But it is a discussion about television and strategy and character. And the fact that the discussion is about that is a win for Trump. He may have lost on those elements on Monday night, but he was at least in the game. He has a personality and is certainly a character. And we can compare Hillary and Trump on those elements.
But if the discussion is about experience, issue and policy proposals, there is no discussion to be had and no comparison worth making because Trump’s out of his league. His ideas, when he has them, are childish soundbite solutions (build that wall) to complex problems. His policy proposals are illegal at the national and international level. They should not be taken seriously.
But, because of our particular media system, our “journalists” must either pretend that Trump has policy ideas and experience worthy of the office he seeks, or move the debate to character. On Monday, Trump’s character again presented that challenge for the media because he has once again, shown himself unfit. Despite his assurances about this temperament, we saw that he was out of his league on that one too.
The bar was set ridiculously low on Monday and even with that, he couldn’t meet it. But don’t worry. He’s going to try actually preparing for the next debate. Preparation is like that unicorn of Trump’s pivot– a beautiful and childish fantasy.
Hillary supporters, make no mistake. Trump has won in an important way. We are all talking about character, and it’s the only arena in which Trump can compete. But then again, maybe even then, not so much.