Unlike everyone at the Al Smith dinner, CNN doesn’t know difference between roast humor and inept insults

It’s interesting how the various news media approach the task of holding up Donald Trump as if he were a boxer who the other fighter has to keep standing for two more rounds to complete the fix.

Setting a low bar for Trump, quoting Trump in stories on news developments without mentioning Hillary’s view, creating a double standard for Hillary, blaming her for mistakes also committed by her peers, ignoring the harmless contents of her emails, covering his rallies but not hers, not calling him on obvious lies—these are some of the many ways the mainstream news media has subtly helped the Republican candidate since the race began. One of the most frequently utilized techniques has been conflation, which in the 2016 presidential election consists of equating a minor fault of Hillary’s to a massive history of bad behavior by Trumpty-Dumpty.

CNN provided a seminal example of conflation in its coverage of the annual Al Smith Dinner, which supports charitable work by the New York Catholic Diocese and is typically attended by all the New York City movers and shakers. It’s a tradition to invite both presidential candidates to the dinner to give funny speeches that mildly roast themselves and their opponent.

This year, Donald Trump spoke first and he was heavily booed throughout the speech, and for good reason. After starting with a few excellent zingers, his remarks quickly devolved into insults, lies and accusations, none of which approached wit, satire or any other kind of humor.  His one success at self-deprecation really was a joke about his wife. Another time, his joke was to compare himself to Christ. You could see the uncomfortably ashen faces of the people sitting near the podium, aghast at Trump’s ugly transgressions against a convivial tradition.

By contrast, the audience loved what Hillary had to say. As everyone who watched on TV saw, she peppered her remarks with a number of self-deprecating jokes. She seemed to enjoy making fun of herself, the image the public has of her and even the false image of her created by lies that Republicans have spread about her for years. When she turned to Trump, her cracks were the essence of roast humor—always funny, and always hitting their mark, jokes that cut deep in the truth they revealed, but that always stayed on the side of humor. She delivered them with a good-natured warmth that made me think that she took time out from debate preparation to study the master of the roast, Dean Martin.

The audience loved it, applauding frequently. Some of the applause was at the humor, but sometimes it was because they agreed with the truth behind the humor. Her best moment was when she talked about the debates. “Sharing a stage with Donald Trump is like, well, nothing really comes to mind. Donald wanted me drug tested before last night’s debate. I am so flattered that Donald thought I used some sort of performance enhancer. Now, actually, I did. It’s called preparation.” After hearty laughter from the audience, Clinton did what every great comedian does: go for a topper. She said, “And looking back, I’ve had to listen to Donald for three full debates, and he says I don’t have any stamina!” The audience roared.

How surprised was I then to wake up to CNN equating the performances at the dinner by the two candidates. “They struggled to disguise the anger, bitterness and sheer open dislike that has pulsed through their recriminatory White House race, perhaps not surprisingly since he has threatened to throw her in jail and she says he’s a threat to the republic.”  CNN hits the daily double with this sentence, two conflations in one: 1) The conflation of Clinton’s good-natured ribbing which the audience ate up like grandma’s cannoli with Trump’s boorish ill-humor that the audience widely booed. 2) The conflation of Trump’s false and unsubstantiated accusations against a woman who has withstood decades of investigations with Hillary’s legitimate concern about Trump’s refusal to say he’ll agree to the election results, a concern also voiced by virtually the entire mainstream news media and many if not most Republicans. The CNN coverage ignores the applause and minimizes the humor that distinguished Hillary’s appropriate remarks with Trump’s transgressions.

I understand the craven Jimmy Fallon sucking up to a former star of the network that writes his paychecks, but what does CNN have to gain by its inaccurate portrayal of what happened? What does it gain from ignoring what was obvious to all? That we cannot compare Donald Trump’s boorishness in any way with anyone else who has run for president, at least since World War I. My guess is that CNN’s editorial board is still hell bent in denying Hillary the landslide that will produce Democratic majorities in the Senate, and maybe even the House.

Most of the other mainstream media outlets, like NBC, the New York Times and National Public Radio focused their coverage much more on the boos given to Trump’s mean-spirited remarks than on the applause and laughs Hillary got. In this regard, their approach resembled how they portrayed the debates and the commander-in-chief forum. In all instances, they focused on Trump’s bad performance, mentioning that he fell for many traps Hillary set for him, but often forget to note that Hillary was superb in her own right.

Hillary and Trumpty-Dumpty have now gone mano a mano five times, and all five times Hillary has defeated her adversary with ease, all after defeating the far more competent and visionary Bernie Sanders. If it weren’t Hillary Clinton, if she weren’t a woman, if the mainstream news media didn’t list Republican, maybe they would realize that we are seeing the political equivalent of the 1998 Yankees or American Pharoah’s run to horse racing’s Triple Crown.

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3rd debate score: cool Clinton wins, Wallace wins, Trump stumbles, sniffs & commits sedition

Newscasters and commentators who analyze the candidates’ performance and the public’s reaction immediately after presidential debates typically endeavor to express a unique point of view that gives a special insight to what just occurred. Each pundit wants to shine with something different or surprising to build her-his recognition and brand.

Not after the third debate, though.

For the first five minutes, flipping between the various news programs, one topic and one topic alone under discussion: Donald Trump’s explicit refusal to recognize the results of the election in advance. Never before in the history of the United States has a major party candidate been unwilling to endorse the voting and Electoral College totals. It shocked many. Some Republican analysts said it disqualified him from consideration as our next president. Everyone understood that Trump was undermining a basic principle of American democracy, a two century compact between the people and government: the peaceful transfer of power from one regime to the next. Technically, Trump was probably committing sedition, which Merriam-Webster’s defines as “conduct consisting of speaking, writing, or acting against an established government or seeking to overthrow it by unlawful means; resistance to lawful authority; conduct tending to treason but without an overt act.”

Wallace gave Trump a chance to change his mind, but the Donald dug in, eschewing reality in favor of his fantasy world in which the only way he ever loses is when he is cheated.

Speaking of Wallace, he did a fine job, certainly the best of any moderator this election cycle. He kept the candidates to the issues and kept them talking on point. He made sure both sides got their say and kept order between the two candidates. Although he said he would not fact check, he did correct Trump a time or two. He kept the audience under control. The only disruption I heard was a loud rumble of laughter and sniggers when Trumpty-Dumpty said “Nobody has more respect for women than me.”

After the debate, Trump surrogates tried to compare what Trumpty-Dumpty said to Al Gore not conceding until a month after the 2000 election. To their credit, every reporter and pundit understood that refusing to agree to the results because the election could be rigged weeks before the voting is far different from Gore waiting until the results in Florida had been confirmed, or in the case of the 2000 election, mandated by the Supreme Court. Once the Supreme Court ruled, Gore wasted no time in endorsing the election returns, even though it meant he lost despite a significant edge in the popular voting. And Gore never said the election was rigged or threatened not to abide by the vote in the Electoral College.

By the time Trump made his seditious statement not once but twice, he had already lost the debate on merit. As in the first two debates, he interrupted, he fidgeted with his mic, he tried to shout Hillary down and he lost control and got angry. The longer the debate went, the more incoherent his remarks became and the louder his constant sniffing became.  He resorted to insults, the worst of which was when he muttered, “Such a nasty woman.”

And Trump lied and lied and lied. He lied about the impact of illegal immigration. He lied about the relative strength of the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenal. He lied about what occurs in late-term abortion. He lied about the situation in Syria. He lied about the State Department losing $6 billion. He made unfounded accusations against his opponent. The fact-checkers found many of his statements false, while confirming that Hillary has been the most truthful candidate of this election cycle.

When the history of the 2016 election is written, I’m fairly certain historians will focus on the Trump phenomenon, his insults of other candidates, his dust-up with a Gold Star family, his infamous tape in which he admits to sexually assaulting women and his refusal to pledge to honor election results. Many will forget how masterful Hillary has been in these debates. Hillary showed why she has never lost a presidential debate in her life—tied a time or two, but never lost.  Unlike the rambling Trumpty-Dumpty, Hillary spoke with extreme efficiency and precision. Her typical answer consisted of several parts: her stand, the facts to back the stand, why her opponent’s stand was inferior and a dig at Trump. Her formula: present the facts presidentially, then bait your opponent.  Trump didn’t always take the bait, but even when he didn’t, you could see him fuming and fidgeting. Clinton, by contrast, laughed off Trump’s insults and accusations. She kept her poise while successfully goading her opponent to lose his. She also had her share of clever moments, my favorite of which was when she contrasted what she was doing in each of the past four decades to what Trump was doing; e.g., in the ‘70s she worked on behalf of poor children, while Trump was being sued for discrimination in rental practices.

But most of all, Hillary was cool and Americans like their presidents cool.

By cool, I mean her demeanor and temperament, not her sense of style or her social position in high school (which is what Maureen Dowd would mean). Americans tend to select as president the candidate who seems most comfortable with her-his body and in her-his surroundings. They like the candidate who stays in control, as long as that control comes easily and is not the product of a visible internal struggle. They like smiles over frowns, friendly over angry. Cool over hot.

Eisenhower was cooler than Stevenson in temperament and demeanor. Kennedy was cooler than Nixon. Reagan was cooler than Carter. Bush I was cooler than Dukakis, but no one was ever as cool as Bill Clinton. Certainly not Bob Dole. Bush II was cooler than both Gore and Kerry. Obama was cooler than McCain and Romney.

And the calm and studied Hillary is a lot cooler than the strident and fumbling Donald Trump.

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Condemn Cosby but not Trump & you’re racist & New Yorker’s Lepore snidely denigrates Hillary for being smart

The closing month of the 2016 presidential campaign is a tragedy playing out as farce—only unlike Karl Marx’s declaration about history repeating itself “first as tragedy, second as farce”—it’s the first time this degrading drama has occurred.

I’m referring to the Donald Trump sexual predator scandal for which we have now seen the dropping of the second, third, fourth and fifth of what may be a series of shoes extensive enough to accessorize a centipede.

It’s never happened before and it’s a farce. But as in Marx’s cycle, this farce takes the structure of Greek tragedy. There is the protagonist with hubris. We see rising action and falling action. The chorus is enormous, comprising the news media. And perhaps most significantly, we—the audience—knew what was going to happen as soon as Trump issued his short and whimpering denial that he never did to women what he said he did on tape.

The other shoes dropping is an event that we expect to occur as the natural result or progression of another event that just occurred. When a big company buys your employer, a massive layoff is the “other shoe dropping.” When the media reveals a celebrity has had an affair, his wife filing for divorce is the other shoe dropping.

Need another example? How about Trumpty-Dumpty, who is running to be America’s sexual predator in chief? (He would also like to be its racist, misogynist and nativist in chief as well!).

First came the videotape in which Trumpty-Dumpy bragged about actions that all but Trump factotums and core fans consider to be sexual predation. Second came Trumps’ denial that he actual grabbed women’s genitals without consent or stalked them into corners.

From the moment of that denial, the entire world—and especially the news media—have been expecting the other shoe to drop.

And drop it has. Again and again and again and again.

Almost overnight, four women have come forth to describe various types of sexually predatory actions Trump committed against them—walking in on women nude, putting his hand up dresses, squeezing behinds, forcibly kissing.

And we’re just getting started. There may turn out to be a mall full of shoes in Trump’s sexual predator closet. I don’t know what the line in Las Vegas is, but I’m betting Trump’s final count will exceed that of Bill Cosby.

Thanks to Trumpty-Dumpty, we now have a quick test for racism: If you condemn Bill Cosby on the existing evidence but do not condemn Donald Trump on the existing evidence, you, sir or madam, are a racist!

Speaking of assault, I’ve had an epiphany about the 25-year assault the mainstream news media has made on the character of Hillary Clinton, presenting her as inaccessible, manipulative, lacking empathy, ethically challenged and unable to connect with people. Her performances in debates, in front of committees, in interviews, at town hall meetings and working with others virtually always belie this depiction, but the media persists.

I already knew that many don’t like her because her spouse is Bill Clinton and that others have always applied a double standard to her because she’s a woman.

But reading one word in Jill Lepore’s pedestrian essay on the general topic of presidential debates in a recent New Yorker gave me a sudden jolt of recognition: One of the decades-old themes in mass culture is to denigrate intellectual achievement and “book smarts” and no one represents intelligence more than Hillary Clinton in today’s political arena (although Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama and a few others come close). Lepore clearly composed her piece before the first debate occurred.

I’ve written often about the undercutting of intellectual achievement in the mass media since the end of World War II; for a few examples, see blog entries of March 12, 2015; February 3, 2015; January 22, 2014; October 27, 2013; and January 27, 2013. Saying math is hard or that learning is not fun, touting celebrities who didn’t finish college, belittling education, calling devotees of serious theatre snobs, assuming beach reading has to be escapist, equating genius with madness—the barrage of subtle digs at intellectual achievement in the news media proceeds on a daily basis.

In presidential campaigns, when “smarts” has been an issue, the mass media has always influenced the public to prefer the candidate seen as “less smart.” Examples include the 1952 and 1956 election in which both Adlai Stevenson and Dwight Eisenhower were both educated and studied men, but the media primarily depicted Ike as a “nice guy war hero” and Stevenson as an intellectual (and “smarter”) and subtly marked him down for it. Then there was smart Jimmy Carter versus dumb Ronald Reagan in 1980 and smart Al Gore versus dumb George W. Bush in 2000. In both these elections, the media used all the derogatory ways we have to say “smart” to describe the losing candidates, while extolling the people skills of the winning candidates.

My epiphany came when reading Lepore’s gratuitous characterization of Hillary in a description of what she expects in the debate in which Lepore’s tone reflects a snarky world-wear criticism: “Hillary Clinton will be there, overprepared.”

Overprepared? That means she hit the books too hard and studied too much. But is there any such thing? Let’s see… If she prepared for questions or comments that would never be asked, e.g., “What do you think of the cancellation of Hill Street Blues?” that would not be overpreparation, but stupidity. If she prepared so much that she neglected to eat or sleep and therefore performed poorly, that would be inadequate preparation, because she focused on just one aspect of what it takes to get ready. If she practiced her facts and messages to the point that she delivered them robotically, as if muttering the rosary, that would be a poor performance, perhaps suggesting, again, that the cause was not overpreparation, but poor preparation for not focusing enough on the performance aspects of debating. The more we study the possible meanings of “overpreparation,” the more we must conclude that there’s no such thing, except as a stand-in for something else.

In short, all references to “overpreparation” are nothing more than a derogatory way to refer to a good, smart student. Interestingly enough, the concept of “overpreparation” is similar to that of “overachieiving” in that the mass media sees it as a virtue in athletics, but a vice in intellectual endeavors. If you think I’m wrong, monitor the sports pages and news sections for a few months. Athletes are always praised for their hard work (especially if they are white and can be contrasted with “natural athletes” assumed to be of color).

With the current election, the news media is in a triple quandary: It usually subtly shapes coverage to help Republicans (see the Congressional 2010 election coverage for a case history) and it usually subtly puts down the candidate who is more intellectual, more educated, more studied—the egghead, as they called Stevenson. But by doing so in 2016, they risk unleashing a monster on the world.

The third part of the triple quandary. Do I even have to say it at this point? It’s sexism, which plays out less in candidate preferences and more in the strict media adherence to condoning a subtle but explicit double standard that exists throughout American society regarding men and women in the workforce.

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Another Clinton debate win, not just on words but on look and gesture

When Donald Trump was hovering behind Hillary Clinton while she spoke in the second debate between the two major party candidates for president, what was he thinking? What did he want to do?

Did he want to grab her crotch? Back her into a corner and plant an open-mouth kiss on her lips?

Or tell her she’s fired?

Or did he want to scream at Hillary as loud and as long as it took to turn her into a puddle of tears.

We knew that wasn’t going to happen.

To me, he was walking the desperate wamble of a panicked narcissist temporarily out of the spotlight and searching for the camera.

After all, Trump’s craven whimper of a fallen bully punctuated his every sentence form the beginning of the debate, louder and more pronounced than last time Donald faced off against Hillary. Why can’t anyone find this guy a decent microphone? A very few speculate that Trumpty-Dumpty sniffs because he gets coked up. Others wonder if the healthiest man alive has a cold. Even dismissing it as a nervous tic damages the Trump brand, as a great negotiator is supposed to have nerves of steel. In black-and-white society movies of the 1930s and 1940s the rich would often sniff at their inferiors. Lots of possible explanations, yet I’m still convinced that Trump’s sniffs manifest the pathetic low whine of a bully who has backed down or been beaten down.

Thus, no matter how what either candidate said, Trump lost the debate in his body language, demeanor and sound.

Body language dominated Hillary’s performance, too. In the past, she won or drew every single one of her previous debates primarily with the strategy of presenting the issues and facts clearly and succinctly. In the last debate, her strategy was to throw out live bait, knowing her undisciplined opponent would take aim and shoot himself in the foot with deranged comments and overtly disgusting remarks.

This time, Hillary’s strategy was to be presidential. And there is no doubt she succeeded.  She “went high” and did not take any bait from Trump to unburden about her personal affairs. She did not interrupt, even though Trump constantly interrupted her. She spoke and walked with confidence and warmth. Her comments directed at Trump were stern without being mean or cruel. She sincerely interacted with audience members and paid attention to the requests of the moderators. By contrast, Trump never seemed to connect with anyone; he could have been talking to the clouds.

Unlike Trump, who pivoted to whatever lies he wanted to make at the given moment, Hillary answered every question directly. When Hillary attacked Trump, she did it with his own words and actions. Trump by contrast only made accusations against Hillary and did not substantiate even one of them, probably because none have any basis in fact. Her apology for using a private server was direct and an explicit statement she made a mistake. His apology—only for the remarks he made about groping women, minimized his bragging about committing sexual assaults to locker room talk.

In short, Hillary looked and acted presidential and Donald did not. And it was all in their facial expressions, movements on stage, eye contact and the tone and cadences of their voices.

Hillary won the words, too, but because Trump was able to articulate his messages on a number of topics, using his usual stew of lies, ignorance and braggadocio, he did do better than his complete meltdown in the first debate.

The avoidance of meltdown is a low bar, but because he cleared it the immediate consensus of the non-partisan media was that the debate was a tie. But Chris Matthews must have been chilling with Gary Johnson, because he said that Trump won big. How could one man be so right about the first debate and so wrong about the second?

The public was having none of the news media’s equivocation. They aren’t scoring points or grading on a curve. They want someone who looks like a president and acts like a president. That’s why Hillary won the CNN poll, the only statistically valid poll to come out so far. Her margin of victory when asked which candidate won the debate was a 57% to 34%, a very robust 23% lead! The public did notice Trump’s improvement; 63% thought he did better. But not good enough to win. And probably not good enough to sway many undecided voters.

Certainly Trump did well enough to convince him and his core supporters that he not only won, but “shlonged” Hillary. He will no doubt brag about his big win for weeks. The question is: did Trump do well enough to staunch the flow of red-blooded Republican elected officials fleeing his candidacy?

Above all else, the second debate was a painful reminder that debate moderators should have their staffs do instant fact-checking and tell the audience and viewers when a candidate has told a lie. The after-the-fact fact checkers demonstrated that in the truth department, Hillary won in another landslide. For example CNN checked 15 Trump statements and seven Hillary statements.

Trumpty-Dumpty gave false information in 11 of the 15 instances, whereas Hillary was 7-0; all seven checked statements turned out to be true. Those who will assert that checking twice as many Trump statements shows the inherent media bias against the Republican candidate didn’t watch the debate and haven’t been paying attention to the past 15 months. You can’t check the accuracy of every sentence a candidate says, so most fact-checkers limit themselves to investigating the big issues, the statements that seem wacky or the low-hanging fruit, which in this case, means the statements like Trump’s birther remarks that everyone already knows are fabrications. Since much of what Trump says is either outrageous or a known lie, it makes sense that more of his statements undergo fact-checking scrutiny. Hillary, by contrast, has come in first place in honesty every time someone has compiled the fact-checked statements of every candidate in the 2016 election.

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Donald Trump and the semiotics of sexual objectification and harassment

In the immediate aftermath of the revelation of a tape showing Donald Trump expressing a demeaning, misogynistic and ultimately controlling view of women, many pundits noted that what he said was not “locker room talk,” stating that Trump’s disgusting ramble was far worse, and perhaps, too, that “locker room” talk was okay.

Let’s consider “locker room” talk as a gray area of male (and) female human behavior. Most of it tends to be aspirational—a discussion of things one would like to do or plan on doing. “Locker room” talk does involve a certain amount of objectification of women (of men when women do it), but it’s fairly harmless as long as it is not spoken to the individual being objectified and does not play out in sexist behaviors in which one person treats another as a mere object. And some talk is always off limits—as with racism, anything outwardly misogynistic belongs nowhere, not in the locker room, not in the tavern, not in man cave in front of a widescreen TV. For example, discussing the use of a rape drug.  That’s no longer “locker room talk.” It’s different and it’s disgusting.

And the overwhelming number of Americans—from radical feminists to conservative Christians who feel a woman’s place is in the home—knew immediately that what Trump said was and is different from jockish banter—and is completely disgusting.

It is nevertheless instructive to take a look at the various parts of what Trump said, beginning with context. We aren’t talking about a few buds downing suds in a bar at which single men and women gather. Trump was on the job.

Secondly, the audience was not Trump’s best bro, but a business acquaintance, a television and radio host, which means he is part of the media. This tape marks the first known instance of a public figure crudely discussing the unsolicited groping of female parts with the news media.

Now we come to the implications of what Trumpty-Dumpty actually said. It was despicable, a manifestation that he views women as objects he uses as he wants, for his sexual pleasure or to demonstrate his high status.

The comments reek with abuse and revel in the lack of consent they flaunt. Morality aside, if he had said he slept with a woman and she was married, it would have been okay from the legal standpoint because we assume consent. No one knows what goes on in a marriage—is it open?, was she an abused wife?—so most people will not pass judgment a priori on a man sleeping with a married woman, even while thinking the guy indiscrete to a fault to break the confidence and tell someone else. But what Trump said was that he kept pestering her, bothering her, cornering her. That’s always creepy, always wrong, and pretty much always illegal.

Same thing goes for his statements about groping the genitals of women without receiving prior permission to do so because he was a star. If he had said that stars get to sleep with a lot of women or a lot of women like to sleep with stars, some of us might be offended by the loose sexual mores involved, but again, there was nothing illegal because the women consented. It is the groping of a woman’s genitals without prior permission that revolts us and convinces us that Trump is a vile woman-hater.

Interestingly enough, the language is fairly mild, if revealing of Trump’s attitudes. Trump never uses the “c” word. Of course, “screwing,” “sleeping with,” “going to bed with,” “making love with” (or in Trump’s case “to”), “getting it on with”—there are numerous less offensive ways to express sexual union than “fuck.” But Trump is talking about something he—the all-powerful Donald—did to someone else—some good-looking bimbo—and what he did or wanted to do was simple brutal, one-way “fucking.” But in the casual listen without analysis, we hear “fuck” so much now in so many different contexts that it ceases to shock. After all how many people got fucked in Trump’s many bankruptcies?

And what about the guy, the mediocre Billy Bush? He seems to be going along with the flow of the conversation. Believe me, if someone said to me that stars get to grope women’s private parts, I would have said, “No they don’t, and why would they want to? A lot of women will willingly let a star touch them anywhere. All he has to do is ask nicely. So only a sick person would grope.” Bush lost his moral compass by not acknowledging what everyone instantly recognized: Trumpty-Dumpty went over the line.

The apology was unacceptable. The tone was grudging, almost defiant, which lent a hollow ring to the words. He said the statements he was caught making on tape were “not what I am,” but did not apologize for the many other misogynistic statements he has made about Megan Kelly, Carly Fiorina, Rosie O’Donnell, Alicia Machado, Hillary Clinton and other women in only the past few months. He also limited his apologies to the comments, and said nothing about the actions that the comments indicated he had committed. He implied without stating it is that all he did was talk about it, that he didn’t really harass the married woman or slide his hand up some young lady’s skirt uninvited. Even if we give him the benefit of the doubt, which I don’t, what kind of a blow-hard is proud of sexually assaulting women?

He made this very limited, very stiff apology worse by what he said next. Turning the subject from the apology to the election issues was in extremely poor taste, and then to go after Bill Clinton for his affairs negated any positive intent or outcome from his contrition.

Trump essentially said, “I’m bad, but Bill’s worse and Hillary’s as bad as Bill.”

But that’s not what people want to hear in an apology. They want to hear, “I’m bad and I’m sorry about it. Here is what I’m going to do to fix it.” They don’t want you talk about the other person’s transgressions, just to deal with your own.

Trump mentioned no plan of rehabilitation. He is not enlisting in a sensitivity training course. He is not contributing a few million to fund public education programs that train men and women not to condone rape and domestic violence. He has not agreed to become a spokesperson or speak at events about what a reformed sinner looks like.

No, Trump thinks that a simple “I’m sorry” will suffice to be forgiven and get the votes of American women and men.

But it won’t work. There was too much offensive about the comments and too much offensive about the apology.

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Why was Al Gore a dork when he grimaced in 2000, but not Pence in 2016? Call it the Trump double standard

The CNN poll immediately following the debate between vice presidential candidates Tim Kaine and Mike Pence revealed how the news media’s insistence on covering personalities has distorted the electorate, or at least those who watched the debate. Viewers rated Kaine ahead on knowledge of the issues and helpfulness to his running mate, but rated Pence ahead on likeability. And who did the viewers say won the overall debate? Pence.

I agree that Pence was more likeable than Kaine that evening, who has too much of a Teddy bear face to be a credible attack dog. But what wasn’t likeable were Pence’s views or his tendency to duck tough questions about his running mate. Pence frequently denied that Trumpty-Dumpty had said things that all the journalists and much of the country have seen or heard him say. When asked about other aspects of the Trump program, Pence refused to answer the question. Regarding Russia, he essentially threw the Donald under the bus. It was a YUGE bus.

The viewers saw Pence’s prevarications and then relived them when journalists and pundits described Pence’s treatment of his running mate. That’s one reason that it wasn’t a landslide for Pence, or even a clear victory. The results were close on all questions in the CNN poll. The dominant narrative in the mainstream media was that Pence won the VP debate, but that he won it for himself, not for the top of his ticket.  But it was close. Almost as many non-surrogate journalists and pundits preferred Kaine as proclaimed Pence the winner.  In short, Pence eked out a narrow victory over Kaine.

Likeability matters, especially for Republicans. Eisenhower, Reagan and Bush II were all elected because of their likeability, and Bush I won because he made his opponent so dislikeable.  Note that outside of the military, Eisenhower didn’t know much, and both Reagan and Bush II knew very little, but that didn’t stop them because they were so darn nice and friendly.

Which brings us to the matter of facial grimaces, an affect that often mars one’s appearance or makes one’s demeanor less appealing. Pence reacted frequently to Kaine’s statements with a grimace or a smirk or sometimes a smirky grimace. No one seems to have noticed it the way they did Trump’s whimpers of a whipped bully in the first debate between the presidential candidates. No pundit discussed Pence’s facial distortions as a negative characteristic.

Yet if you watch tapes of the 2000 presidential debate, you see Al Gore make virtually the same facial expressions. Virtually all commenters said that Gore’s sighs and smirks were off-putting. The polls and pundits agreed that George W. Bush won that debate, even though he had trouble mouthing his basic messages and Gore displayed a scope of knowledge that was truly extraordinary. The journalists, led by Maureen Dowd, called Gore supercilious and smug, whereas Bush came off as a cool dude with whom it would be great to down a few. Gore’s facial expressions became part of the broader narrative of the election. The cool guy versus the awkward wonk.

When I compare old videos of Gore to Pence’s performance against Kaine, I can see little difference between the facial expressions. The same mild exasperation. The same demeaning half smile. The only difference I see is the context: Gore was scoffing at the whoppers and misinformation that Georgie was spouting, whereas Pence was scoffing at Kaine’s truthful statements. Are we to conclude that it’s all right to smirk at comments in a debate, as long as you are smirking at the truth? Can facial expressions only undercut the truth and not be used when someone is lying or portraying obvious ignorance?

Here is where the interplay of the mass media and the public becomes complicated. Both the media and the viewers thought Bush and Pence won their respective debates. Statistically valid surveys both times suggested viewers preferred the Republicans even before they experienced the onslaught of hyperventilated media nonsense.

Remember, though, that virtually every viewer has undergone indoctrination by the news media from their first moments of consciousness. The mainstream news media always has a bias to support Republicans, and has tended to skew right on many social issues and most economic and foreign policy issues except during the later stages of the Vietnam War.  More significantly, the mainstream news media pushes celebrity culture to the forefront and has gradually infected election coverage with celebrity issues: personalities, insults, personal animuses, who said what to whom, lifestyles, personal scandals, verbal or physical faux pas and, front and center, likeability. The media tells us time and time again to value likeability above substance. Think of the pejorative nature of the language used to describe issues-oriented candidates: wonks, nerds.

Likeability or the lack thereof has become one of the major issues of the campaign. The news media has created one of the greatest false comparisons in the history of human rhetoric: the likeability levels of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. All the polls show both candidates at historically low levels of likeability for presidential candidates. Substantial numbers of voters for both candidates say they are holding their noses and voting against the other candidate.

So where’s the false comparison? It has to do with the reasons for Hillary’s lack of likeability: they are all false. When she was Secretary of State, she was perhaps the most well-liked person in the country, and certainly in the world. She was well-liked as a Senator. What changed the perceptions of many Americans was the constant barrage in the mass media of phony and trumped-up scandals like Benghazi, the Clinton Foundation and her emails, and the constant harping of Republicans depicting her as a she-devil of deception and corruption. Maureen Dowd and other pundits who prefer personality profiles to issues analysis fed a false description of Hillary as cold, distant, vindictive and uncaring. Pundits would say these things and write them, but like the so-called scandals in her emails and the foundation, no one could ever give an example. In many cases, Hillary was blamed for things that her peers also did, even after she admitted a mistake and others did not. Sexism entered into the equation, too, as society tends to find fault in women for traits such as aggressiveness and tenaciousness that they find admirable in men.

Thus, as far as likeability goes, the race is between someone who is truly despicable and someone who the media has depicted as unlikeable.

The 2000 election shows the negative ramifications of voting on likeability, and some, including this writer, would say the 1980 election demonstrated it as well.  The country would be on safer ground if we forget about likeability and judged the candidates on some real criteria, such as stand on issues, details in programs, knowledge of the facts, past experience, honesty of statements and vision for the future.

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A day in the life of the 2016 campaign: I read the news today, Oy Veh!

Contemplating a day in the life of the current American presidential campaign is enough to make a sane person want to blow “his mind out in a car.” You know, the race between a “lucky man who [never] made the grade” and an experienced, intelligent woman with enough great ideas to fill all the “holes in Blackburn, Lancashire.”

All references to the Beatles aside, the most recent 24 hour slice of insanity is a reminder that we all should refrain from using the expression “a new low” until after November 8th.

Let’s start with Donald Trump who after he “dragged a comb across” his head, made the completely unsubstantiated accusation that Hillary Clinton has fooled around on President Bill. First of all, there is absolutely no proof, not a shred of evidence, not a soupcon of rumor that Hillary has ever been anything but a completely faithful wife to her husband. Beyond that is the deeper question of why it should matter. And why should it? We know that Presidents F. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Kennedy, G.W. Bush and Clinton all had affairs, and that Trump himself had affairs during both his first two marriages. Why is it anyone’s business? How does it make a candidate less fit for office?

Perhaps the answer came from Rudy Guiliani, who on the very same day that Trumpty-Dumpty tried to paint an A on Hillary’s forehead stated explicitly that being a woman was a flaw for a president. His exact words: Don’t you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman, and the only thing she’s ever produced is a lot of work for the FBI checking out her emails.”  Note that Rudy, another man who cavorted publicly with a woman other than his wife, did not say “a woman who did such and such.” No, he stopped the complete thought expressed in an independent clause with the word “woman.” His statement, when parsed of its grammatical excrescences, reduces to “Don’t you think a man is a lot better for the United States than a woman.” It was so shocking an example of the misogyny animating much of the Trump campaign and the GOP agenda that, “Well, I just had to laugh.”

But wait, it gets worse. I thought “I went into a dream” because Donald Trump could not have possibly have said to a group of veterans that soldiers and vets suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder are themselves to blame for a lack of character.  But it wasn’t a dream. Humpty-Dumpty’s exact words: “When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat — and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over and you’re strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can’t handle it,” Most commentators have focused on his heartless statement that “a lot of people can’t handle it.” Perhaps what’s worse is his clueless patronizing of his audience by assuming that all of them can “handle it.” Statistically speaking, the only way to make sure that a room full of vets contain no one suffering from PSTD is to set that as the criteria for entry. And even then, I’m certain that a sufferer would slip in because so many veterans find it hard to admit they need help for the nightmares, rage, depression and behavior disorders plaguing them. It was another instance of Trump talking to one group of people about “those other people” not like us. He paints an insulting and overly dire picture of the current status of African-Americans and claims a nonexistent threat of terrorism posed by immigrants in front of lily white groups. But this time it backfired. At a gathering of veterans, he almost assuredly insulted and shamed many of those present and made that “crowd of people turn away.”

Finally was the news that the New York State attorney general issued an order preventing the Trump Foundation from soliciting funds in the state, the latest shoe to drop in the continuing scandal of a foundation that has done little but illegally use OPM (other people’s money) to solve Trump’s legal problems or buy him expensive geegaws.

Another major Trump scandal—his taking a tax write-off of nearly a billion dollars in 1995—continued to play out, with Trump surrogates claiming that the fact he lost all that money and then used it against future earnings was sheer genius. None point out that Trump’s high living on the corporate nickel contributed to the great losses declared not only by him, but by the many vendors and investors who took a bath in his major bankruptcies. At least Hillary has the savvy to know, and point out, that Trump’s losses came primarily in an industry—gambling—which at the time was minting money for everyone else.

The most absurd moment of this decidedly looking-glass day was when Neil Cavuto, a Fox News business guru and anchor needed an expert to help him discuss the significance of Trump’s tax losses. Unable to find a reputable economist or tax expert willing to praise Trump for his genius, Neil engaged in batting Trump messages back and forth with a has-been, never-was actor with no business or academic creds named Scott Baio.

As a left-winger and ardent Hillary supporter, I should be overjoyed that the Trump campaign has perfected the knack of digging itself into a hole about four thousand times larger than Albert Hall.

But then….

I read the news today.

Oy Veh.

The mainstream news media continue to try to shore up Trump’s campaign in many subtle ways. Take National Public Radio, which first interviewed an ardent Trump supporter and then interviewed a reluctant Clinton supporter. In other words, NPR chose to highlight the false narrative about the two campaigns that the mainstream news media created months ago out of pure phlogiston. There is plenty of enthusiasm about Hillary out there—about her programs, about her experience, and most certainly about the fact that she is the first woman major party nominee. Her party’s leaders are unified as virtually never before. Money is pouring in from small and large donors. Her rallies are as boisterous as Trump’s, although far from as rowdy.  But the news media ignores all the evidence of Hillary-mania in favor of a false narrative that because it has been repeated so often has become the central story of her campaign.

Meanwhile, the New York Times, whose editorials claim to deplore the deplorable Trumpty-Dumpty, continue to provide subtle support to him in the news pages. Once again, Trump stories dominated: Five stories about the Donald and only one about Hillary. While it’s true that several of the stories were negative, the Times still managed to help him in three ways:

  1. It dedicated an entire story to Trump’s vow to bolster U.S. cybersecurity defenses, mostly his typical bloviating about the problem and he will solve it, without going into many details, unless you consider creating a task force and asking for recommendations a plan. This article says nothing about Hillary’s plans, but it does mention Trump’s painful comments about PTSD sufferers deep into the story where almost no one would see it. Why didn’t the comments get the headline or their own story?
  2. The headline of the one Hillary story focuses on her reaction to the release of three pages from Trump’s 1995 tax returns. This one Hillary story could have just as easily featured her renewed call yesterday to foster greater economic equality by raising the minimum wage, bolstering labor unions and offering tax incentives to companies that share profits with employees. The headline could also have touted Hillary’s most recent endorser, LeBron James. But instead of presenting a candidate with views and plans, the Times turned Hillary into another bit player commenting on the foibles of the tragically comic white male protagonist, Donald Trump.
  3. The Times front page story analyzing how detrimental to the economy it would be to unravel the North American Free Trade Agreement references Trump’s opinions on the issue and not Hillary’s. Anyone paying attention already knows that Hillary knows everything there is to know about NAFTA and its impact and Trump is badly misinformed except when he’s telling pants-on-fire lies. President Obama’s views are also noted in the article, so in a real sense, the Times is equating Trump with Obama. It couldn’t be because they are both presidential, because Trump’s not. Nor is Donald the leader of his party. That’s Paul Ryan. Maybe it’s because both Trump and our President are men? Subtle sexism or conflation of Trump with Obama?—whatever the reason, the result raises Trumpty-Dumpty’s prestige and lowers Hillary’s.

I wish I could say it was a dream or “I saw a film today,” but it’s the reality of the 2016 election campaign.

No wonder that, like more and more people, I find myself staring wide-eyed at the television, radio, newspaper, tablet or monitor and screaming “I’d love to turn you off.”

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David Brooks ignores Dem platform & the making of history to declare 2016 campaign to be void of ideals

David Brooks, who frequently combines bad sociology with his yearning for a fantasy past that never existed, is the latest to play the conflation game to describe the political election, declaring that both the Clinton and Trump campaigns suffer from a lack of vision.

Brooks sees a corrupted campaign on both sides, steered by materialist concerns and far from the idealism of either the 1960s, represented by Hillary, or the 1980s, represented by the Donald. His first mistake is to consider the 1980s politics of selfishness as an expression of idealism, when in fact it was a base gambit to transfer massive amounts of wealth from the middle class, the upper middle class and the poor to the wealthy masquerading as a set of conservative ideas and (non-existent) economic laws.

In his article titled “The Death of Idealism,” Brooks says that both races display a lack of a “poetic, aspirational quality.” Here is his extended peroration against both the Trumpty-Dumpty and Clinton campaigns:

“There is no uplift in this race. There is an entire absence, in both campaigns, of any effort to appeal to the higher angels of our nature. There is an assumption, in both campaigns, that we are self-seeking creatures, rather than also loving, serving, hoping, dreaming, cooperating creatures. There is a presumption in both candidates that the lowest motivations are the most real.”

What a load of week-old fish guts.

To be sure, the Trump campaign is based on the politics of selfishness in its most extreme form, animated by an anger that is not directed at social ills, but at the loss of a special status.

But to say the same about the Clinton campaign is not just a conflation, but an out-and-out distortion.

Brooks presents as his proof that Hillary and her campaign lack idealism the fact that when asked “why she wants to be president or for any positive vision,” she responds by listing the programs she supports.

What Brooks doesn’t say is that behind each and every one of her programs—I should say the programs of a united Democratic party—is a shining vision of true equality of opportunity and an equitable distribution of wealth that enables all people to have adequate education, healthcare, access to higher education and retirement. Keep in mind that the Clintons are rich, the Obamas are rich, the Warrens are rich, the Bidens are rich, the Sanders are very well off. And yet these leaders and many others in the Democratic Party have produced the most left-wing (I hate using the word “progressive” since the historical Progressives were such racists!) political platform in history. These rich people want to raise taxes on themselves and their big donors—How is that not idealism? The Democrats could have moved much further right and still been far to the left of the current Republican Party. But unlike a large number of people who escaped their middle class backgrounds and became rich over the past three decades, or became richer than they were before as in the case of Trumpty-Dumpty, these Democratic leaders have a vision of a better world, not just for the lucky and those who have already made it, but for everyone.

What was it, if not idealism, that animated the uplifting and emotional Democratic convention? Speaker after speaker appealed to our better nature, our responsibility to our community, and a higher mission than naked self-interest.

In every speech I have heard Hillary give during the campaign, she focuses on her longtime mission to help women, children and families. If her consistent and persistent actions and statements advocating the rights, safety, future and health of women and children don’t constitute idealism, I don’t know what does.

Then there’s the not insignificant matter of nominating and potentially electing our first woman president. All the women and many of the men I know are psyched. The gradual and sometimes bloody granting of economic and political freedoms to more and more people is a cornerstone of traditional American idealism.  To many, electing a woman president will fulfill a dream that goes back to the original Suffragettes. But to many others, the dream goes back even further, because they connect the long hard struggle of women to achieve equality with that of African-Americans and other minorities.

In other words, by its very nature, the Clinton campaign can’t help but be idealistic and uplifting to all real Americans, even those who don’t agree with her policies.

I’m not sure what bothers Brooks about the Clinton campaign, but I suspect he doesn’t like its progressive principles and has therefore tried to tar it with the false accusation of being materialistic and lacking vision. It probably bothers Brooks that there is very little about a deity or traditional religion in the Clinton/Democratic program, since Brooks is always invoking a higher spirituality. Maybe Brooks wants to keep his taxes low. And we can’t discount the possibility that Brooks just isn’t ready for a woman president.

Brooks ends his piece with “At some point there will have to be a new vocabulary and a restored anthropology, emphasizing love, friendship, faithfulness, solidarity and neighborliness that pushes people toward connection rather than distrust.” Earth to Brooks: your dream of a politics of connection exists already. It’s the central force behind Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.

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Blaming Hillary for her husband’s transgressions is perhaps the single most stupid strategy in political history

One of the classic motifs of female empowerment movies is the woman victimized by a man or men who comes back strong, and either makes herself a success or wreaks vengeance on her former oppressor or both. Think of She-Devil, the Bridget Jones movies, The First Wives Club, Working Girl, The Heat, Double Jeopardy, 9 to 5, Enough, Norma Jean, Legally Blond, Woody Allen’s Celebrity, What’s Love Got to Do With It, Thelma and Louise, and Beauty Shop to name just a few movies over the past few decades that appropriate the female-victim-to-victory plot in one way or another.

The journey from victim to victory resonates strongly in books and movies because it describes the lives of so many women, especially of the Baby Boom generation, which really was the cutting edge of the various feminist movements. Successful movies tend to reflect the aspirations, fears and hopes of the public. Women and men both cheer for the wronged woman as she puts her life together and blossoms into a successful person, whether or not she gets her revenge, and whether or not we also like her initial spouse (who is sometimes a sympathetic roué). And with good reason: most women will know a woman who has been hurt by a man who cheated on or mistreated her, or will have experienced it herself.

In the 2016 political campaign version of this movie, Hillary Clinton plays the heroine. To try to blacken her reputation or bona fides as a champion for women’s rights by invoking sexual scandals that are now two decades old is a move bound to backfire. None but the dyed-in-the-polyester Hillary haters will believe that her actions or comments about Bill’s women were particularly vicious or anti-woman. Her few nasty comments about some of her husband’s accusers in fact seem quite restrained compared to what I have heard my cousins and women friends say about the men who were unfaithful to them. Men, of course, are much more vehement when cuckolded, but then again, their vocabulary tends to be saltier than a woman’s, at least outside of the contemporary spurt of “women behaving badly” films.

The mendacious smear that Hillary was as responsible if not more so for the alleged mistreatment or harassment of women by our former President (I write “alleged,” because virtually all of Bill’s peccadillos appear to have been consensual) is as big a lie as last week’s big lie that Hillary started the rumor that President Obama was not born in the United States and Donald Trump ended it.

There are many ways for women (and men) to get extremely angry at Trumpty-Dumpty and his campaign for dredging up the personal affairs of his opponent from last century:

Women (and men) will be angry at the hypocrisy of someone who was twice caught cheating on wives and has been accused of statutory rape now blaming a woman who was the victim of infidelity.

Women will be angry that he is trying to shift the blame for the affair from the perpetrator to the victim.

Women will be angry if and when they make the connection between Trump’s view of women and his excavating of the Clinton’s past: that Hillary is a less qualified candidate to be president because she couldn’t hang on to her man.

Women will be angry at the clownish pomposity of Trump congratulating himself on not bringing up Bill’s philandering at the debate, even as he was bringing it up.

Women will be angry that he and other Republicans don’t understand that by staying together and repairing their marriage that the Clinton’s affirmed the traditional value of marriage so important to most people, from ultra-conservatives to lefties.

Women will be angry when they contemplate his conflation of personal matters with professional ones, as in his tweet, “If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” which is not only scurrilous but also shows only a pre-teen’s understanding of human nature and what can happen between people.

Women will get angry when they make the natural comparison of Bill Clinton’s actions and words and Trump’s. Remember that Clinton has never been caught saying anything disrespectful of women in general or any particular woman for being a woman—even of his accusers. Maybe it’s because he sincerely loves and respects women (perhaps a little too much in the past). The length of a list of Trump’s insults of women for being women is only matched by the list of his business failures and scandals and only topped by the list of his lies. Among other sick rationales, Trump has dumped on women for their looks, for their bathroom habits, for gaining weight, for their speech and for their silence, for breastfeeding, for imagined changes in professional behavior during menstruation, for their “manipulation” of men, for growing old and for their stamina.

Where’s the win here for Trump, except to pander to his core of support? It’s perhaps the single most stupid gambit ever played in a political race.

Hillary is handling it in exactly the right way. She won’t talk about the scandals and she won’t bring up Trump’s personal life. Hillary rightfully considers Trumpty-Dumpty’s many sexist comments about other women, such as Alicia Machado, Carly Fiorina, Ghazala Khan and his own daughter, to be fair and in bounds for a discussion. But her “I won’t go low” approach regarding the personal lives of her and her opponent is exactly the right approach.

Meanwhile the many well-respected Clinton surrogates, including President Obama, Michelle Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden, Jennifer Granholm and Amy Klobuchar will continue to point out how deceptive and truly disgusting it is for Trump to blame Hillary for any pain inflicted by her husband on his paramours or to try to discredit her dedication to improving the lives of women.

It’s a perfect strategy that needs one more thing. I would like to see Bill Clinton get real mad and talk into the camera as if it were Trumpty-Dumpty himself and say, “Condemn me for my past behavior all you want, but say nothing bad about my beautiful and talented wife who saw it in her humanity to forgive this sinner and take him back.”

Amen to that, sisters and brothers.

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Trump replaces “scratch & sniff” with “lie & sniff” in losing both debate and truth contest

I began noticing Donald Trump sniffing about a third of the way through the debate.  He would pause several times in the middle of a run-on sentence and sniff loudly, kind of like a seven-year-old explaining that the dog ate his homework or a kid who has just lost a schoolyard fight. The pace of the sniffing accelerated at about the same rate as did the deterioration in the logic of his remarks and the frequency with which he tried to interrupt Hillary, which means it was progressively more rapid as the debate went on.  Others noticed, too, as thousands of Twitterers wondered whether Trumpty-Dumpty was sick. Others wondered where the nervous tic came from.

But it was neither illness nor a newly emerging nervous tic. No, Donald Trump’s constant sniffing was the primal whimper of the bully backing down, as bullies always back down when their false bravado confronts someone who emanates true strength.

The sniffing is only the most obvious manifestation of the beating that Trump took in the first debate between the major party candidates for President of the United States. Here are some early results:

  • The first CNN poll had Hillary winning the debate 62% to 27%, although the CNN pollster did observe that only debate watchers voted and they tend to skew Democratic.
  • An early Public Policy Polling survey found 51% of viewers thought Clinton won, while 40% preferred Trump’s performance.
  • The MSNBC focus group had Hillary winning 16-4, while the vote of the CNN focus group was 18-2 in Hillary’s favor.

The consensus of the pundits was that Hillary won the entirety of the debate. All I saw, except the reality-challenged Hugh Hewitt, said that the first third was either a draw or a win for Hillary; Hewitt said Trump won the first third. But virtually every pundit except those identified as currently working for the Trump campaign concluded that Hillary wiped the floor with Trump during the last two-thirds of the debate. I share the view of Chris Matthews—that if it were a baseball game Hillary hit five homers and shut out Trump.

Matthews was referring to the Clinton zingers, of which there were several. Her best was when Trump mentioned that he had recently visited Chicago and Detroit and contrasted it with Clinton not traveling much this past week. Clinton said, “I prepared for the debate,” paused a bit, then continued, “and I prepared for the presidency.” The contrast with Trump’s off-the-cuff incoherence was devastating.

I thought Hillary’s finest moment was when she responded to Trump’s bragging comment that he was smart not to pay any income tax with: “So if he’s paid zero, that means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for schools or health.” Hillary then had the good taste to refrain from mentioning that her family had paid 30% of their income in income taxes.

As an example of what I am calling Trump’s incoherence is his answer to Lester Holt’s simple question whether he believes in the current U.S. nuclear weapons policy not to launch a first strike:

“Well, I have to say that, you know, for what Secretary Clinton was saying about nuclear with Russia, she’s very cavalier in the way she talks about various countries. But Russia has been expanding their — they have a much newer capability than we do. We have not been updating from the new standpoint. I looked the other night. I was seeing B-52s, they’re old enough that your father, your grandfather could be flying them. We are not — we are not keeping up with other countries. I would like everybody to end it, just get rid of it. But I would certainly not do first strike. I think that once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over. At the same time, we have to be prepared. I can’t take anything off the table. Because you look at some of these countries, you look at North Korea, we’re doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea. And by the way, another one powerful is the worst deal I think I’ve ever seen negotiated that you started is the Iran deal. Iran is one of their biggest trading partners. Iran has power over North Korea. And when they made that horrible deal with Iran, they should have included the fact that they do something with respect to North Korea. And they should have done something with respect to Yemen and all these other places. And when asked to Secretary Kerry, why didn’t you do that? Why didn’t you add other things into the deal? One of the great giveaways of all time, of all time, including $400 million in cash. Nobody’s ever seen that before. That turned out to be wrong. It was actually $1.7 billion in cash, obviously, I guess for the hostages. It certainly looks that way. So you say to yourself, why didn’t they make the right deal? This is one of the worst deals ever made by any country in history. The deal with Iran will lead to nuclear problems. All they have to do is sit back 10 years, and they don’t have to do much.”

I counted four major lies and about twenty sniffs in that ramble through ignorance, but could detect no logic in his answer, unless you think it’s logical to have expected Iran to do something to stop North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons or that we should support a Chinese invasion of North Korea. Many people may not know that Russia does not have a newer nuclear capability than we do or that the money we paid Iran was their money all along that we have kept in frozen accounts for more than 30 years. But I feel most people watching saw what a disorganized looney Trump really is.

The battle was mostly fought on Trump’s territory, as he had constantly to defend his business, his lack of experience and his past statements. There was only one moment when Hillary was on the defensive—when she quickly admitted she made a mistake by having a private email server and then moved on to other matters. Trumpty-Dumpty tried a few other snipes, which Hillary ignored. The best example, again, was her comment about birtherism. She did not defend herself from Trump’s obvious and odious lie, but instead defended President Obama.

Trump tried to interrupt Hillary several times, but she just kept talking without raising her voice to shout over him, which this viewer thought was an elegant and classy way to handle the rude Donald. The longer the debate went, the more he interrupted, usually with short ejaculations, such as “it’s a lie” when Hillary was factually relating idiocies Trump has uttered in the past such as his theory that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese. Clinton, by contrast, waited respectfully while the Donald spewed forth his incoherent stew of half-baked ideas and lies before speaking her piece.

The only thing that Trumpty-Dumpty won was the lying contest, and that was also a wipeout. Unfortunately for the GOP, it’s a bad thing, like leading your opponent in turnovers, errors or penalties. For example, both the National Public Radio and the New York Times fact-checkers found a few minor quibbles with Hillary’s statements, but major problems with a large number of Trump assertions. The biggest two lies were Trumpty-Dumpty’s birther fantasy and his widely discredited assertion that he was always against the war in Iraq. But he also lied about the size of the deficit, the effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement on jobs, Ford moving jobs abroad, the Iran nuclear agreement and Hillary’s role in creating ISIS, among many other fibs.

BTW, Lester Holt was fine. He wouldn’t let Trump tell either of his two big lies about birtherism and his opposition to Iraq. He reminded the audience that “stop and frisk,” a police technique Trump admires, has been declared unconstitutional. He made sure that both candidates had enough time to answer his questions, which were all cogent and appropriate. He made it clear that no matter what anyone else had in mind, he was going to hold both candidates to the same debating standards.

A big win for Hillary in every way.

The big question is whether her debate performance—and that of Trumpty Dumpty—will translate into Hillary attracting the votes of Republicans who recognize Trump’s lack of qualifications, gaining support from the undecided and poaching the votes of those tentatively committed to one of the two minor party candidates. We’ll know the answer when the next round of polls come out. After the contrast between the bright, warm, knowledgeable and honest Hillary and Trump’s mendacious incoherence, if it turns out that American voters prefer Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton then the country deserves all the bad economic times and foreign policy difficulties that will result from his election.

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