Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Donald Chronicles: He Nails It--Shut (with himself inside)

 The third and final 2016 so-called debate is over, and before we get to winner and loser talk, there is a headline from the debate that virtually every news outlet is leading with: Challenging pillar of U.S. democracy, Trump says he may not accept election result.
That's the actual Reuters headline but the sense of it is bannered at the top of almost every report of this debate.  It's also reportedly the top story on the TV networks and the most discussed moment on social media.

Trump has of course been saying all week that the election is rigged against him (though he said in this debate that he was going to win), but that he said this at the end of this debate--and earned a memorable rebuke from Clinton--quickly became the debate's most important moment, and, many said, most consequential moment--nailing the coffin of his campaign dead shut.  Even conservatives condemned this remark.

Here was how Politico characterized this moment: "Truly historic moments are rare in politics. But this was a thunderbolt that might have spelled the end for Trump’s dynamic, disorganized and self-destructive campaign and the elevation of the first female major party nominee, whose precision and preparedness has often been overshadowed by her flashier opponent."  

Politico also called it the biggest mistake of Trump's life.

In terms of winner and loser, it seems unanimous.  The Atlantic's headline: Clinton Nukes Trump's Remaining Chances: The Democratic nominee threw her rivals own words back at him, to illustrate his unsuitability for the office he seeks.

The theme that runs through most analyses is that Trump may have destroyed himself, but Clinton was very good--and presidential.

Polls: The CNN instant poll said Clinton 52%-39%.  Youguv had it 49-39.

Chris Cillizza's Winners and Losers, Washington Post:

Winners 1. "Hillary Clinton: This was the Democratic nominee's best debate performance. She finally figured out the right calibration of ignoring and engaging Trump. Given her considerable edge in the electoral map, Clinton didn't need a moment in this debate, she simply needed to survive. But she had a moment, anyway — with a stirring answer in response to Trump's comments about women and the allegations against him of groping nine different women. Clinton, borrowing from Michelle Obama's speech on the same subject, was deeply human and relatable in that moment."

Losers 1. Donald Trump:"...His signature moment — and the defining moment of the entire debate — came when he refused to say he would concede if the election results showed he had lost. Trump's I'll-just-wait-and-see answer was a total disaster and will be the only thing people are talking about coming out of the debate."

Andrew Sullivan: "In my view, this was easily the most decisive debate. She devastated him. He melted down. His refusal to accept the results of this election disqualifies him automatically from any office in the United States. There were several areas where he was utterly incoherent, grasping at “facts”, without any understanding of policy. His personal foulness emerged. It seems to me he also has internalized that he has lost this election. May God save this democracy from him.

Josh Marshall: "Hillary Clinton now has a sizable lead. Trump was the one who needed to dramatically shift the trajectory of the election. By that measure, he clearly failed...The substance of the debate came down to two things. Clinton was able to deliver a handful of stinging blows against Trump, going so far as to call him a "puppet" of Vladimir Putin. This was preceded by a brutal recitation of evidence that Trump is willingly going along with a foreign power trying to interfere in a US election. Later in the debate she went after him on his very long history of saying he was cheated or contests were "rigged" when he's simply losing. These runs focused attention on Trump's most dangerous qualities. He could do little to rebut them and he shot back, quaking with angry jabs here and there like "such a nasty woman."

Far more important however were the statements Clinton and Chris Wallace provoked from Trump. The biggest one of course was his repeated refusal to accept the result of a democratic election. When Wallace first asked Trump said: "I will look at it at the time."

When Wallace pressed him again he said: "I'll keep you in suspense, okay?"
That kind of 'suspense" is precisely what makes democratic polities collapse."

Jeet Heer New Republic:
"This moment was the climax of the three debates—Trump’s final act of petulant self-destruction, and Clinton’s final moment of calmly smiling triumph—and it didn’t spring from accident or purely from Trump’s own anti-democratic malevolence. Rather, this moment—the one in which Trump revealed himself to be someone who is willing to risk the tradition of a peaceful transition of power rather than accept that he’s lost—came about because of the masterful way Clinton had handled all three debates."

Kevin Baker:
"By the end, Hillary Clinton was like a champion matador, moving masterfully around the perpetually snorting, spewing, infuriated bull she had finally goaded into going off on the same senseless, paranoid, alt-right tears. Donald Trump stomped off on one bizarre, history-making rant after another, while Mrs. Clinton deftly stepped around his horns and stuck another banderilla between the shoulder blades."

Glenn Thrush in Politico:
"There were two candidates on the debate stage Wednesday night – and both were intent on demolishing Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency...

[Clinton]was confident, relaxed and deadly-well prepared.She methodically sliced into Trump’s initial composure as if she was removing the wrapping paper from a Christmas gift: She began with a stiletto swipe at his relationship with Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, dismissing Trump as a Kremlin puppet. That pulled him off the attack and onto defense, as Clinton had done so effectively in the first debate.
But her most powerful moment – possibly her best sequence of a verbose word-slaw 2016 campaign – came as Trump struggled to parry Wallace’s inevitable questioning of his alleged history of groping and sexual harassment. “Chris, she got these people to step forward,” Trump said, accusing Clinton of concocting a dozen stories of his misbehavior over three decades. “If it wasn't, they get their ten minutes of fame, but they were all totally -- it was all fiction. It was lies and it was fiction.”

"This was one of those rare moments in Clinton’s career where her passion matched her preparation. “Donald thinks belittling women makes him bigger,” Clinton said, in a lower pitch than she usually uses to pursue her case. “He goes after their dignity, their self-worth, and I don't think there is a woman anywhere that doesn't know what that feels like. So we now know what Donald thinks and what he says and how he acts toward women. That's who Donald is. I think it's really up to all of us to demonstrate who we are and who our country is and to stand up and be very clear about what we expect from our next president, how we want to bring our country together, where we don't want to have the kind of pitting of people one against the other, where instead we celebrate our diversity, we lift people up, and we make our country even greater.”

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