Post-Debate: Trump the Undisciplined

Congratulations, Hillary!

W.J. Astore

Last night’s debate made for grim watching.  I’m a fan of neither candidate, but Hillary performed far better than Trump.  She kept her poise, she smiled, she stayed on her talking points.  She was, in a word, disciplined.  Measured.  And smart.  She admitted she was wrong about the emails, apologized, and moved on.  She projected calm.  Not surprisingly, she was well prepared and knew her stuff.

Trump was the total opposite: ill-prepared, mugging and pulling faces for the camera, angry and unsmiling, wandering from his talking points, often losing himself.  He was, in a word, undisciplined.  And Trump never admits he’s wrong, whether about the Iraq war or the birther issue or his tax returns or what have you.  Instead of calm, Trump projected anger.  Despite running for president for more than a year, he seemed ill-prepared and not in command of the narrative.

Whether any of this matters in the long run remains to be seen.  But what surprised me the most about Trump was the lack of a positive message.  Where was Reagan’s sunny optimism? Where was George W. Bush’s compassionate conservatism?  Where was the hope?  Trump just seemed angry: angry at Mexicans, angry at the Chinese, angry at corporations for taking American jobs overseas, angry at Hillary for her negative ads.  (I guess “Crooked Hillary” doesn’t count as negativity.)

Can you win a presidential campaign when your primary appeal is an angry one?  Anger that is often directed at various minority groups as well as your opponent?  I suppose we’ll find out, come this November.

Trump sniffled a lot and was perhaps suffering from a cold.  As the debate dragged on, he lost steam and grew increasingly incoherent.  You could see Hillary’s confidence grow. She’s not the best debater; she has a tendency to lecture, to drone on, to lose the attention of the audience. But his dismal performance overshadowed her occasional forays into the weeds of wonkishness.

Trump, in sum, emerged the loser, and for a self-professed “winner” like Trump, that is indeed a bitter pill to swallow.

18 thoughts on “Post-Debate: Trump the Undisciplined

  1. Yes, you’re right Bill, Trump did not appear the winner. Yes, your right also he that he was not prepared for a debate against two opponents, Hillary and Lester. It is clear that Hillary prepared primarily by practicing to smear Trump- not on the issues but the expertise of the deplorable Hillary and Bill Clinton fully utilizing the politics of personal destruction successfully. Trump was naive to think this was going to be about the issues. It was going to be about him. He was not prepared to dismiss and repel totally peripheral and non-essential questions: birther “issue”, and Trump’s personal taxes. Lester was a good pro-democrat by spending a great deal of time on these “issues.” Trump was unable to respond effectively dismissing these minor issues. He was caught flat footed. (Trump’s lectern looked too low while her lectern looked tailored to her height.) Again, Trump was naive and unprepared to deal with the unscrupulous Clinton political machine.

    Lester was legally biased in this setting in many ways, even saying that “Stop and Frisk” was unconstitutional which is not true. Hillary repeated this falsehood unchallenged by the uninformed Lester Holt. Trump did correct Lester who plowed ahead with prejudice by never once challenging Hillary on anything as if she was the untouchable and unquestioned queen, a foreshadowing of a imperious Hillary presidency.

    Lester never brought up Benghazi, Clinton Foundation and her email server. Trump was not prepared to fully engage her because he was defending himself against her constant personal smears- “he stiffed” contractors. He was unable to briefly and effectively dismiss these charges, instead stumbled along trying to answer them. It was a trap and he was unable to extricate himself as he is not a seasoned politician who does not answer questions which are incriminating by ignoring them. Trump was a babe in the woods with a couple of shysters and this was not a business meeting.

    In my book this was typically American- rigged. Things are rigged when the stakes are high: money, power, paychecks. Whoever believes the country is being run by the “best and brightest” is living in one of those fantasy movies Hollywood churns out.


    1. Hi Henry: Trump has to learn how to keep his cool. And to concentrate — to focus on the issues. He seems easily goaded and distracted — not qualities you want in a leader.

      Hillary pretty much got a pass, but this was more Trump’s fault than the moderator’s. There were several times Trump could have scored points, but he seemed off his game.

      If this was “The Apprentice,” Trump would have fired himself after this debate.


    2. “Trump’s lectern looked too low while her lectern looked tailored to her height.” That is a feature of Trump’s own design, to make him appear larger by comparison to others. The Big Dominant Man.


  2. The Green Party candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, did not get to participate in these so-called “debates, despite qualifying for the ballot in 47 states. Therefore, I had no interest in watching them. From what I can tell from listening to others who did watch the Roman circus (only without the bread), I didn’t miss anything. Just another partisan political food fight. As Sheldon S. Wolin wrote in Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism:

    “During the intervals between elections the political existence of the citizenry is relegated to a shadow citizenship of virtual participation. Instead of participating in power, the virtual citizen is invited to have ‘opinions’: measurable responses to questions predesigned to elicit them.”

    Hence, a little terz rima sonnet written the last time we did this awful and pointless “presidential election” (meaning, “puppet validation”) thing:

    The Circus that Wouldn’t Leave Town

    From time to time, the circus once arrived,
    Quadrennial in its appointed rounds.
    Yet somehow it has artfully contrived

    To never leave — bombarding us with sounds
    And sights so lurid and insistent that
    Whatever tripe The Candidate expounds

    Begins to clog the arteries with fat,
    Inducing aneurisms in the soul
    Through endless touting of a puerile spat.

    Consultants endlessly conduct a poll
    Which tells us what they wish for us to hear:
    That folks like us will play our scripted role.

    Commercial ads have made that crystal clear.
    If only fright were all we had to fear.

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2012

    To you foreigners dodging our dropping bombs — or those of our “friends” — please try not to suppose that it matters to you which “new” bomber-in-chief Americans elect on November 8, 2016. That incessant droning noise you hear overhead 24/7/365 will not go away any time soon. A goodly number of U.S. corporate stockholders and their paid lobbyists — many of them retired military officers or elected politicians — make a good deal of money killing you and destroying your homes. Please try to understand. Nothing personal. Just business.

    Now, back to those televised “debates” …


    1. Some circus freak shows have to be seen to be believed, Mike. Or perhaps “comprehended” or “processed” is a better word than one that implies belief. 🙂


      1. I can still remember the Kennedy-Nixon debates on television in 1960 during the first semester of my last year of junion high school. Our social-studies teacher required us to watch them and then stage our own debate later in class. As everyone knows by now, Vice President Nixon supposedly “won” the debates according to those who heard them over the radio. For those who saw the debates on television, though, Nixon “lost” because he appeared unhealthy, even sinister, with his famous “5-O’Clock shadow” of a beard while JFK looked tanned, rested, and supremely confident. A few years later (I don’t remember how many), I saw a cartoon in Mad Magazine showing a little boy running away from a television screen showing a scowling Richard Nixon, crying “Mommy! Mommy! Bad Man! Bad Man!” For his part, Nixon seemed to concur with this image-based judgement and religiously shaved three times a day for the rest of his political life. Unfortunately for millions of Southeast Asians and thousands of American military servicemen, Nixon’s successful “clean shave” image resurrection cost them their lives.

        So you’ll pardon my hard-earned cynicsm, but I suspect that — this time around — You-Know-Her’s image “success” and All-About-Him’s image “failure” will predictably combine to produce just more millions of dead and homeless foreigners, not to mention some — but not “too many” — dead and maimed and/or homeless American servicemen. These endless, stupid, vainglorious military misadventures always do that sort of thing. Too bad for America and the world that no presidential candidate who wants to summarily end them will ever find themselves invited to these “debate” things.

        Not that we had so much of an enlightened debate in our eighth-grade social studies class, but we kids really didn’t know much more than that Nixon had some sort of “experience” and Kennedy had youthful energy and intelligence. Pretty slim pickings there, although for Nixon and Kennedy themselves and what they had to offer our nation, they both seemed eager to prove their “toughness” by going to nuclear war at the drop of a hat against Communist China over some tiny islands named Quemoy and Matsu. I’ve spent quite a bit of my life in Asia and I’ve lived in Taiwan for thirteen years now, yet I still don’t know the location of those two little rocks. But I hear that American politicians of both right-wing war parties have started threatening to go to war with China — again — over some other tiny islands (or coral reefs) that Americans couldn’t possibly locate on a map. I guess that goes to show you how much the political discussion in America changes over the tedious course of five or six decades.

        So what abiding “image” did America television viewers take away from this lttle farce of a food fight? Did You-Know-Her remember to shave? Did All-About-Him “sigh” inappropriately? Inquiring minds may want to know, but I couldn’t care less. I’ve already seen this meaningless drivel too many times before.


  3. Short and Sweet summation of the so-called “debate,” by Chris Floyd at his Empire Burlesque blog:

    The Train Wreck and the Artful Dodger: More War Either Way?</b

    "My quick take on the debate (at 4 o'clock in the morning). (1) Trump was even more of a train wreck than I expected (no doubt in part due to the, uh, sniffle-producing stimulant he apparently took before the show). (2) Clinton performed more nimbly than I expected and will probably win the election. [I'm speaking of performance, not substance.] (3) But in any case, we are in for more war, and much more horror and chaos in the years to come, for there was general agreement between both of them to continue the militaristic insanity that in the last 15 years has only produced more terror, fear and suffering at home and abroad.” [bold font for emphasis added]

    Same conclusion that I reached without even having to waste my time watching yet another of these staged puppet performances.


    1. I like Chris Floyd, but he’s not quite accurate here. Trump actually argued against the Iraq war and called out Hillary and Co. on wasting $5-6 trillion on wars since 9/11. He also seemed to suggest he’s against the first use of nuclear weapons. Of course, Trump’s reasonable objections — including his valid comment that the failed Iraq war made ISIS, though he falsely pinned all the blame on Obama — were almost completely ignored in the media, so concerned are they with the optics of the debate rather than any content that calls into question the wisdom of endless war.


      1. The British House of Commons just released a scathing report on the dirty “intervention” and destruction of Libya, replete with consequences. This follows on the heels of the (not-so) famed Chilcot report. But such truth stands little chance of daylight in the States. And what about the dirty war on Syria, the Ukranian coup, and Crimean autonomy?
        The little “content” the presstitute media in this country are capable of reflecting upon, let alone analyzing, is further narrowed by their obliviousness to any semblance of truth. Clinton does no wrong because then we wouldn’t be right.


      2. About that claim by Donald Trump that he opposed the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, I’ve seen no empirical corroboration of it. On the other hand, I understand from reports about the so-called “debate” last night that You-Know-Her — of all people — actually accused The Donald himself of supporting Deputy Dubya Bush’s stud-hamster vendetta against the toothless tinpot Iraqi leader, Saddam “He tried to kill my daddy” Hussein, as You-Know-Her spinelessly did while U.S. Senator from New York. Unfortunately for The Donald, having no legal training or experience in real debate — the nineteen-candidate Republican Party primary clown-car caravan hardly qualifying as “debate experience” — the Donald found himself suddenly on the receiving end of a time-dishonored dialectical fallacy, helplessly spluttering and sputtering trying to defend himself from the charge that he had planned to lodge against You-Know-Her. She simply beat him to it. I have to say that I admire the unadulterated chutzpah — meaning “unmitigated gall” — of You-Know-Her for resorting to this particular dialectical gambit. For ages, lawyers and other disputants in public debate have deployed to great advantage the Tu Quoque (Latin for “You Do It Too”) fallacy as a means of distracting their opponents from zeroing in on their own shortcomings in debate. As Professor T. Edward Damer explains in his marvelous little book Attacking Faulty Reasoning, a guide to fallacy-free arguments:

        “This [Tu Quoque] fallacy consists in rejecting a criticism of one’s argument or actions by accusing one’s critic or others of thinking or acting in a similar way. … [In effect, this fallacious argument says] ‘Because you are guilty of doing the same thing or thinking the same way that you are criticizing me for, your argument is no good and/or I don’t have to listen to you.’ This counter attack on the critic functions as a way of avoiding the obligation to rebut his or her criticism or counterargument. While this response is primarily a violation of the rebuttal criterion, it is also a violation of the relevance criterion, for the fact that some other person engages in a quesionable practice or thought process is irrelevant to whether such a practice or way of thinking merits our acceptance.”

        Someone who had any actual knowledge of typical courtroom argumentation, as practiced by lawyers and political orators for thousands of years, would have easily seen through You-Know-Her’s fallacious debating gambit and replied: “So, you maintain that we both were wrong to support Deputy Dubya’s dimwit debacle in Iraq and that therefore neither of us is qualified to become President of the United States. Do I understand your position correctly, Mrs Clinton?” Something like that.

        The Donald does not seem at all well-educated or even moderately well-read in matters that ought to concern one attempting to win the Presidency of the United States from a tired and discredited political harpy who has such a long record of bad judgement, incompetence, and lack of meaningful accomplishment in public life. Yet it appears that You-Know-Her has very little to worry about when it comes to “debating” All-About-Him. She apparently understands, as he does not, that “A layman who insists on defending himself in court has a fool for a client.” If The Donald cannot even defend himself from the tired, tendentious Tu Quoque fallacy, then he has little prospect of prospering in the next two coming “debates” and ought to consider just calling them off. He apparently cannot look any worse by his absence than he does by his presence.


    2. gave Dr. Stein an expanded forum today. Too bad her answers to the “debate” questions won’t get last night’s audience.


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