My latest newspaper column:
These moments happen in life. You’re faced with a challenge up to which you fear you might not be. You call upon all of your strength and resolve, looking for something within yourself you’re not sure is there. On such occasions, you convince yourself there’s no choice but to go forward, take whatever comes. It’s the right thing. It’s life. We do what we must.
So I watched the debate.
Turns out a lifetime of accusations of everything from murder to fidelity has prepared Hillary Clinton for the likes of Donald Trump. I was wrong to think he could rattle her. Compared to his annoyance, her (mostly) calm was impressive. It goes without saying, of course, that his supporters wouldn’t change their minds if he’d danced naked singing “I am the Walrus.” Nor could she have done anything to put off her committed voters. Our predictable opposing opinions don’t matter, though: the question is how “undecideds” were affected, along with those who’ve said they wouldn’t pay attention until the first debate. What did they make of it? More importantly: are people who’ve not yet made up their minds (hard to believe) the sort who’d truth-check the lies Trump told? To recognize how alarmingly unsuited he is for the presidency, even as it was there for the observing.
Will they make the effort to discover that, though he denied it straight up, he really did say climate change was a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese? (His actual words: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.") Rather than accept his pretense, will they confirm that his only public comment before the Iraq invasion, when asked if he was for it, was, “Yeah, I guess so.” Or that the first public record of him stating his opposition was in 2004, well after the fact, when the calamity was apparent to everyone not named Bush or Cheney or employed by right-wing media. Will they gape at his claim of a non-existent endorsement by ICE? Or at his bass-ackwards concept of Chinese money and piggy banks? (But he understands finance!)
Mr. Trump got a whoop from somewhere in the crowd when he non-sequitured that he’d release his tax returns when Hillary released those deleted emails. (How does one release deleted emails?) Secretary Clinton reminded him that being audited is a phony excuse for not releasing his taxes, suggesting the obvious: they must hold embarrassing information. Like not paying any. About which he bragged. After bemoaning deficits and crumbling infrastructure, things the rest of us pay for, because we’re citizens. Interviewed after the debate, he baldly denied that he’d said, mere moments earlier, that not paying taxes made him “smart.”
Scorekeepers counted interruptions: Fifty-one times he interrupted her. Seventeen times she interrupted him. (Seventeen too many, if you ask me; but, under the circumstances, remarkably restrained.)
The lies, though. If Hillary, like all politicians, has been known to stretch or fudge the truth in her favor, and if she’s occasionally had a “bullets in Bosnia” moment, Donald’s lies are a lifestyle choice. In the debate, the matchup wasn’t even close.
The careful observer might intuit that there is much about Donald Trump that bothers me. But his lies are something truly unnatural. He repeats them when shown to be false. He denies statements that are on the record, continuously. What can it mean? Does he think so little of his supporters that he assumes they won’t notice, or care; or that they like him best when he’s lying? Does he believe that as words pass his lips, no matter how demonstrably false, they metamorphose into truth, because he’s The Donald? Whatever the explanation, “normal” isn’t on the list.
In claiming his temperament is the best thing about him, “by far,” he did say one true thing. As an example, ex post debato, his campaign pointed to the fact that the serial adulterer hadn’t mentioned Hillary Clinton’s husband’s infidelities, demonstrating a keel most even. Amazing! No, at the debate we saw his true temperament: peckish, rude, repetitive, limacine, prevaricating, unprepared, thin-skinned in ways no president should be. And there’s this. By his own words, that’s the best part of him. So, yikes.[Image source]