The debate revealed that he’s spent a lifetime rehearsing to be bad. (More)
“I think that took a lot of courage in so many regards”
A majority of likely voters (52 percent) who either watched the debate or said they followed debate coverage in the news said Hillary Clinton won the first presidential debate on Monday night, according to the NBC News/SurveyMonkey Debate Reaction Poll.
Just 21 percent of likely voters thought Donald Trump won the debate, and 26 percent said neither candidate won the debate.
That poll also found that more Democrats were impressed by Clinton’s performance than were Republicans impressed by Trump’s, that a third of debate watchers saw Clinton more favorably than before the debate, and that 51% of independent women said Clinton had the personality and temperament to be president, while 80% said Trump did not.
And both the FiveThirtyEight and New York Times Upshot models showed Clinton’s lead widening slightly as post-debate polls come in, although the Huffington Post poll aggregator hasn’t shown much change.
It’s bad enough that Trump’s campaign issued talking points for surrogates to bring up Bill Clinton’s affairs, and Trump’s son thinks his dad should be congratulated for not throwing them in Hillary Clinton’s face:
“I think that took a lot of courage in so many regards,” Eric Trump, the candidate’s son, told an Iowa radio host Wednesday. “I think he really answered that well and took the high ground.”
Actually, “courage” would have been saying it to Clinton’s face … rather than patting yourself on the back during the debate for not saying it, then saying it in the spin room and issuing talking points for your surrogates. And taking “the high ground” would have been doing none of the above.
“Look what I get out of it. I get nothing.”
Consider Trump’s response after Clinton trapped him with his comments about women in general and former Miss Universe Alicia Machado in particular. Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall has the highlights:
In the situation Donald Trump is in with former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, any media professional or really anyone with a conscience would say this: “We quarreled many years ago. It’s in the past. I truly wish her the best.” Done and done.
But just an hour ago Trump went on O’Reilly to again trash Machado, now saying that he saved her job, gave her a shot at not being fat and this is the thanks he gets. Yes, he really said that.
O’REILLY: Other avenue they are going to come after you is the women card. They are going to say that you are a mean guy and you don’t respect women. Do you have anything further to say on this Miss Universe thing?
TRUMP: No, not much. I hardly know this person. This was a person 20 years ago. She wasn’t a successful, you know, I sold the Miss Universe contest for tremendous price about, you know, six months ago. Worked out great. So I don’t have anything to do with it anymore. But I really enjoyed it when I had it. But this is a person, Bill that that was the first one under my ownership. She did not do well. She had a lot of difficulty. And, you know, they wanted to fire her. The company itself wanted to fire her. I saved her job. I will bet you if you put up and added up all the time I spoke to her probably less than five minutes. I mean, I wasn’t – I had nothing to do with this person, but they wanted to fire her. I saved her job because I said that’s going to – I did that with a number of young ladies. The staff itself. Look what happened. Look what I get out of it. I get nothing. A lot of things are coming out about her.
But facts are irrelevant. As always, Trump flip-flops between all-conquering hero and petulant victim.
“I’m one of the many small business owners who’ve been used by Trump”
Yesterday’s New York Times presented the emerging media consensus that Trump lost the debate because he didn’t prepare well. Almost lost in that story is this very revealing snippet:
There were early efforts to run a more standard form of general election debate-prep camp, led by Roger Ailes, the ousted Fox News chief, at Mr. Trump’s golf course in Bedminster, N.J. But Mr. Trump found it hard to focus during those meetings, according to multiple people briefed on the process who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. [Emphasis added]
That fits a long-time pattern, as former Trump biographer Tony Schwartz revealed:
“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit – or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focused on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then…” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.
The problem is not that Trump didn’t rehearse well for Monday night’s debate, but rather that Trump has spent his lifetime rehearsing to be bad. A case in point, from retired music store owner J. Michael Diehl for the Washington Post:
At Monday night’s debate, Donald Trump was called out for stiffing the people who work for him. Trump has been accused of failing to pay hundreds of contractors. And so far, he hasn’t seemed very sorry. When asked about failing to pay someone by Hillary Clinton this week, Trump replied, “Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work.”
I take that attack personally. I’m one of the many small business owners who’ve been used by Trump, exploited and forced to suffer a loss because of his corporation’s shady practices.
In 1989, Diehl signed a $100,000 contract to provide pianos for Trump’s new Atlantic City Taj Mahal casino. Diehl delivered and tuned the pianos, fulfilling his side of the bargain. Then Trump’s lawyers and the casino ignored his calls and letters for two months, finally saying they were short on money and would pay him only $70,000. Take it or leave it. Diehl knew a lawsuit would cost more than $30,000 – Trump’s lawyers calculated well – so he took the $70,000 … and lost his profit on the contract.
That wasn’t a one-time occurrence for Trump. He has sued or been sued so often that Clinton’s campaign team couldn’t squeeze all the names into a four-hour Facebook broadcast. As Clinton said in the debate, Trump built his real estate empire by stiffing contractors, vendors, and employees.
Indeed during the debate, when asked about hoping the mortgage market would collapse so he could profit as American families lost their homes, Trump said “That’s called business, by the way.” Asked about paying no federal income taxes, Trump said “That makes me smart.”
His contempt for “lesser human beings than him” – rehearsed over a lifetime – could not have been more obvious. That’s why he walked into Clinton’s trap about Alicia Machado, and why he won’t apologize.
“This was not a bad performance. This is a bad man.”
Obviously there was something cheering and even comforting in the reality that Trump had “lost.” But there was something disturbing in seeing Trump once again being normalized by being made part of an ordinary contest in coherence and “presentation” and “preparation.” In truth, that was the least of it, because what was really outside any norm of decency was what he thought even after you had dutifully distilled away the incoherence and the manic improvisations. Talking, again, about President Obama’s birth certificate, he displayed not only the usual pathological inability to admit to an error- any error, ever – but an underlying racism so pervasive that it can’t help express itself even when trying to pass as something else.
There was never any legitimate dispute about President Obama’s citizenship, Gopnik correctly notes.
Yet Trump continued last night his self-congratulations for compelling the President to do this, along with the grotesquely racist notion that it was “good for him” (i.e., for the President). It slowly dawned on the listener that this was all of a piece with the rest of Trump’s racial attitudes: he believes that, as a rich white man, he had a right to stop and frisk the President of the United States and demand that the uppity black man show him his papers. Stop-and-frisk isn’t just a form of policing for Trump; it’s a whole way of life. The idea that he had a right to force a black man to go through what Obama rightly saw as the demeaning business of producing his birth certificate showed his fundamental contempt for any normal idea of racial equality. It was of a line with his equally bizarre notion that owning a country club that doesn’t actively discriminate against black people is not a minimal requirement of law but a positive achievement of the owner. This isn’t the case of someone misarticulating an otherwise plausible position; it was just a case of someone repeating, once again, not only a specific racist lie but also the toxic underlying set of assumptions that produced it.
Gopnik then turns to the Machado issue:
Think, instead, again, of one of the last subjects of the debate – his misogyny. By sexism, we mean something specific, not the business of appreciating beauty – if Trump wants to host beauty contests, let him – but the habit of conceiving of a woman as being a lesser species, one defined exclusively by appearance. His cruelty to Alicia Machado was unleavened by any apparent respect for her as a human being in any role other than as an envelope of flesh – an attitude he only doubled down on the following morning by complaining that she presented what he saw as an obvious problem as a reigning Miss Universe: she had gained “a massive amount of weight” (by Trump standards, that is). Again, this wasn’t a problem of how he chose to present his beliefs; the problem is with the beliefs. This wasn’t a question of preparation. It was that the things he actually believes are themselves repellent even when coherently presented. This was not a bad performance. This is a bad man.
A badness that Trump spent a lifetime rehearsing.
“What’s clear is that Donald Trump doesn’t know the first thing about hard work”
Writing for the Washington Post, University of Chicago professor Harold Pollack found more than sexism in Trump’s comments about Machado:
Trump’s “Miss Housekeeping,” though, was even worse. It was at once a sexist slur against Latinas and a way of minimizing and mocking the hard work done by so many Americans. It’s a revolting display of Trump’s disdain for the dignity of difficult work. His particular combination of boorishness and lack of empathy is rare within the political profession, which so rewards emotional intelligence. In this moment, his incapacities caught up with him.
Those of us who lead lives of relative privilege often witness this difficult work close at hand. Certain class realities being what they are, such personal service work easily escapes our notice.
Irony being what it is, their work allows me to enjoy various conference junkets on themes of poverty and inequality. I travel frequently for work. On one Washington trip, a hotel maid arrived to clean my room, her young daughter quietly tagging along as she went about the work. I don’t know why her daughter was with her. Maybe school was out that day, or her child-care arrangement fell through. That’s real life for many people.
Pollack is sensitive to that because he once worked as a janitor. Immigrant rights activist Gabe Ortíz has an equally personal experience:
When Donald Trump bullied Alicia Machado as “Miss Housekeeping,” it was meant as so much more than a personal, racist insult. He showed the contempt he has for the immigrant women who support their families as housekeepers and domestic workers, like my mom.
When I was a little boy, I kept the fact that my mom worked as a housekeeper from my friends. I was so afraid of being labeled “the poor Mexican kid”. It seemed like the kids at my grade school all lived in big houses and had parents who worked in nice offices. My mom worked cleaning them.
Ortíz writes about learning to recognize the dignity of his mom’s work:
It took growing up for me to finally understand the meaning of the word “dignity”. My mother’s work has never been insignificant to her. It allowed her to support her family and kept her independent after leaving an emotionally abusive husband. Most importantly, she was happy. So why should it have ever been insignificant to me?
What’s clear is that Donald Trump doesn’t know the first thing about hard work. Hard work is tending to the houses of others at the expense of your own. Hard work is cooking and feeding the children belonging to other mothers and not being able to see your own until late at night. Hard work is being seen as insignificant – or not being seen at all.
So when Donald Trump attempts to denigrate Alicia Machado as “Miss Housekeeping,” it’s personal. Donald Trump not only insults her, he insults me and the many other US citizens who call housekeepers and domestic workers our mothers. Our message to Donald Trump must be clear: we won’t forget, and we will vote.
Monday night revealed Trump’s lifelong contempt for hardworking Americans. He can’t rehearse that away.
Photo Credit: NBC News
Good day and good nuts