10/20/2016

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The final presidential debate gave all of us a good picture of what kind of a president each candidate would make. There actually was some substance on issues, on which they differ mightily. And there was, as always, lots of evidence as to how each would perform in the job.

Majorities don’t like either candidate and each has a base of votes that we’ll call the “anyone but the other candidate” voters. One of these two, though, will be the next president.

Hillary Clinton was who she is: smart, determined, focused, a bit stiff with no obvious sense of humor in public. Donald Trump was who he is: easily thrown off his game, uninformed except for the knee-jerk conservative talking points, unable to think ably on his feet, easily baited.

Okay, I’m prejudiced — I like nothing about Donald Trump, but I also think those descriptions are pretty accurate.

After watching each of them last night — in what was the best of the three debates for determining who each is and hearing some substance — I know who I’d want sitting across from other foreign leaders in a face-off. Clinton had her strategy, and stuck to it. She jabbed and bobbed and jabbed again. She had a goal and stuck with it until she achieved it. Trump’s goal, at least at the start, seemed to be to look presidential, to not fly off the handle at the first slight. He pretty much achieved that for the first half of the debate, clearly coached that he needed to be controlled to appear presidential

But Clinton kept at her jabbing and wore him down in the second half of the debate. Then, he couldn’t resist his uncontrollable urges to say things like: “nasty woman,” or use the word “hombres” when talking about Mexican drug lords, or praising moderator Chris Wallace’s question when it matched Trump’s own view about Clinton (to which Wallace sarcastically responded, “thank you.”).

He said the stories by women who have accused him of unwanted sexual advances have been “debunked,” when they haven’t been other than by his saying they aren’t true and announcing that they were so untrue, he didn’t apologize to his wife — that should be proof enough of the women’s dishonesty, I imagine. Oh, and remember when his running mate, Mike Pence, said the day of the accusations that Trump would provide opposing evidence “in a few hours?” He still produced that evidence.

Bottom line, for me, are three takeaways:

  1. Hillary Clinton is more than strong enough to represent our country with other foreign leaders. She has the political experience for that and to deal with domestic issues, maybe not always in a way I’d like but in a way which display her principles. She is determined and can focus. Yes, her honesty is always a question in your mind.
  2. Donald Trump is a wild card. He can learn talking points. He can lie. He can totally disregard what he said yesterday and say the opposite today, and believe it apparently. And, his parting shot — where he said he’d let us know down the road if he’d accept the vote on Nov. 8 is disqualifying on its own. He is taking a bedrock of our democracy and saying he’ll let us know if he’ll honor it, depending on his mood. This part of our democracy is probably what has been admired most in the world for hundreds of years (by the way, the recount in the 2000 Bush-Gore election was an honest disagreement and it fell within the rules of what required a recount in Florida. People can debate the Supreme Court’s decision, but the challenge was based on the law not on a “feeling” that dead people are voting. Even if Gore didn’t agree with the Supreme Court’s judgement, he honored it and graciously conceded. Trump is alleging fraud-before-the-fact and with no evidence).
  3. Chris Wallace did a masterful job of moderating. I had the sense he was always in control and he asked good questions that forced answers, not open-ended questions the candidates could take in whatever direction they wanted. He admonished the audience appropriately. And he gave those of us non-Fox News watchers a reason to try it out, as long as he is on air.

Former deputy White House press secretary (Reagan and Bush 41) and former head of communications at Republican Natl Committee. My blog: bjaycooper.com.

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