First, a confession: I didn’t watch all of Monday night’s debate. I missed about the last half hour, I think.
Second, an evaluation: Mrs. Clinton looked poised and was better prepared than Mr. Trump, though that seems a fairly low bar to clear. Mr. Trump’s failure to take what would have been some fairly easy shots at Mrs. Clinton seemed almost deliberately contradictory to his usual “attack dog” style. (Yes, people have pointed out Mr. Trump’s interrupting Mrs. Clinton and the unfortunate moderator, but Mr. Trump seemed mild-mannered and deferential compared to his performances in the primary debates. Whether that was intentional, I cannot say, though I have seen speculation that it was calculated to make him seem less intimidating to voters.)
Now, some more specific observations:
- Both candidates talked a bit about the National Debt. Mr. Trump made the point about how large it is now, without driving home the point that it is much larger now than it was eight years ago. Mrs. Clinton made the point that Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cuts would add to the debt, without explaining whether her proposed tax increases would actually reduce it. But the moderator missed an opportunity to ask them one simple question: Are you going to balance the Federal budget every year? Because if not, then you’re not going to reduce the National Debt.
- Mrs. Clinton scored some points with the “Trumped Up Trickle-Down” phrase, and she praised her husband with respect to the booming economy we enjoyed during his Presidency. Then, however, she made the curious statement that trickle-down economics led to or was responsible for the recent recession. I found that curious because trickle-down economics was not a hallmark of George W. Bush’s 2001-09 term; it was a hallmark of Ronald Reagan’s 1981-89 term. If trickle-down economics lasted until the 2008 recession, then, that would imply that the economic policies of the intermediate terms didn’t count for much.
- Mrs. Clinton also scored points by pressing Mr. Trump about his company’s failure to pay suppliers for services rendered. I would like to know the story behind that, and the terms of the agreements that were violated — or that were negotiated so strongly in favor of the Trump conglomerate.
- Just once I would like to see a debate in which one of the candidates actually takes a moment to explain what is and is not the President’s job. With respect to economics, for instance, to explain a bit how the budget process works (I’m not sure Mr. Trump knows very much about that). With respect to military matters, instead of sniping at each other about who has a plan to defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/whatever the Islamofascist quasi-Caliphate is calling itself today, it would be refreshing to have a candidate say, “No, I don’t have a plan because that’s not the Commander-in-Chief’s job. That’s why we have a Secretary of Defense; that’s why we have Combatant Commanders; that’s why we have the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will give them direction, they will recommend courses of action, and I will make the decision. Next question.”
- The two of them had a lot to say about policing, but policing is a local issue rather than a Federal one. It would have been nice to have them discuss whether they think the Executive Branch has a role in local matters, and if so what that particular role might be, rather than hearing about whether “stop and frisk” was or was not effective when it was in place in New York City.
- The crime and gun control portion was one of Mr. Trump’s missed opportunities. A simple question that he could have asked: How many criminals and gang members have ever gone through a background check in order to purchase a firearm legally?
- The question about cybersecurity was another missed opportunity. Mr. Trump certainly did not display any sort of killer instinct, or he would’ve pointed out the irony of someone trying to come across as knowledgeable about security who could not recognize that paragraph markings in a message denoted classified content; alternately, he could’ve asked about how increased cybersecurity might have protected mishandled emails that, it turns out, included very highly classified information.
- Also on my list of things I wish Presidential candidates would talk about in order to show that they understand or at least appreciate National Security and military-related issues: the DIME: the instruments of National power.
(Image: “Prepping the debate,” by Leigh Blackall, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)
In the end, I was disappointed that the smaller-party candidates had not crossed the threshold of making it onto the debate stage. That might have been more entertaining, and almost certainly more enlightening.
It is easier, of course, to talk about playing the game than it is to play the game: to analyze the debate afterward than to participate in it in real time. It may be that if I had the chance to debate I would not have fared any better. Then again … I think if I had a team of people to help prepare me and quiz me, I would be able to hold my own.
Put me in, Coach. I’d love to take a swing at it.
P.S. I’m the Anti-Candidate, and I approved this blog post.