Notes on the First Presidential Debate

I did it. Heaven help me, I did it. I watched the entire first presidential debate, from beginning to end.

I took only a few notes as I watched. But you can watch it yourself here or read a transcript here, and of course there will be multitudes offering to tell you what the candidates said and what it means and what you should think. There are already lots of fact-checkers too, and if I ever see one who appears nonpartisan, I’ll let you know.

For what it’s worth, I didn’t have time for the pregame chatter over the past few days, and I wasn’t interested in all the immediate postmortems, where everyone tries to spin the thing as if it were exactly what they wanted it to be.

Within minutes of the end, people were asking me who won the debate. I’ll answer that in a moment, but it’s not that simple.

Keys to the Game

Both candidates did some of the key things they had to do. Mrs. Clinton had to appear healthy and strong to the end, and she did. Mr. Trump had to appear basically sane, and his lowbrow charisma had to come through even without constant feeding on applause; he did, and it did — as far as I can tell when it doesn’t work on me.

She had to sound presidential, and it was a close call for a while, but eventually she did, in speaking of our commitments to our allies. He couldn’t look like a bully or a nuclear cowboy, and he didn’t — tonight, that is. She had plenty of ammunition to launch from his past excesses, on those themes among others.

She had to be the elder, seasoned statesman and leader, in command not only of the facts but also the vision and the room. As much as reasonably possible, he had to avoid looking like a rookie. And here’s where we start to pick a winner.

  • Most but not all of the time, Mr. Trump had Mrs. Clinton playing his game, and sounding wonky, condescending, even sometimes childish in her responses — and sounding canned, which doesn’t play well either. Mr. Trump had the moderator playing his game too; on a tactical level, it starts to look like leadership.
  • Mrs. Clinton fired off a dizzying volume of statistics. First of all, that doesn’t reach people, except the small minority of policy wonks. Second, the more statistics you spout, the less we trust you or your statistics, no matter who you are. Third, when most of the voters already think you’re dishonest, well . . .

My general impression was that it was a childish, somewhat unskilled debate. In that climate, the smart money is on Mr. Trump every time, because he’s not the one who’s been on the national political stage for decades, and he’s not the one people generally expect to act his age, give or take.

Soundbites (Not a Laundry List)

Of course, the evening was full of soundbites — mostly rehearsed, I suspect — that will have the campaigns, the media, and other seagulls and vultures chirping and circling until the next debate, at least. Nothing is more predictable.

RealClearPolitics screenshot
A morning-after screenshot from RealClearPolitics

For example, on the subject of Mr. Trump’s unreleased tax returns, which deserved about five percent of the attention they got, if that . . .

  • She said there’s “something terrible that he’s trying to hide.”
  • He said, “I’ll release my tax returns when she releases her 33,000 e-mails.”

That volley went to Mr. Trump.

Speaking of soundbites, I heartily dislike the mouthpiece, and I’m not a Republican any more, but I’m still a conservative. So I did enjoy hearing a Republican candidate say to a liberal, “We don’t have the money, because it’s been squandered on so many of your ideas.”

For all the soundbites, the 90-minute debate, rather like the campaign, was frustratingly short on coherent explanations of policy positions and clear visions that might appeal to Americans. It was overflowing with accusations and rebuttals. She preached to him about being president and a candidate for president; he pounded his chest less than in some stump speeches but more than he should have.

I’ve never been a candidate, but I’ve moderated debates, and I’ve coached candidates for debates on smaller stages. So I’ll put the rest of my thoughts in that context, in the hope of giving you more of the flavor of the evening.

Coaching Her

If Mrs. Clinton came to me and asked me how to do better next time — by the way, she does better in debates or highly-rehearsed major speeches than in stump speeches, where she’s often shrill — here’s what I’d say.

  • You must spend a lot more time clearly, passionately explaining why you should be president and where you want to take the country, instead of trying to push Mr. Trump’s buttons and rehash the same attack points we’re already tired of. Most of us — maybe 100 million of us were watching this first debate — already know all the reasons why neither of you should president. We’re pretty unclear about the reasons why either of you should — and that’s your opportunity.
  • You cannot be the one to preach to us about cyber-security, at least not without a brilliantly artful, heartfelt (even if it isn’t) mea culpa. People who don’t trust you — did I mention that’s most of the voters? — notice these things.
  • Speaking of those eye-rolling ironies you should try to minimize, you cannot gleefully send us to hillaryclinton.com for fact-checking. It makes you look detached from reality. You could have scored some counterintuitive points with the audience by gently urging the moderator to stop fact-checking Mr. Trump, since (a) it’s not his job, and (b) he wasn’t fact-checking you.
  • Use two-thirds fewer statistics next time. They have more credibility in smaller quantities. When you bury us with them, we don’t digest them, and we don’t trust them or you. If one-third of tonight’s quantity is still too much, we’ll reduce it further for the last debate.
  • The more you want to respond to what Mr. Trump just said, the more you should stick to what you have to say about yourself, your plans, your vision. Otherwise, before you know it, you’ve gone childish, you’ve met him at his level. That works for him and against you. And you tend to talk in fits and starts when you do that; it doesn’t sound good, strong, or presidential. Stick to your message, and confine yourself to a maximum of one riff per debate about your opponent’s unfitness.
  • When you tell us, “The birther lie was a very hurtful one,” and then explain how it hurt President Obama’s feelings, you and he both look weak. He’s expendable now, but you cannot afford to look weak. And you should probably stay away from the birther thing altogether, since your people helped start it in your 2008 primary contest with him. People know that by now, and it reminds them that they think you’re duplicitous.
  • Play to a larger audience than your base. You cannot — speaking of the birther thing — call it Trump’s “racist, birther lie.” No one outside of your admittedly vast echo chamber finds that racist. You just look like you’re playing the race card — and with most of the voters you need to sway at this point, that just doesn’t play.
  • Speaking of things that don’t play, stop talking as if Mr. Trump will play Russian roulette with the nuclear launch codes. He may be an over-the-top narcissist, but nobody outside the bubble thinks he’s an Ayatollah.
  • Call him Mr. Trump. Be respectful. He beat you on that one tonight. And find a better response to his interruptions than interrupting him. Be above that.
  • In short, stay on message, stop talking as if you think 50.1 percent of voters are policy wonks who already support you, and try assuming for once that people respond better to being inspired than to being bribed, condescended to, or threatened with Trumpocalypse.

trump-clinton-debate-1

Coaching Him

If Mr. Trump came to me and asked how to do better next time — which is equally likely — I’d say:

  • Stop sniffing into the microphone.
  • Interrupt the other candidate less often.
  • If the moderator will let you shut him off like this one did, go for it, within reason — and once it’s clear he’s on her side. That worked well tonight. Be careful not to strut about it, during or after the debate. (Not that you did tonight. But you will.)
  • That said, if the moderator is female, you won’t get away with manhandling her the way you did Lester Holt tonight. Don’t plan to, don’t try to. Instead of looking like strength, it will highlight your liabilities.
  • Never again should you defend that old Justice Department lawsuit against you for racial discrimination. You settled without admitting guilt? So what? It’s weak. It’s lame. And don’t be so smug in rebuttal about having a club in Florida which admits all races, for which others have praised you. Just say, “That lawsuit was a long time ago. A lot of things were like that back then. We were wrong. We’ve learned. We don’t do that any more.” Or you could say “I.”
  • Instead of just talking about how you’ll lower taxes on corporations, talk about how we have the highest corporate income tax in the modern world, and how that drives jobs out of the country. People will grasp that more easily, and you’ll be less vulnerable to her arguments that your proposals are guided by your own business interests.
  • Don’t go after her stamina again. She won that round — handily and predictably. You looked petty and almost desperate.
  • Save your best “Crooked Hillary” bullet points for the last debate. She’s firing off too many of her barbed weapons too soon. Then consider not using all of yours. Everyone already knows them. A lot of people want to hear someone stand up to her about them, but you should pummel her with them less than you want to. Pick just one or two. A good choice might be her well-documented hostility to any American in a uniform. Another might be her making light of the deaths of four Americans on her watch in Libya. These will play better than going after those FBI files, which most people don’t remember, or attacking her for attacking her husband’s accusers (or victims), which you could do — but going after a marriage is dicey, especially outside the bubble, where people still respect the institution. And don’t say too much about her corruption. Talk radio has that covered, and we actually don’t trust you enough that you can point fingers there with credibility.
  • Keep addressing her respectfully as “Secretary Clinton” or “Mrs. Clinton,” as you did often but not always tonight. If she insists on calling you Donald, she looks disrespectful and condescending — and you don’t.
  • How about throwing us all a change-up and talking in the third debate, at least, about all the things that are good in America? We know the negatives. Give us cause for hope!

Coaching the Moderator

If Mr. Holt — who has a great voice and a competent manner — came to me to ask how to be a better moderator, I’d say:

  • Don’t jump in to protect Mrs. Clinton as you did a few times in the first half hour. It makes her look weak, and it makes you look as if you’re trying to protect her. But you don’t need me to say that; they’ve already flayed you for it, haven’t they?
  • You’re not the fact-checker, and you especially shouldn’t be an overtly one-sided fact-checker, even if you believe hers and not his. That reinforces Mr. Trump’s theme that the big media acronyms are against him and firmly in her camp — and you don’t hurt him at all when you do that.
  • If you chastise the audience — which wasn’t supposed to applaud — for applauding Mr. Trump, you have to chastise them for applauding Mrs. Clinton too. Again, most of the country thinks you personally, or at least the big media acronyms in general, are in the tank for Mrs. Clinton, and this just gives them more ammunition.
  • Don’t ask stupid questions like that last one — if your opponent wins, will you accept the results of the election? Seriously, what are the alternatives? Staging a coup? Leaving the country? Planeloads of lawyers? Everyone knows the first two won’t happen and the third will, if it’s close. The answers are pointless. Ask something useful or at least interesting.
  • No doubt they’re already roughing you up for letting Mr. Trump manhandle you. Next time — if you ever get a second chance — don’t do that. That said, I thought you generally erred on the side of letting the candidates talk, which is excellent.
  • Some moderators make the debate about them. You didn’t, and that was good. Next time, don’t. Again.
  • We got through about four minutes of the debate before Mrs. Clinton started overtly baiting Mr. Trump to be himself. I wonder if you might have been able to keep us on substance for several more minutes, at least, with a timely intervention or two just then. It would have been an act of service to the viewers, giving them a little more substance before they start getting what they tuned in for.

All of that said, I can’t imagine any of these people seeking my advice.

A Final Lamentation

Early in the debate, the moderator asked Mr. Trump, “How do you make [companies] bring the jobs back?”

Was Ronald Reagan the last presidential candidate who was thoughtful enough, articulate enough, and conservative enough to hit that one out of the park? Will we someday have another candidate who can respond like this? . . .

“We don’t make companies come back. We don’t make them stay. That’s the difference between me and my opponent, and between my party and the other party. That’s the difference between most Americans and the folks in Washington who think they know better. Instead of forcing them to do what we want, we create a climate with our tax policies, and by restraining our urges to regulate everything that moves, in which they want to stay – to which they want to return, to which they can afford to return, where they can thrive. We lower their taxes dramatically and close their favorite loopholes at the same time, pursuing growth and fairness simultaneously. If we do it right, we get them back, and we keep them here. Then they contribute to our economy and tax base instead of someone else’s.”

That would also be a good time to mention that we’re Americans. We don’t trust government with the massive power required to decide who has too much, to take it from them, and to pass it to those we think deserve more. Mrs. Clinton is a little scary that way, and Mr. Trump doesn’t call her on it.

But enough. All this is one guy’s opinion. What’s yours?

Here are my notes on the vice presidential debate and the second presidential debate.

10 thoughts on “Notes on the First Presidential Debate”

  1. Rod M says:

    Spot on, David! I appreciate the time you take to distill the essence of truth from amidst all of the chaos. Thank you for being a level-headed and fair voice!

  2. Laura Pyper says:

    I went to a (politically like-minded) friend’s house to watch and we slogged through it beginning to end as well. I wasn’t inspired by Trump’s performance but the debate didn’t change my mind; I’ll still be voting for the candidate who I feel will be held most accountable/in check by the press and other branches of government. That’s pretty much my top criteria at this point. Great analysis!

    1. David Rodeback says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and for your kind words. I think you’ve probably identified the wisest criterion in this race: who will “be held most accountable/in check by the press and other branches of government.” I’ve had similar thoughts, telling people that the best-case scenario down the road might be that Congress awakens to its duties and begins jealously to guard its legislative authority, as it hasn’t in recent years.

  3. Enoch Lambert says:

    Hi Dave, Saw someone post this on fb and came to check it out. Enjoyed looking at your other posts as well–great blog! Hope you don’t mind a response from someone more to the left. To put my cards on the table: Clinton is nowhere close to my ideal candidate, but I believe she would be far better than Trump, including for promoting (or at least, far less of a menace to) a culture of freedom.

    But here are my thoughts on your analysis: I think it has a lot of nice insights and is by far more thoughtful and fair to Clinton than most analysis in popular right-of-center press. You seem to come at it from a “who played the political game best” angle. Which, fair enough, you aren’t going to win if you don’t play that game. But, rationality is essential to a culture of freedom, I believe, and it is worth taking a closer look there. Our country is better than many at approximating the ideals of rationality in public discourse, and the only way to get closer them, however far away they may be, is to continue to insist on calling out deviations from them (BTW, I’ve done some competitive debating myself, and know that rhetoric rather than reason often wins in those forums as well. Doesn’t make it right).

    Trump’s usual cards, which he jumped out on from the start and didn’t let up on: 1. America *always* “loses” to “every” other country (and esp. Mexico and China); 2. our country is tremendously unsafe, crime is on the rise, and Trump will restore Law and Order. On 1.: First, what does that even mean? This is nothing but a rhetorical strategy that plays to people’s feelings and fears. Yes, America has lost certain kinds of jobs overseas. That is due to a host of complicated factors, and requires careful, multi-pronged responses, not instinctive protectionistic reactions. While I understand that you can’t explain economics, history, etc. in a debate, it is possible and rational to show some kind of sensitivity to those facts. Trump, as he has done throughout his campaign, showed utter contempt to the complicated nature of the issue, and Clinton did not. Ignoring the “losing” rhetoric is ignoring demagoguery.

    Crime in this country continues to be near all time lows. Yes, this past year has seen some uptick in some major cities. That is to be expected statistically. Trump does his best to give the complete opposite impression. The major drop offs in crime probably have many factors, none of which are plausibly attributable to anything any President has ever done. Nor is it the job of the President to intervene in local and state issues of law and order. Trump’s complete refusal to acknowledge this, and extreme rhetoric supporting the opposite, is pure, and extremely dangerous, demagoguery.

    So, one candidate’s primary message and style was overwhelming demagoguery. The other’s was not. That alone is sufficient for Clinton to win according to standards of rationality and promotion of freedom.

    Some other issues we disagree on:

    Holt’s favoring of Clinton: If the asymmetry in the fact-checking bothered you, consider that there is an asymmetry in the lying and falsehoods told by both candidates. Yes, Clinton lies sometimes. Much of the time, Trump doesn’t even care if what he says approximates the truth or can easily be checked for falsehood. The latter kind of affront to norms of truth-telling in conversation and society is unprecedented in presidential politics and demands a different kind of response than journalists are used to. Holt’s was an attempt to deal with it.

    Birther-issue: some members of Clinton’s team investigated something that, if true, could have helped them out, never made a huge deal out of it, and dropped it when they discovered there was no evidence to back it up. Trump himself made a huge issue of it for years after any reasonable standard of evidence against his baseless claims was put on display. Even insinuated that he had investigators uncovering evidence against the legitimacy of the birth certificate. Certifiable craziness and pure dishonesty. Never would have happened had Obama been white. Don’t need to be in a bubble to see that.

    It is obvious, on a daily basis, that Trump has a fragile ego, that threats to his ego will be met with cruelty, and that he has poor impulse control. It is also obvious that he craves power and feeds off of it–the kind of ego and power-hungriness that will continue to grow once he becomes the most powerful man in the world, with access to nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. Do I think there is a 50% chance that he will use them? No. Do I think there is a non-negligible risk that he will? Yes. And cost-benefit calculation for such a situation tells you that the risk is not worth it. Clinton has every right to bring that up and make it a topic for discussion. Again, no bubble needed.

    Here’s to hoping future debates tend more toward the promotion of rationality, a necessary feature of habits and cultures of freedom.

    1. David Rodeback says:

      Enoch, long time, no see! Thanks for reading and for your thoughtful comments. Intelligent thought is welcome here from anywhere on the political spectrum. And disagreement is generally more interesting than agreement.

      I won’t defend Mr. Trump’s manner; he’s a boor, even if he was less repugnant in some ways than usual, for 90 minutes on Monday evening. And he’s barely worth analyzing on the issues even if you can make sense of his position du jour. On free trade, for example — which I grant is not a simple subject — he’s simply delusional. I’m not voting for him.

      The thing is, issues didn’t matter in the debate, at least not in any conventional sense. They don’t matter very much in this campaign. We’ll see this when the post-debate polls come out. Reason doesn’t matter much either, though I heartily wish it did.

      What matters is anger, mixed with identity politics; once that is in place, we call it an issue and run with it. Thus blame becomes the only issue. It’s not healthy, of course, and the guilt is bipartisan. After nominating Mr. Trump of all people, with his isolationist, protectionist, xenophobic rhetoric, the Republican have no credibility left at all in pointing to President Obama and saying (quite accurately) that divisive identity politics is his stock in trade. You and I may disagree as to whether Republicans had any moral ground to stand on before with respect to that issue; I readily concede that they don’t now.

      That said, I think Mrs. Clinton lacks a suitable presidential temperament too, just less obviously. Her well-documented, intermittently vicious intolerance of any American in a uniform comes to mind. Then there’s her propensity to lie even when the truth would serve her better. And if she isn’t bought and paid for by Wall Street and by some well-funded and generous international interests who don’t necessarily have our welfare at heart, then she’s done a fine job of faking it, these last few decades.

      It’s a tough call. Maybe he really is more likely to use nukes. I think she’s more likely to get us nuked. Or get Israel nuked.

      Which is the more pathological narcissist? I’m sure I don’t know. But Mr. Trump is certainly the cruder narcissist in public.

      I find, as I contemplate the wreckage where our politics used to be, that I like Laura’s question: which candidate is more likely to have his or her excesses restrained by the other branches of government?

      I don’t know that either, but I suspect the press will be much more supportive of Mrs. Clinton, if she’s elected, than they would be of Mr. Trump.

      I can’t speak for Mr. Trump’s motives with the birther thing, but I think someone of any race, with the same politics and personal geography, might have seen the issue raised by opponents in primary and general elections. I’m sure there are some who held and still hold President Obama’s race against him, just as there are multitudes who have congratulated themselves for voting for him, principally because of his race. To me, his politics are the problem, not his skin color. For the most part, his politics are not distinctly African-American; most of the people I’ve heard articulate similar views are white leftists.

      But I digress.

      I share your hope for more substantive debates and more substantive responses to them. I wouldn’t say I’m optimistic. In any case, the next two debates should be interesting. If she’ll stop trying to push his buttons, she should be able to dismantle him on issues — but even if she does, I wonder if even that will daunt his supporters. At a certain shallow level of politics, knowledge is considered a liability — just one more tool the Establishment uses against us. (Whoever we are.)

      Am I too much of a pessimist this week?

      Anyway, thanks again for your thoughts.

  4. Enoch Lambert says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, David. I do agree that Laura’s (if I may) question is a good one for this, and any, presidential election, as virtually any aspirant to President is sure to have ambitions that need checking.

    When it comes to government checks in this election, a Trump win is likely to be accompanied by (at least minor) gains in congress by Republicans. So far very few of them have had spines enough to stand up to Trump and it doesn’t seem likely that will change in the event that Trump is ushered in as the candidate that stopped Clinton. And Federal courts have stopped a lot of Obama’s excesses (more than any other presidency!), so I’m not convinced they would allow more from Clinton than Trump.

    As for the press, despite recent best efforts by the more liberal side of the media, they haven’t figured out how to adequately handle Trump’s demagoguery yet. More importantly, from my perspective, the Trump phenomenon has trumped up the legitimacy of the worst of the alt-right media’s conspiracy mongering, pulling Fox more and more toward their direction. They will only grow in power with a Trump presidency and will certainly do nothing to check him. I see this possibility as an unmitigated disaster for the prospects of freedom in our country. Plus, Clinton has never been a darling of the liberal media.

    I guess the thing that interests me most here is whether our usual respective political leanings keep us from seeing the worst in one candidate and promote exaggeration of the bad in the other. I would normally vote for a third party in this election, but the prospect of Trump is making Clinton seem better and better every day. But am I blind to her worse aspects? Am I exaggerating how bad Trump would be? I try to ask myself what I would do if the dems had nominated a Trump-like figure. But at this point, I really do think I would take another four years of say, W., a president who I think wrought enormous damage on our country, if it would guarantee that Trump and his ilk on the alt-right would go quietly into the night.

    I don’t know if you were purposely avoiding my language of demagoguery, but I don’t know what else you can call it. And I assume you would agree that demagoguery, if that is in fact what it is, is a grave, emergency-level threat to our freedom. I’m also mystified by ideas that Trump is only this way in public. There are mountains of evidence that Trump is just as bad, if not worse, to people in his business dealings, in his family relationships (Clinton seems to be getting flack for Bill’s failings here, where Trump’s own moral repugnancy is given a complete pass–another sign that the media is not univocally on her side), and on and on. All evidence points to him being a master con man in virtually every area of his life.

    OK, but is Clinton just as bad? At best, I think the evidence points to her being moderately worse than average for career politicians. The email thing has been blown up far beyond anything that can be considered appropriate or proportional. Same with the Benghazi thing. The Clinton foundation has some shady stuff going on, but not nearly as bad as the Trump foundation–and we can already say that with far more scrutiny and available information (so far) concerning the Clinton foundation.

    You say that she shows contempt for anyone in uniform. Apparently this is an area where I am blind. Surely there are some things I have missed there. But I dare say that is a bit of an exaggeration as well. On the nuke thing: what evidence is there that Clinton would be any more likely to induce a first strike against us than Reagan, or Bush I, or Clinton I, or Bush II, or Obama, etc.? Whereas a first use by us is sure to be met with retaliation and subsequent catastrophe for us and the world. To me, these are all examples of Clinton’s dishonesty and other flaws being exaggerated. And, until recently, I wasn’t considering voting for her. But, again, I’m open to hearing more evidence that I’ve got some ideological blinders on.

    Well, I’ve gone far beyond the debates at this point. Sorry about that. But I’ll look for more insightful analysis if you decide to analyze the other debates as well!

    1. David Rodeback says:

      Enoch, I agree — instantly — with most of your thoughts here, and the rest are certainly worth some reflection.

      It’s a pity that both sides have used the word “demagoguery” to describe so much of each other’s political discourse in recent decades. Not that it (the real thing) has ever been long absent — but it seems to have robbed the word of much of the effect we might hope for it, when we need to use it to describe actual, toxic demagoguery of Mr. Trump’s degree.

      Similarly, comparing almost every Republican nominee to Hitler robs that comparison of its effect when we need it. We have the boy who cried wolf and the party who cried Hitler, and the latter have immunized Mr. Trump’s supporters. They just see it as more of the same Establishment rhetoric. (Too few on any side here have enough knowledge of history to draw insightful comparisons and contrasts.)

      I wonder how long it will be before the media and the Washington establishment crack the code and figure out how to deal with Mr. Trump. And I wonder how long it will be before a lot of his personal baggage — or any of it, really — starts to get some traction with voters, so many of whom presently don’t seem to care. February, maybe? He’s such a boor in public that, so far, his private liabilities seem mostly to fall on ears that are tired of listening already.

      So many seem to feel that the best reason to vote for Mrs. Clinton is that the other name on the ballot is Donald Trump. I wouldn’t even try to dissuade them of that, because I agree — except for voters who match her ideology or for whom her gender is a large factor; they have other reasons.

      There are some out there who think that the best reason to vote for Mr. Trump is that he’s running against Mrs. Clinton, and the talking heads have a lot to say about that being largely sexism. Some of it certainly is. But they’re missing the point. For a high percentage of Trump supporters, as far as I can tell, it’s far from personal. They’re not voting against her. They”re voting against everybody in Washington. They’re struggling, and they’re angry, and their understanding of why runs about half an inch deep — rather like he does. They love that he’s angry, and he’s willing to say . . . things.

      As for Mrs. Clinton’s animus towards the military and law enforcement, we’ve been hearing about that since before President Clinton’s inauguration in 1993. Some of it may be exaggerated, but it’s consistent with her ideology and some of her public behavior, and it’s hard not to believe there’s fire producing all that smoke. That said, a funny thing often happens to leftists (and most revolutionaries) when they actually rise to power. When the armed forces are at *their* command, they like them a lot better.

      It is nothing if not interesting. But even the political scientist in me wishes it were less interesting this time.

      1. Enoch Lambert says:

        Totally agreed on the overuse of “demagoguery” language and comparisons to Hitler. Especially from the left. I’m glad you’re making such a nice forum for more reasonable debate and dialogue! 🙂

  5. Enoch Lambert says:

    Sorry to weigh in again, but I realized I didn’t respond to the good point about Clinton and Wall Street. I’ll try to be brief.

    Clinton’s allegiance to Wall Street is deeply troubling, yes. One possible mitigating factor here is the fact that politician-business partnerships usually realize they have to keep up appearances and that there are limits to what the politician can do for businesses. Alone, that is not very comforting. In comparison to Trump? This is a man whose outsized ego stands or falls with his business and who has spent a lifetime engaged in brazen and extremely unethical practices doing whatever he can to make his business what he wants it to be. And it is a business that has ties and debt to all kinds of foreign entities with interests conflicting with those of the US, not to mention all kinds of domestic ties and debts whose interests conflict with those of the public. If anyone thinks for a second that Trump will allow his presidential responsibilities and obligations to conflict with his business, they’re fooling themselves. And that is every bit as scary, and arguably more so, than Clinton’s (admittedly meagerly) mitigated ties to Wall Street.

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