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Let’s be honest with ourselves, Hillary won. She had a total command of the issues. The email scandal was addressed firmly and immediately – and quite effectively I might add. Her admission of a mistake and her taking full responsibility shut down the entire conversation. There was literally nowhere left to go after that, and the entire topic was dropped. Donald left it alone, basically defeated in his attempt to make it a debate issue. One of many missed opportunities for him, handled by a well-prepared Secretary Clinton.

Meanwhile, Clinton was mostly effective at digging into Trump on a range of issues. It wasn’t enough that she speculated about his not paying taxes. She was able to tie not paying taxes to his not having contributed to such things as wounded soldiers, schools and other government funded items that almost everyone can agree on. It was very effective.

When it came to his birther movement leadership, she told a personal story about how it upset the president, at once humanizing him while portraying Trump as a heartless, lying antagonist. Personally I think should could have made more of a point that the movement is inherently racist (see my previous post on the topic). She basically mentioned it was racist and moved on. Meanwhile, Trump’s answer was typical self-promotion – that he did a good job simply because he accomplished his arbitrary goal of getting a birth certificate (even though that wasn’t his goal), never mind whether it was racist or not. I’m not even sure he understood her criticism, as his response didn’t address the racist charge.

I have to admit, while I don’t agree with Donald Trump’s portraying the country as a place of doom and gloom, he was effective during the first few minutes of the debate in his attempt to do so. This was his opportunity to define his reason for running, and he was effective, by and large. It was also Hillary’s missed opportunity to rebut his assessment. The economy is better than it was 7 years ago, less people are out of work, the stock market is doing well, the military is stronger than ever, and on and on. Trump’s vision of America went largely unanswered, and I hope Clinton does a better job in the next debates of answering his rhetoric.

This last point would really be my only critique of her performance, which was, overall extremely refined and well-prepared. She was poised, articulate and knowledgeable. Who can argue with that assessment? She had answers for Trump’s criticisms and didn’t seem phased by his on-stage bullying and his repeated interruptions. She had an answer for everything, well thought-out and defensible.

Meanwhile, his zingers fell flat. His joke about getting onto Pennsylvania Avenue (one way or another) was a dud, and not delivered well. He sounded like an old coot trying to talk about cyber warfare and there were numerous other instances where he seemed to ramble as a result of not understanding the issues at hand.

Overall, it’s fair to say Secretary Clinton’s preparedness paid off. And frankly it’s difficult to imagine that the next debates will be any different. In fact, my prediction is that she’ll do better. She’ll be confident walking in, while Trump, knowing he’s faced criticism for his performance in the first round will be more aggressive and, you’ll see, will be likely to make mistakes as he undoubtedly will step up attacks on Clinton to try and earn points with his base. In the end, I expect him to sink himself, perhaps by attacking Clinton over the Lewinsky scandal, ill advised as it would seem – something he (somehow) managed to avoid in the first round.

 

When Donald Trump signed his pledge not to run as an independent, it was worthless. Worth less than the paper it was written on, to be specific. Let’s be honest. Does anyone believe that Donald Trump wouldn’t invent a reason to walk away from his pledge as easily as he might stiff a waiter on a tip?

The reality is that Donald is used to doing EXACTLY what Donald wants to do. As a billionaire, he knows no rules, no boss, and there are no exclusion zones. He has a wife, which generally governs the activities of a man, but he’s traded in his wife twice already, so it’s clear that even interpersonally, Donald Trump is willing to do whatever he wants without limitation.

So can we trust Trump to do what he says?

This week while simultaneously calling out Ted Cruz as the single biggest liar in the Republican race (a tacit admission that they are all liars?) Trump also managed to accuse the RNC of breaking its pledge to treat him fairly by not condemning the negative ads run by Cruz’s campaign. So in Donald’s view, negative ads and personal attacks are his providence only, and if he’s not defended by the (supposedly) impartial RNC, they are in violation of their impartiality. I wonder if this is Trumps negotiating style we keep hearing so much about? Demonize the other party while simultaneously accusing the other party of unfairly demonizing you. Then threaten then judge or moderator if they don’t support you.

I’m not sure I’d call that great negotiating, but Donald probably would. Still, let’s think this through. First, he’s backing himself into a corner. Obviously the RNC would never condemn an attack ad unless it crossed a line of decency so egregious that they had no choice. Otherwise they’d be condemning virtually every ad from every candidate. Let’s face it, attack ads are the meat and potatoes of our current political environment.

So by insisting the RNC condemn said advertisements and by further insisting the RNC is packing debate halls with detractors, the Donald is essentially guaranteeing himself a loophole by which he can run an independent campaign without losing face. Logically, he would have to leave the Republican party if this were true, but don’t believe it. Nothing Donald Trump says really matters. He’ll make up whatever excuse he wants and do as he pleases.

In case you haven’t gotten your daily dose of Donald Trump inducing nausea, now Mr. Trump has threatened to boycott the upcoming CNN debate unless a $5M blackmail is paid to the charity of his choice.

You’ll recall that earlier Mr. Trump has boycotted various media outlets for coverage he deems unfavorable, and even threatened to sue one of his primary opponents over negative advertisements. Like most other things Trump, this should be of concern to the average person.

The moment it becomes acceptable to sue political opponents and blackmail the media (even if you don’t like the media), democracy is placed in hospice. Suddenly the ability of news organizations to publish a story some candidate (or worse, an elected official) doesn’t like goes out the window. Now editors will need to consider whether or not it’s worth losing access to the politician, and most news organizations, driven by profit, will have a conflict of interest. Publish only so-called ‘nice’ media or be banished. If this happens, there’s a chance you’ll never hear another opposing view out of the press for fear of reprisal.

What if Barack Obama declared that he’d only allow Fox reporters in the Whitehouse briefings if they paid whatever blackmail he dreamed up? What if the president threw out every conservative media outlet from his press events and only took questions from friendly sources? The difference between Trump and Obama is clear: you’ll rarely, if ever, hear Obama complain about the press even though Fox News has treated him very unfairly (Sean Hannity for example ran a multi-hour show titled ‘Portrait of a Radical’ the night of the 2008 election.)

Obama is clever enough to answer questions and man enough not to complain about the fairness. He’s not a whiner and he’s not afraid to call on Fox and their crony reporters. (And if you think Fox and other conservative media has been fair to Obama, you must be one of those libertarian Republicans because you’re smoking some good stuff.)

Just because you don’t like the point of view of the ‘liberal’ media, that’s no reason to kill democracy and democracy can’t live without media that’s allowed to say what it thinks, even if the schoolyard bully Donald Trump doesn’t like it.

Trump is bad for this country. Roughing up protesters, rounding up Mexicans like criminals, and listing all Muslims in some fascist database makes him more of a threat to our way of life than any other politician or outside terror group.

After universally trashing the most recent Republican debate format, furious activity at both the various campaigns and the RNC ensued immediately. The RNC, in danger of being marginalized, suspended the next CNBC debate and named new people within the organization to help manage the process going forward. Frankly, these moves probably fall into the ‘too little too late’ category but the RNC had to do something given the loud chorus of disapproval and contempt coming from every direction.

Meanwhile, the campaigns – or at least of some of them – came together to try and work something out that would benefit the candidates. That lasted less than a week. Today various news sites reported that some of the campaigns have asked for such things as temperature controls in the debate hall not to exceed 67 degrees, and the prohibition of hand-raising (both of which presumably to shield the heavy perspirers in the group).

In reality, it seems pretty clear to me this whole effort was doomed from the start. This group of Republicans is not cordial, conciliatory or in any kind of mood for actual compromise with each other. Put another way, bomb-throwers and negotiating are anathema.

Let’s review why: The Republican front runner is still Donald Trump – at least for now. Who among us thinks The Donald actually negotiates with anyone? He dictates. When you have billions of dollars, you’re probably used to getting your way, not negotiating. The idea that Trump negotiates anything with other campaigns or TV networks is probably a big fat lie. He’s a big spender and he dictates his terms, take it or leave it. That’s not really negotiation in the classical sense of compromise, but clearly he doesn’t mind calling it that. I’m pretty sure those he ‘negotiates’ with might have a different word to describe the interaction.

Following Donald trump in the polls with the possible exception of the creationist Ben Carson is, well, everyone. And since the front runner has been so successful with his unapologetic xenophobic and misogynistic opinions, many of the other trolls in the race for the nomination have followed suit. The result is an unruly bunch of pseudo politicians with an ostensible mean streak and an inability to agree on, well, nearly anything.

So I wouldn’t look for a tremendous amount of agreement between the campaigns and my prediction is that the RNC will continue to manage the debate process. Not because they necessarily deserve it, but because this particular troop of ‘expert negotiators’ can’t come together to produce a consensus on the debate specs.