First Clinton-Trump Debate Confirms Low Expectations

Trump had a much lower bar than Clinton going in. Neither cleared it.

clinton-trump-debate-one

I went into last night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump with low expectations. I fully expected Trump to be rude, dishonest, and free of substance and Clinton to be substantive but awkward. Because the general public and the mass media had similar expectations, Trump could win if he simply demonstrated that he could plausibly be president while Clinton could win only if she suddenly became likeable after a quarter century of life on the national stage. Neither crossed the bar.

The early polling shows the public believing Clinton outperformed Trump. While I don’t see how anyone could think otherwise—she was prepared and drilled down on policy while he winged it—I’m not sure she won in the sense of motivating many people who aren’t hardcore Democrats to vote for her. Given that we’re five weeks out from the election and she holds a narrow lead, that’s not at a bad outcome for her. But any of the elected presidents in my memory would have scored more points than she did against such an awful opponent.

Below, I’m going to focus on the optics of the debate. I’ll address some substantive issues in future posts. But substance isn’t going to decide this election; it seldom decides elections. If it did, we could just compare resumes and white papers and skip the debates.

While I only followed social media tangentially while watching and occasionally Tweeting the debate, those in my Twitter and Facebook feeds seemed annoyed at moderator Lester Holt. Certainly, he didn’t do a great job of reining in Trump’s constant interruptions and their both routinely going past the time limit. But I prefer his gentle style to the obnoxiousness of a Candy Crowley or Martha Ravitz, both of whom seemed to think they were the stars of the show last cycle. As he noted at the outset, “I am honored to have this role, but this evening belongs to the candidates and, just as important, to the American people.”

My frustration with Holt was in the question selection. He pledged, “We are going to focus on many of the issues that voters tell us are most important, and we’re going to press for specifics.” But he mostly asked questions that would have been appropriate for a mayoral contest, not an election for the next commander-in-chief. And, of course, nobody was going to get any specifics out of Trump.

His lead-off  to Clinton, “Why are you a better choice than your opponent to create the kinds of jobs that will put more money into the pockets of American works?” was not atypical of presidential debate questions but it’s a rather silly one all the same. Presidents don’t create jobs.  Regardless, it elicited a reasonable byplay between the two, with Clinton talking about investing in infrastructure—a legitimate national response—and encouraging profit sharing and Trump talking about losing jobs overseas. It gave Clinton an opportunity for her first planned zinger of the evening about “Trumped-up Trickle Down,” which I thought fell flat.

Little in that long back-and-forth surprised me. Many in my social media feed seemed to think Trump stepped on it here:

CLINTON: Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, “Gee, I hope it does collapse, because then I can go in and buy some and make some money.” Well, it did collapse.

TRUMP: That’s called business, by the way.

I haven’t the foggiest how the American public is going to react to anything at this stage in the campaign but that actually struck me as a reasonable point. He made variations of it multiple times during the night: businessmen play by the rules of the game on such things as taxes and bankruptcy. And, to the extent he had any substantive proposals, he seemed to be calling for changing some of those rules, especially with regard to outsourcing jobs overseas, re-importing those goods, and the like.

While some, including my colleague Steven Taylor, seemed to think Trump’s constant interruptions would hurt him, I actually thought it helped him in the early going. He seemed in control of the debate and wasn’t as awful as I thought he’d be.

In the second half of the night, though, Clinton clearly outperformed Trump. Partly, that’s because 90 minutes of repeating vague platitudes wears thin. Partly, though, it’s because Holt’s question selection was stilted. Several of them were directly aimed at forcing Trump to defend past statements:

  • HOLT: Mr. Trump, we’re talking about the burden that Americans have to pay, yet you have not released your tax returns.
  • HOLT: Mr. Trump, for five years, you perpetuated a false claim that the nation’s first black president was not a natural-born citizen. You questioned his legitimacy. In the last couple of weeks, you acknowledged what most Americans have accepted for years: The president was born in the United States. Can you tell us what took you so long?
  • HOLT: Mr. Trump, this year Secretary Clinton became the first woman nominated for president by a major party. Earlier this month, you said she doesn’t have, quote, “a presidential look.” She’s standing here right now. What did you mean by that?
  • HOLT: One of you will not win this election. So my final question to you tonight, are you willing to accept the outcome as the will of the voters?

Now, all of those are fair questions. For a sit-down interview with the candidate. But, in a presidential debate, they’re highly problematic. Not only do they have nothing to do with the issues most important to the voters but they tilt the playing field, putting Trump on the defensive while giving Clinton a free pass to attack Trump.

In the first instance, Trump managed to turn the spotlight back on Clinton, repeating his claim that “I will release my tax returns — against my lawyer’s wishes — when she releases her 33,000 e-mails that have been deleted. As soon as she releases them, I will release.” This drew the first major outburst from the studio audience.

To his credit, Holt did follow up on this with Clinton later. But there were zero comparable start-off questions aimed at Clinton. As a result, Trump was constantly on the defensive and Clinton able to attack him. As Karen Tumulty notes, there were plenty of instances where “Trump’s famously thin skin” showed during this stretch. But that was more a function of stacked moderation than Clinton’s skill as a debater.

 

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2016, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Nikki says:

    Trump could win if he simply demonstrated that he could plausibly be president while Clinton could win only if she suddenly became likeable after a quarter century of life on the national stage. Neither crossed the bar.

    Nice try, James.

  2. Joe says:

    Trumps premise: I have done nothing for 30 years and you have worked for solutions: I don’t think your solutions are perfect, so the next solution is to pick me, the perennial by-stander.

    Just for some Republican perspective, let’s all review that great Republican President, Theodore Roosevelt’s “Man in the Ring” speech and return here to discuss. If your time is short, here’s the central bit:

    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

    Secretary Clinton – with no disrespect to the gender – has been “the man” in the ring (to borrow from Mr. Trump) her whole life.

  3. Tony W says:

    The questioning for each candidate was at their level of intellectual curiosity and capability. Trump showed that he can manage a full 64-box of crayons and Clinton showed she can professionally handle the economy, foreign policy and trade deals.

    Everybody did exactly what was expected, Trump managed not to crap on the floor – so it’s a tie.

  4. Tillman says:

    In the second half of the night, though, Clinton clearly outperformed Trump. Partly, that’s because 90 minutes of repeating vague platitudes wears thin.

    Trump took a few original sentences and broke them down into ten mildly different ones as if he was trying to exhaust all combinations of the same twenty words.

  5. Tillman says:

    In the moment, I thought to myself: maybe she shouldn’t be too triumphant during this thing. Maybe the correct course is to keep the level head, not exult in how her opponent is flailing like a lunatic.

    A few moments later, I realized why I was wrong to think this: Clinton is human. I had spent the last half-hour cackling like a hyena at how terrible Trump was doing, and I wasn’t standing next to him. David Frum criticized her on Twitter saying “why is she smiling so much?” Because it was funny, David! She was trying not to laugh!

    I couldn’t find anyone not laughing, of any political persuasion. The second-most common refrain was hoping a meteor strikes the Earth and kills us all, but still it was very funny!

  6. An Interested Party says:

    Partly, though, it’s because Holt’s question selection was stilted.

    Of course, the mainstream media in the tank for Democrats and all of that…try not to whine the way that Orange Sniffles did…

  7. C. Clavin says:

    Where are the sycophants, Jenos and JKB and bill, to tell us how Trump mopped the floor with Clinton?

  8. Eric Florack says:

    For all of the hype, there’s really no change nor was there ever going to be.
    Hillary Clinton didn’t lose any supporters last night. The fact of the matter is that if she was ever going to lose any supporters it most certainly would have been over the criminal activities that as surround her. If she hasn’t lost any supporters by now she’s not going to.
    Similarly, Donald Trump supporters are unmovable in their support, in spite of any fact.
    So, what do we have here? We have a field of battle in which nobody wins and nobody loses but the spectators . We have a media circus intended to drum up interest in what can only be described as a Hobson’s choice.
    Truly, I weep for our nation. They were the ones to lose last night

  9. Thor thormussen says:

    GHWB set the bar for republicans.

  10. Thor thormussen says:

    Conservative pundits criticized the performance of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the first presidential debate, but many grudgingly gave the edge to the former secretary of state. -TPM

  11. Argon says:

    My favorite comment of the night from the Lawyers Guns and Money blog:

    “Clinton seemed a little smug. Trump appears to be a carbon-based life form. Let’s call it even.”

  12. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:

    it most certainly would have been over the criminal activities that as surround her

    You mean the criminal activities Republicans have been investigating for 30 years only to find nothing?
    You’re and ignorant racist old fool.

  13. Thor thormussen says:

    LOL

    you could call it a draw, but you’re lying to yourself.

    — GregGutfeld (@greggutfeld) September 27, 2016

  14. James Joyner says:

    @Nikki: I’m not arguing that it was a close debate. Clinton clearly won at least the second half. I’m talking about expectations.

    @An Interested Party: Holt was in fact rather clearly in the tank for Clinton. The questions in the second half were mostly set-ups. That was simply unnecessary, given her far superior command of the issues.

  15. Jen says:

    David Frum criticized her on Twitter saying “why is she smiling so much?”

    Again, with this. Frum and Priebus need to come up with the appropriate number of times/minutes she is required to smile. Good grief.

    By my Facebook feed review, Trump’s sniffling seems to have been an issue. Some seem to believe it appears that he might be ill with pneumonia/nose cancer/early stage Parkinson’s/seizure disorder/Adderall/Zika/Ebola…or similar.

    I didn’t watch but did read through the transcript this morning. This wasn’t a tie, Trump got clocked. I hope she can keep it up for the next two debates.

  16. Tony W says:

    @James Joyner:

    Holt was in fact rather clearly in the tank for Clinton.

    I keep hearing this theme – are you suggesting that if elected, world leaders will not be “in the tank” for their own issues and positions? Trump needs to be able to handle “set-ups” if he is going to move beyond the simple phrases he’s managed to memorize.

    The fact is that Trump couldn’t handle the fair scrutiny or the tough questions – and it does not bode well for him or the country if he is elected President.

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    While some, including my colleague Steven Taylor, seemed to think Trump’s constant interruptions would hurt him, I actually thought it helped him in the early going. He seemed in control of the debate and wasn’t as awful as I thought he’d be.

    A middle-aged man didn’t think that another man’s constant interruptions of a woman trying to speak was a big problem? Thought, in fact, that that made him seem in control? Color me shocked.

  18. Tony W says:
  19. Hal_10000 says:

    Clinton clearly won. You can tell because the conservative blogs were calling it a draw. If it were really a draw, they’d be claiming Trump won.

    I didn’t mind Holt and I think he did a good job. He mainly stayed out and let the candidates go at each other, which I prefer. You could argue that he had more pointed questions at Trump, yes. But Trump is the more controversial candidate. I do think he could have pressed Clinton more on her Iraq vote and Libya war. It seemed odd to try to pin Trump down on his support for the Iraq War and not ask Clinton who actually voted for it. But … Trump could have raised all those issues easily (he did raise the e-mail issue). But he was too busy defending himself. Clinton clearly got under his skin at several points and he just can not let anything go.

    I don’t know what difference it will make. Every time I think something has gone bad for Trump, he gains two points. His core would still vote for him even if he’s spent the entire 90 minutes playing Pokemon Go on his phone. But watching the debate, as someone who dislikes Clinton, I kept having the impression that she can handle this job and he can’t. I’ll oppose her vociferously. But I’m not afraid she’s going to bring it all crashing down.

  20. Rafer Janders says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Imagine if Hillary Clinton had constantly interrupted Trump the way Trump interrupted her. I’m 100% convinced that James wouldn’t think this helped her or made her seem in command — he’d instead be complaining about her lack of decorum.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    Holt was in fact rather clearly in the tank for Clinton.

    Hmm, that looks a lot like this from Trump last night…

    “I did not support the war in Iraq,” he said, falsely. “That is a mainstream media nonsense put out by her because she frankly I think the best person in her campaign is mainstream media.”

    Not exactly a winning argument for undecided voters…

  22. An Interested Party says:

    It seemed odd to try to pin Trump down on his support for the Iraq War and not ask Clinton who actually voted for it.

    That’s not odd at all…she admits she voted for it, he lies repeatedly about his support for the war…

  23. Mikey says:

    @Rafer Janders: If she’d done that, the right would be calling her “bossy.”

  24. EddieInCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    While some, including my colleague Steven Taylor, seemed to think Trump’s constant interruptions would hurt him, I actually thought it helped him in the early going. He seemed in control of the debate and wasn’t as awful as I thought he’d be.

    Are you freaking kidding me, Dr. Joyner? He came across as inconsiderate, rude, and boorish. That you think it accrued to his favor says much more about your inherent biases than it does about the actual results.

    If he wasn’t as awful as you thought he would be after that performance, then you really need to re-calibrate your internal sensors. #cluelessmale

  25. Tillman says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I didn’t mind Holt and I think he did a good job. He mainly stayed out and let the candidates go at each other, which I prefer.

    That was my impression. He seemed more like a nonpresence than a guy asking leading questions. I mean, you have to ignore the context of the horrorshow happening on that stage to imagine Lester Holt unfairly attacked Trump.

    Clinton had her lies and question-dodging, no doubt, but they were par for the course with these debates, no more mendacious than 2012 or elections before. Trump had gone so far beyond reality that bringing up wacky statements from the past fit the established mood. It was as if Holt wanted us to know that this strain of crazy had a rich and diverse history, like someone hosting a PBS documentary. Trump didn’t have to feed the mood so much to make these questions normal by comparison.

  26. Hal_10000 says:

    Oh, victory of the night, hands down, went to Clinton on the subject of race. Again, don’t know that it will matter to white voters. But she had clearly invested a lot of thought it into while Trump … wait for it .. hadn’t.

  27. bookdragon says:

    @Argon: This. 1000 times this.

    From the pre-debate talking heads, to win HRC had to come across as both Winston Churchill and the most warm charming want-to-have-a-beer-with-her person in the universe.

    Trump had to not drop his trousers and fling poo.

  28. Thor thormussen says:

    Holt was in fact rather clearly in the tank for Clinton. -James Joyner

    Trump fans are attacking the moderator. Think everyone knows what that means.

    — Noah Rothman (@NoahCRothman)

    this truly is the destruction of the GOP.

  29. Kylopod says:

    She won. Get over it. It wasn’t even close; it was a slam dunk. This is absolutely obvious to nearly everyone. (I suspect even some of the Breitbart/Drudge crowd know it but don’t want to seem disloyal to their grand leader.) If this were any other year virtually everyone would be acknowledging this fact. But much of the commentariat has become consumed by the notion that Trump is somehow immune to the normal rules of politics. This hasn’t been remotely true ever since primary season ended, but some people just haven’t noticed.

    For example, the day after the Democratic Convention, James Joyner saw what he thought was a little discouraging polling data and submitted a post titled “Conventions Helped Trump More, Even Though His Was Awful and Hers Wasn’t.” This judgment was incredibly premature of course, and it quickly was revealed to be laughably wrong. But it illustrates how much this image of Trump as having some kind of magical electoral prowess has penetrated the mindset of some pundits.

    What I think I’ve noticed is that Hillary actually benefits from being seen more by the public. That’s not because she’s the most charismatic or well-liked candidate in history, but probably in part because she’s been made into such a caricature that putting her in front of the camera addressing the nation tends to bring her overlooked strengths to the fore. She’s had her worst periods when she’s being talked ABOUT, as opposed to being seen directly, as in a convention or debate. Trump, on the other hand, seems to turn off people the more they see of him, and he’s been at his best when he’s less in the spotlight (relatively speaking–this years he’s been in the spotlight to one degree or another pretty much nonstop).

    One bit of conventional wisdom that I think the debate has probably disproven is “As long as Trump doesn’t crap on the floor he wins.” We were hearing variations on this theme incessantly, and the people who made this point didn’t seem to realize (or maybe they did, as part of some strategy) that in declaring Trump winner of the expectations game by default, they were in fact lowering the expectations for Hillary considerably.

    My predictions? For what it’s worth (and you are free to point out when I’ve been wrong this year, as in primary season), I think she’s going to receive a bump in the polls, and since she’s starting from a baseline of being ahead, that means the race is essentially over (unlike Romney in 2012, who entered the debates while far behind in the polls, so that after the bump he received wore off he couldn’t sustain his lead). The debate was probably Trump’s last real chance to turn things around and he blew it.

  30. Tyrell says:

    @Tony W: I agree that Trump should be able to handle tough questions. Holt – okay, but as I have said the moderator should be an observer, not a commentator or someone throwing in their opinions or being some “fact checker”. I can do that for myself. And that is what the people should do instead of letting the main line “news” media tell them what to think. Of course the debate was controlled, scripted, choreographed. Important issues ignored.
    Sensible, rational statements and ideas not allowed. No thinking outside the box. Notice that Johnson and Stein were left out. Interesting.
    Answers and comments you won’t hear on tv controlled debates: “I am not sure”, “I don’t know”, “I am not very good at that”, “maybe the government is not the answer for that”, “I was wrong on that”,
    “You have a good idea there”, “I don’t have all the answers”,
    “Sometimes people have to solve problems themselves”
    “I wish I had thought of that”
    No, what we are given is Springer type show. They are treating the people like zombies.

  31. Jc says:

    I love the people on here who watched the debate in spite of always saying they would never vote for either candidate? WTF? why watch then, be honest.

    He seemed in control of the debate and wasn’t as awful as I thought he’d be.

    Really? Come on, man. He was bad. nothing of substance came out of his mouth, nothing but word salad instead of ideas, nothing but fear and nonsense – China!

    Holt let it just roll, which unlike others I did not like – I want someone to cut them off and get more questions in, there were like 3 questions in the first hour. And you may say in the tank for Dems, but the questions he asked were giving Trump a chance to take back his lies, to come clean…and he did not, same bs

    to spin this in anyway as positive for Trump is ridiculous. I give her credit for not just turning and saying bullshit to so many of his rants and word salad. You may hate her, but she stood up there with a donkey and maintained her demeanor and kept it from being a complete sideshow – To the supposed 27%+ of people who feel he won this debate, this is the sad state of ignorance and bullheadedness in this country. I hope she continues to perform cooly, perhaps she will at least give pause to Doug and James right before they press the Gary Johnson box on their ticket.

  32. bk says:

    You obviously watched a different debate than the other 100 million of us, James.

  33. Pch101 says:

    Now, all of those are fair questions. For a sit-down interview with the candidate. But, in a presidential debate, they’re highly problematic. Not only do they have nothing to do with the issues most important to the voters but they tilt the playing field

    There are no equivalent questions to be posed to the Democratic candidate because the Democratic candidate hasn’t behaved like a rabid neurotic bull in a china shop.

    Naturally, there are more tough questions to be posed to Trump because he has behaved in ways that necessarily lead to such questions. He was happy to go on about birth certificates and other such nonsense when it served his purposes. If Trump didn’t want to pay a price for that now, then he should have never gone there in the first place.

  34. michael reynolds says:

    He won the first 20 minutes. Then he squatted down and took a sh!t on stage.

    Is Hillary a great debater? No. She’s a C on style and an A+ on preparation and self-discipline. And . . . Trump took a sh!t on the stage.

    What have I been saying about Trump since forever? I mean, in addition to his being a vile pig of a man? And a psychopath? And rather stupid? I’ve said he had Attention Deficit Disorder. I said he’s dyslexic. He has the attention span of a four year-old. The man needs some Adderall. He’d still be an ignorant pig, but he’d be able to stand still and we might not have had. . . Sean Hannity! Call Sean Hannity! Hannity agrees Rosie O’Donnell is fat!

  35. C. Clavin says:

    @Tyrell:

    …or being some “fact checker”. I can do that for myself.

    You are either trying to be funny, or you are the least self-aware person on this planet, and thus the Multiverse.
    The idea that the moderator should allow someone to spew outright lies, like that Trump was against the Iraq war before it started, is just stupid.

  36. MarkedMan says:

    Holst was ‘in the tank’ for Clinton in that he asked about at least two major falsehoods that Trump has promoted for years. I’m sure he would have asked about Clinton’s emails but she deftly headed it off almost out of the gate. And that is telling. Trump had many opportunities to significantly challenge Clinton, but he couldn’t let go of any slight or jibe she delivered and could only focus on them. He completely danced to her tune.

    Could you imagine how other world powers would manipulate him? China, which is adept at the long game, could manipulate him into collassal mistakes in the Pacific.

    Oh, and I haven’t seen enough mention of this: Trump doubled down on his assertion that he would blow Iranian ships out of the water if their sailors taunted US sailors. When Hillary referred to his willingness to start a war over taunts, he jumped in, ‘that wouldn’t start a war!’ James, you’re the military guy here: isn’t firing on a military vessel, sinking it and killing the crew just about the textbook example of an act of war?

  37. Jen says:

    @Tyrell:

    Notice that Johnson and Stein were left out. Interesting.

    They weren’t “left out.” They didn’t qualify. Getting to a 15% threshold isn’t too much to ask if you want to be on the main stage.

  38. J-Dub says:

    Partly, though, it’s because Holt’s question selection was stilted.

    Let’s just say that is true. All those questions could have been easily anticipated anyway, and Trump said so himself, yet he had no answers to the question of his tax returns or his birtherism.

  39. PJ says:

    My favorite bit? Clinton using the 11-hour House Benghazi hearing as an example of her stamina.

  40. J-Dub says:

    I suspect even some of the Breitbart/Drudge crowd know it but don’t want to seem disloyal to their grand leader

    It’s Grand Wizard, not leader.

  41. Mikey says:

    @Kylopod:

    One bit of conventional wisdom that I think the debate has probably disproven is “As long as Trump doesn’t crap on the floor he wins.”

    I was one who said that, but you’re right. As mediocre as his performance was, he didn’t crap on the floor, and Clinton still handed him his ass on a pewter plate. It wasn’t even close.

    The levels of spin and delusion I’m seeing from my conservative friends are truly epic. They are trying so hard to justify their support for Trump even after he failed so miserably last night. It’s really sad.

  42. SKI says:

    @James Joyner:

    @Nikki: I’m not arguing that it was a close debate. Clinton clearly won at least the second half. I’m talking about expectations.

    Sorry, James but this in a mind-numbingly stupid way to look at a debate.

    The issue of who performed better can only be measured in how they moved the needle on voters that aren’t locked in already. When neither had any reasonable shot of poaching the other side’s base, the question becomes: can they get the persuadable to come to them? In that sense, Clinton killed him.

    For Trump, the persuadable are people like you and Doug – GOP-leaning college educated suburbanites who voted for Romney and McCain but are turned off by Trump’s ignorance, bigotry and general boorishness. Were you persuaded that you could vote for him? Was anyone you know who fits in that category? I didn’t see any movement by the foreign policy side like Max Boot or the legal-libertarians like French or Frank. Did you see what the balance of opinion was at the Weekly Standard? Most of his persuadables already moved to him ion the past couple weeks, he isn’t getting more based on last night – and may lose a few in the after-shocks (like he did with the post-convention attacks on the Khans).

    For Clinton, it is the millennials who are leaning 3rd party and the same college educated whites. It is important to recognize that she has room to grow inside her natural coalition because she lost some during September. I think she presented, even if mostly in contrast to Trump’s insanity, a decent case that will let them “come home”.

    We will see if/how the polls move but I don’t see a way for Trump to get above 44% and I see Clinton 3-4% points better than him going into the next debate.

  43. Eric Florack says:

    @C. Clavin: you’re making my point for me

    Substitute the name Bush or Clinton and see if your reaction to the the history under discussion comes out differently in your eyes

    Oh, wait. We don’t even have to go that far. All we have to do is look up in this thread

  44. dmhlt says:

    @Joe:
    Just one small nit to pick – and only for clarity to make a search easier.
    Teddy Roosevelt’s speech was titled “The Man in the Arena”
    http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com/trsorbonnespeech.html

  45. Mikey says:

    @SKI:

    For Clinton, it is the millennials who are leaning 3rd party and the same college educated whites…I think she presented, even if mostly in contrast to Trump’s insanity, a decent case that will let them “come home”.

    From the PPP poll results James linked to at the beginning of the post comes this, which supports your conclusion:

    Perhaps most important for Clinton is that among young voters, who she has under performed with, 63% think she won the debate to only 24% for Trump. 47% of voters in that age group said the debate tonight made them more likely to vote for her, to only 10% who say it made them less likely to vote for her. For Trump with that group on the other hand, only 23% said the debate made them more likely to vote for him to 39% who said it made them less likely to.

  46. James Pearce says:

    @Hal_10000:

    It seemed odd to try to pin Trump down on his support for the Iraq War and not ask Clinton who actually voted for it.

    Not really so odd, considering Trump is the nominee of the party who proposed the war and supported it all those years. Clinton’s view of the war has been known: She voted for it as a senator and continued to support it as Sec of State.

    Trump, on the other hand, has been all over the place when it comes to the subject. He didn’t support it, he did support it. He wants to say Hillary created ISIS by not leaving any troops in country.

  47. Stonetools says:

    In short, an overwhelming victory for Clinton. I wonder if Trump will even appear for the next two debates.
    This won’t change things for the hard core Trumpkins, but there should be movement for the undecideds, who according to one poll overwhelmingly felt that Clinton had won. We will see in a week or so, but I predict a big bump up for Clinton-something close to the post convention lead.

  48. al-Alameda says:

    @Tony W:

    Everybody did exactly what was expected, Trump managed not to crap on the floor – so it’s a tie.

    No but he crapped in this pants. It most certainly was not a tie.If this was scored as a 12 round boxing match it would have been 10-2 Clinton.

  49. Slugger says:

    I think that Dr. Joyner’s point about stamina is very pertinent. I don’t think that most debates matter very much, but when they matter, how the candidates act is perhaps more important than what they espouse. In the Kennedy/Nixon debates no one cared that Nixon may have a better view of the Quemoy-Matsu problem which was an issue at that time, people remembered that Nixon sweat a lot. Trump does not really present a clear policy vision; his appeal is to an attitude, a belief in toughness and strength. In pursuing this issue, the Trump campaign has made claims about HRC’s stamina. Whatever one thinks about stamina as a presidential attribute, Hillz>Trump.

  50. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Could you imagine how other world powers would manipulate him?

    I kept picturing each of them in a room one on one with Putin. The thought of Trump in that position is frightening.

  51. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    the criminal activities that as surround her

    What crime has she committed? Please be specific…

  52. Lit3Bolt says:

    Shorter James Joyner: “WAHHHHH!!! The Republican nominee wasn’t allowed to lie about his record!!!”

  53. Tillman says:

    @James Pearce: “You’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.”

  54. SKI says:

    @SKI:

    In a deeply unsettling moment, it appears I was sharing thoughts with Jonah Goldberg…

    “Unpersuaded college educated white women didn’t come away from this debate — at least not in large numbers — feeling reassured by Trump,” conservative Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review. “Clinton was narrowcasting at the voters she needs. Trump was broadcasting to the voters he already has. … If you’re truly pro-Hillary or pro-Trump it doesn’t matter what you thought tonight. Your vote is baked in. But if you’re on the fence or thinking about not voting at all, your impression matters — a lot. And in this regard, I think Clinton was the winner.”

    I need a shower…

  55. dmichael says:

    James, James: At the risk of seeming to pile on, I need to highlight several instances where you reveal a very male, if not misogynist attitude. “Clinton could win only if she suddenly became likeable after a quarter century of life on the national stage.” Why is being “likeable” a criterion only for women? I would have difficulty being in the same room that DT occupies. “…the obnoxiousness of a Candy Crowley or Martha Ravitz.” Why are only women obnoxious? Do you like to see Chris Wallace smirk his way through an interview? You will get a chance during the third debate. “…think Trump’s constant interruptions would hurt him, I actually thought it helped him in the early going.” Try that on your wife or female colleagues and see how they react. Finally, Trump’s ugly performance was not “more a function of stacked moderation than Clinton’s skill as a debater,” it was because she was prepared, he wasn’t and he had said so many stupid things, some of which he repeated during the debate.

  56. Raoul says:

    JJ: so Holt is good but Raddetz and Crowley are bad. If that is not sexist I have no clue what it is (BTW: all three are highly regarded). This and the fact that you lied about knowing that foreign governments penetrated Clinton emails tells me you have changed the last two years. As you have moderated your political beliefs you have allowed personal feelings intrude in your analysis which have become more intolerant. Do us all favor and see someone.

  57. J-Dub says:

    If Trump can’t be bothered to prepare for a 90 minute debate, how is he supposed to prepare for four years as POTUS?

    I guess he’ll just hire the best, like the two campaign managers that he fired, or the speechwriter that plagiarized a speech for his wife, or the accountants/lawyers that recommended he pay his legal settlements through his charitable fund, or all those shitty contractors that were so bad that he refused to pay them. Is there an Angie’s List for presidential advisors?

  58. Mikey says:

    Ezra Klein has a piece up at Vox that’s worth reading. His conclusion:

    There were many differences between the candidates on display in this contest, but the most consequential one was that Clinton displayed the basic personal qualities necessary to be president. Trump didn’t. She had done the work to know what she was talking about and to survive a high-stakes encounter with an unpredictable opponent. He hadn’t done the work, and it showed.

    “A high-stakes encounter with an unpredictable opponent” is pretty much the definition of international diplomacy. How can we expect Trump to advance American interests abroad, often dealing with competing interests from other nations that don’t have our best welfare in mind, when he won’t even properly prepare himself for a campaign debate?

  59. An Interested Party says:

    Let’s drop down to Trump’s level…one of the reasons he lost the debate is because she has a bigger pair of balls than he does

    Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump in the debate ten minutes ago (as I begin writing) because she showed that, at last, someone knows how to stand up to a macho bully. She talked; he interrupted. She persisted; he went on interrupting. In this fashion, she dominated. She affirmed; he complained. Eventually an aura emanated from her side of the stage. It signified self-confidence. She banged her biggest drum on the topic of NATO’s and America’s leadership in world affairs. “Our word is good,” she said about the United States and its treaties—which is to say, she spoke for America. Then again, she herself made the point about her domination when she responded to his accusations about her stamina. She cited certain things she has done—her world tours as Secretary of State, her ability to withstand eleven hours of questioning from the House committee on Benghazi. And she said that, when he has done anything similar, “he can talk to me about stamina.” That was the powerful line. The tough guy at Hofstra University was Hillary Clinton.

  60. DrDaveT says:

    that actually struck me as a reasonable point. He made variations of it multiple times during the night: businessmen play by the rules of the game on such things as taxes and bankruptcy.

    And yet, you have no patience with the parallel argument about politicians playing by the rules of the game when it comes to Hillary. Funny thing that.

    To the extent that this race is perceived as being about character, isn’t the overriding factor that Trump has spent every waking moment of his life screwing over other people to benefit Donald Trump, while Hillary has spent endless hours doing things that don’t directly benefit Hillary but do directly benefit thousands of people less fortunate than she? Even Trump’s actual charities are shams, and his business practices contemptible. How can anyone think for 10 seconds that he has any kind of moral advantage over Clinton, even were she guilty of every manufactured* charge against her?

    *No, I will not say “trumped-up” in this context…

  61. Andre Kenji says:

    The worst thing about this debate for Republicans: imagine Hillary debating John Kasich or even Marco Rubio.

  62. C. Clavin says:

    @Eric Florack:
    WTF does that word salad even mean?
    I know this…George Bush and Dick Cheney have admitted to war crimes and they walk free today.
    The Clinton’s have been under near constant investigation for decades and you zealots have found nothing but a lie about an extra-marital affair.
    If they are the criminal master-minds you claim they are, then Republicans must be incompetent.

  63. DrDaveT says:

    @C. Clavin:

    If they are the criminal master-minds you claim they are […]

    Better yet — if the Clintons are guilty of everything Republicans claim, but are slick enough and subtle enough and smart enough to get away with all of it, then I absolutely want their skills in the White House. America needs them.

  64. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    @C. Clavin: Where are the sycophants, Jenos and JKB and bill, to tell us how Trump mopped the floor with Clinton?

    Geez, I spend so much time living inside your head, Cliffy, I almost feel I should pay rent. And it’s so spacious…

    Actually, as I saw it, both candidates set out to prove that the other is a horrible person — and they both succeeded wildly.

  65. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    That’s the RWNJ version of admitting defeat.

    Our girl bitch-slapped your boy like the weak, empty fraud he is. She strapped on a Trump brand dildo (surely there’s a Trump dildo) bent Cheetoh Jesus over the podium and made him cry for Sean Hannity. She reached down his pants, pulled out his tiny balls, sliced them off and wore them as earrings.

  66. Lit3Bolt says:

    @James Joyner:

    Holt was in fact rather clearly in the tank for Clinton.

    It’s called sanity. Please try it.

  67. Jenos The Deplorable says:

    @michael reynolds: First up, michael, this is just for you.

    Secondly, it’s amazing how much effort the Clintons expend lying and covering up things that aren’t illegal. All those clouds and clouds and clouds of smoke, but there’s never any fire.

    At least, not from the Clintons. The people around them end up taking huge hits, but the Clintons themselves are never burned.

  68. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    Secondly, it’s amazing how much effort the Clintons expend lying and covering up things that aren’t illegal.

    I know! If only Trump spent half that time covering up his actual illegal acts, then we might not be looking at the need to impeach corrupt judges he’s bought to cover up his various on-going frauds like Trump University.

    But of course he’s very busy telling us he has lots of money and a big penis. So, I guess he has his priorities. Like reminding us that Miss Universe is fat. And that he’s opening a hotel in Washington. And that he knows less about the world than any random high school kid.

  69. MikeSJ says:

    While some, including my colleague Steven Taylor, seemed to think Trump’s constant interruptions would hurt him, I actually thought it helped him in the early going. He seemed in control of the debate and wasn’t as awful as I thought he’d be.

    I thought he was remarkably rude, even by Trump standards. Here’s a tip for you…women have actually been given the right to vote, just like the menfolk. Perhaps acting like a jackass to a woman won’t play very well with many women voters.

  70. pylon says:

    @michael reynolds

    He got schlonged?:

  71. Tony W says:

    @Jenos The Deplorable:

    lying and covering up things that aren’t illegal. All those clouds and clouds and clouds of smoke, but there’s never any fire.

    Kinda like settling a racial discrimination suit with the Justice department, but doing so without any admission of wrongdoing?

  72. Neil Hudelson says:
  73. gVOR08 says:

    I’m not sure she won in the sense of motivating many people who aren’t hardcore Democrats to vote for her.

    @SKI:

    We will see if/how the polls move but I don’t see a way for Trump to get above 44% and I see Clinton 3-4% points better than him going into the next debate.

    Kevin Drum had a good point a couple of days ago, A New Poll Says the Presidential Debates Are Really Important. It’s Wrong.
    The true number (of undecideds) is probably closer to 5 percent. Maybe 10 percent at the outside. And even that small number will probably break about evenly by Election Day. There’s an endless body of research showing that the actual effect of debates is minuscule.

    A couple months ago Hillary had 10% on Trump, now it’s 2 point something. IIRC part of the reason for the drop is changing from reporting registered voters to likely voters as they approach the election. So the real number who are persuadable is probably 5% tops. Trump held his supporters while Clinton addressed the persuadables. She may have taken a few people away from Johnson and Stein. And she took a shot at boosting black turnout. But yes, there probably isn’t as much riding on these debates as everyone wants to think. Horse race touts gotta have a horse race.

  74. michael reynolds says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    Well, there’s my Christmas list taken care of!

  75. al-Alameda says:

    @gVOR08:

    A couple months ago Hillary had 10% on Trump, now it’s 2 point something. IIRC part of the reason for the drop is changing from reporting registered voters to likely voters as they approach the election. So the real number who are persuadable is probably 5% tops.

    I’ve interpreted the shift in those polling numbers as an indication to new voters are trending to Trump, but really, I’m of the opinion that some of the macro polling – e.g. Rasmussen – is somewhat volatile and unreliable.

    I’ve never believed that undecided voters were (and are) more than 10%, I honestly believe that these days most people have their minds made up. After all, we’re not talking about a modest difference between, say, a Susan Collins and a Dianne Feinstein, it is usually on the order of Russ Feingold and Ron Johnson.

  76. Jenos The Penitent says:

    @michael reynolds: I understand you’re a fabulist at heart, and your little script requires me to be some rabid Trump fanboi, but I am under no obligation to spout the lines you want to put in my mouth.

    I won’t argue that Trump is not a terrible person. I will argue about particular provable lies, because it calls into question the rest of your arguments — if he was such a bad person, why can’t you just stick to the truth and stop making shit up?

    Yes, Trump is a bad person. No argument there.

    Hillary is worse.

    What I find amusing is how many of the attacks on Trump apply even more to Hillary? Trump was for the Iraq war at first? He was a civilian, while Senator Hillary Clinton — with access to highly classified information — actually voted for it. Trump made a fortune in unethical ways? Hillary left the White House “not only dead broke, but in debt,” went into public office for 12 years, and drove her family’s net worth into 9 figures. Donald Trump has ties to Russia? Hillary helped Russia grab a hefty chunk of our uranium supply. Trump lies a lot? Hillary lies all the time. Trump’s fat? Hillary, in addition to her admitted health issues (including the brain damage that saved her from criminal indictment) is a bit hefty herself. Trump’s corrupt? Hillary and Bill attended his last wedding, and Trump openly says it was because he gave a big donation to their foundation. Has Hillary explained why she went to the wedding?

    You wanna make a point, make a case for Hillary without mentioning Trump. Give her positives without your standard crutch of unleashing your professional fabulist and badmouthing Trump in epic language.

  77. Jenos The Penitent says:

    @Jenos The Penitent: I need to clarify one point, or, if you like, correct it:

    if he was such a bad person, why can’t you just stick to the truth and stop making shit up?

    I intended the “you” as a collective “you,” not mr. reynolds personally. I would rephrase it as “if he was such a bad person, why can’t people just stick to the truth and stop making shit up?”

  78. David M says:

    Lying about being against the war, while supporting it, and claiming it shows good judgement is ridiculous. Trump supports “winning”, so the war was a bad idea, because it wasn’t Trump’s war. If Trump learned anything, it’s not that military adventurism in the Middle East is a bad idea.

    At least HRC is honest on the issue, so there’s a chance she learned something. Trump isn’t honest about the issue, so he can’t have learned anything valuable.

  79. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos The Penitent:

    You wanna make a point, make a case for Hillary without mentioning Trump.

    She’s prepared to be the President. She can actually do the job.

    That was pretty easy.

  80. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos The Penitent:

    The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting. Hillary Clinton understands this. Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Clinton knows how to compromise and to lead with intelligence, decorum and perspective. She has a record of public service as First Lady, senator and secretary of state. She has withstood decades of scrutiny so intense it would wither most politicians.

  81. Jenos The Penitent says:

    @anjin-san: The challenges the United States faces domestically and internationally demand a steady hand, a cool head and the ability to think carefully before acting. Hillary Clinton understands this. Clinton has the temperament and experience to be president. Clinton knows how to compromise and to lead with intelligence, decorum and perspective. She has a record of public service as First Lady, senator and secretary of state.

    How typical for you. All that blather that translates into exactly nothing.

    Can you offer examples where she has actually done anything productive in those roles?

    As First Lady, her greatest accomplishment was leading the efforts to destroy the women who slept with her husband.

    The highlight of her Senatorial career was voting for the Iraq invasion. Defend that.

    She started off her Secretary of State tenure by “resetting” our relations with Russia. How did that work out?

    She was the driving force behind our getting involved in Libya’s civil war and she brags about how she helped “take out” Khadafy — who was tortured before he was summarily executed. How are things in Libya now? And remember, she bragged about how that all happened without the loss of a single American life — I thought Chris Stevens was a personal friend of hers?

    We now live in a world where Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea feel completely free to bitch-slap the US on the world stage with impunity. Thanks, Madame Secretary. Heck of a job there.

    She’s held exceptionally powerful and important roles for the last 24 years… and screwed up at all three of them.

    And on her email server… she lied repeatedly over pretty much every detail, and only escaped prosecution by claiming that she was too brain-damaged to be held liable for what she did.

    As usual, when you go outside your comfort zone and try to say anything of substance, you fail. Stick with snark and attempts to derail the discussion and personal attacks — sadly, it’s the only area you excel.

  82. Anjin-san says:

    @Jenos The Penitent:

    Oops. I forgot to attribute that piece to its author – that’s the Arizona Republic endorsing a democrat for the first time in its 126 year history.

    Please proceed Jenos.

  83. DrDaveT says:

    @Jenos The Penitent:

    Yes, Trump is a bad person. No argument there.

    Hillary is worse.

    The really sad thing is that there are quite a few actual non-troll people out there who really believe this. Let no one say that the GOP hasn’t accomplished anything since Bush 1 was president.

  84. wr says:

    @Jenos The Penitent: Shorter Jenos: I got nothing.

  85. anjin-san says:

    @wr:

    You have to wonder how many gallons of Mountain Dew Jenos had burned through since Donald’s Very Bad Night

  86. al-Alameda says:

    @Jenos The Penitent:

    She was the driving force behind our getting involved in Libya’s civil war and she brags about how she helped “take out” Khadafy — who was tortured before he was summarily executed. How are things in Libya now? And remember, she bragged about how that all happened without the loss of a single American life — I thought Chris Stevens was a personal friend of hers?

    Now, I personally do not think we should have taken Libya on. That said, I find it very interesting that most conservatives and Republicans have taken the position that the death of 4 American consulate-diplomatic staff in Libya was far more egregious that the death of 4,000 Americans in Iraq, a war that we know was undertaken in 2003 under a false pretense.

  87. anjin-san says:

    @Jenos The Penitent:

    She was the driving force behind our getting involved in Libya’s civil war

    I seem to remember Donald being the head cheerleader for that effort…

  88. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san: let’s make this a little simpler. The single biggest political accomplishments that Hillary Clinton has managed is avoiding prosecution.

  89. Eric Florack says:
  90. Eric Florack says:

    From the article;

    Sorry, but it’s not a vast right-wing conspiracy: The Clintons have been up to their eyeballs in shady deals and corruption scandals since their humble country bumpkin beginnings in Arkansas, which strangely enough was the staging ground for a massive CIA cocaine drug smuggling operation while Bill was governor. Coincidence or fate?

    Enough already. When you’re taking millions of dollars from the Saudis, and private rides on the “Lolita Express”, you have no business being anywhere near the White House.

    What even The Huffington Post … no Bastion of right-wing thought, they ….admits that the clintons are shady dealers, maybe even far left is cheerleaders like Clavin Ulta have the moral Integrity to figure out that there really is some fire under all that smoke

  91. An Interested Party says:

    let’s make this a little simpler. The single biggest political accomplishments that Hillary Clinton has managed is avoiding prosecution.

    Yes, I agree that is a pretty simple statement…

    What even The Huffington Post … no Bastion of right-wing thought, they ….admits that the clintons are shady dealers…

    Oh please…the particular writer is responsible for that drivel, not the Huffington Post as a whole…oh, and when said writer has things like…

    …which strangely enough was the staging ground for a massive CIA cocaine drug smuggling operation while Bill was governor. Coincidence or fate?

    …it’s obvious that he, like you, can’t be taken seriously…

  92. al-Alameda says:

    @Eric Florack:

    @anjin-san: let’s make this a little simpler. The single biggest political accomplishments that Hillary Clinton has managed is avoiding prosecution.

    Isn’t amazing that after nearly 25 years of Republican-initiated investigations of the Clintons the only item that resulted in a prosecution is Bill’s lying about an adulterous affair?

    When it comes to the Clintons I’ve learned that where there’s smoke there’s usually a Republican-set fire.

  93. Kylopod says:

    @Eric Florack:

    even The Huffington Post

    While the HuffPost leans left, its writers come from across the political spectrum; there are conservatives writing for it (it was actually co-founded by Andrew Breitbart), as well as far-left Bernie Bros. You’re confusing the site’s overall slant with the positions of particular contributors. You might as well have posted some anti-Obama screed by Charles Krauthammer and said “Look, even the Washington Post admits…”

  94. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    The single biggest political accomplishments that Hillary Clinton has managed is avoiding prosecution.

    What crime has Hillary committed? Please be specific…

  95. Thor thormussen says:

    Isn’t amazing that after nearly 25 years of Republican-initiated investigations of the Clintons the only item that resulted in a prosecution is Bill’s lying about an adulterous affair?

    I have a relative who listened to way too much Limbaugh–and even worse the regional alex jones/art bell-type local radio shows–in the 1990s, and was terribly concerned that Beel Cleenton had discarded the Constitution and was going to declare martial law etc etc Secret UN Signs on the back of roadsigns etc. Those lying tards turned my poor dumb relative’s head around til he actually thought the only hope for america was a military coup to unseat the Dread Dictator. 20 years later he makes excuses, but won’t admit that he was suckered by some sleazy cynical fear-mongering assholes. I’m not angry at him, I’m just sad that he doesn’t have the brains to learn much from it.

    My relative, Eric Florak, James Joyner…they’re all birds of a feather.

  96. Thor thormussen says:

    This place was better than any other conservative site, but it’s time to leave. Adios folks.

    GOP delenda est or something.

  97. Thor thormussen says:

    This place was better than any other conservative site, but it’s time to leave. Adios folks.

    GOP delenda est or something.

  98. Eric Florack says:

    @anjin-san: I’ve already given you that answer. In fact I’ve given you several.

    Go back out, read what I post including the length and then get back to me

  99. Eric Florack says:

    @Kylopod: the fact of the matter is that the Huffington Post wouldn’t run something like that unless they felt they had no choice. They have no choice because of the quality of their candidates.

  100. Kylopod says:

    @Eric Florack: You really don’t understand how opinion journalism works, do you?

  101. SKI says:

    @Kylopod: or, more to the point, how the business of on-line media works.

    As with everything else in life, its about the money – and money in the case of online media is in the clicks. So they have provocative headlines and take and, in the case of outfits like HuffPo that aren’t overtly partisan, have takes for everyone’s tastes. Hell, even FoxNews tries to have at least the fig leaf of a token liberal on their roundtable shows.

  102. Pch101 says:

    @Eric Florack:

    You’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

    Anybody can blog for the Huffington Post. Even you. You won’t get paid, but they’ll host your stuff for free.

    Much of the news content there is just the AP wire spun with a new headline. The liberalism there comes from the comments section, not the article itself

    There are right-wingers and Bernie Bros at Huffington Post. It’s a massive dumping ground for content; its primary agenda is to generate clicks.

  103. anjin-san says:

    @Eric Florack:

    I’ve already given you that answer. In fact I’ve given you several.

    You mean gems like this?

    the criminal activities that as surround her.

    Can you run that through the babble to English translator for us?

    Seriously, name one crime. Don’t bob, don’t weave, don’t tell us you wrote a dissertation on it somewhere else.

    Put up, or shut up.

  104. anjin-san says:

    Oh, and Bithead? That piece in HuffPo – kind of a joke. It assures us that Hillary is a criminal on par with Al Capone, but shockingly does not name an actual crime.

    Here is how is works. If someone actually has committed a crime, you can say “Hillary Clinton is charged with violating section ________ of the _______ code.

    Just fill in the blanks son.