Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Thoughts about the First Debate

Let me begin by thanking so many of you for your kindness regarding our daughter Adrian. I am pleased to report that she is responding extremely well to her treatment and we have every reason to expect a full recovery. Cynthia and I returned home to Cuenca three weeks ago for some much needed rest. After our duties in November at the next big International Living conference in Las Vegas we will spend the holiday season in the States with our family.

I've enjoyed following this presidential election more than any in my life. There was so much drama during the primaries for both parties with Bernie Sanders giving presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton an unexpected run for her money, and the even more improbable rise of outsider Donald Trump within the Republican ranks.

While the first challenger is a socialist and the other a capitalist, both were lifted by the electorate's desire for a change. Hope and change, the promises of Barack Obama eight years ago, have been largely unfulfilled as our country finds itself today more divided than ever racially, economically, and ideologically. Disgruntlement with our elected leaders is at an all time high, and people are eager for the country to move in a different direction. Any direction, given Sanders' near-victory and Trump's ascendance.

At last when the candidates met for the first time face to face last night, Cynthia and I joined 80 million other people anxious to watch the spectacle. With 46 years of political experience (beginning as a volunteer in Joe Lieberman's state senate race in 1970), the bar was set high for Hillary to perform at an exemplary level. As usual, no one knew exactly what to expect from The Donald, who was participating in the first one-on-one debate of his life with zero mock debate preparation.

So how did it go, and who won? From the perspective of proper debating skill I thought Hillary won by a landslide. She kept a cool (bordering on icy) demeanor throughout, never got rattled, and delivered obviously rehearsed "ad libs" on cue. Donald sniffed, drank water like he was channeling Little Marco, and often demonstrated his lack of rehearsal by going off on tangents and wasting valuable stage time.

And yet------

Predictably, most journalists declared Hillary the winner. But in almost all the polls of actual viewers, Trump won "bigly" in spite of his sometimes ragged outing.

If you are Hillary and her camp this news has to be incredibly disappointing and frustrating. She gives a stellar performance while he huffs and puffs, yet he wins in the public eye by margins as high as 90% to 10%.

What gives?

Eventually running for President has always been the inevitable trajectory of Hillary's long career, but I think the message for this election cycle is she's the wrong candidate at the wrong time. She has demonized Trump on the campaign trail and through massive ad buys. In fact her whole campaign of Stronger Together (whatever that means) is basically, "He's even worse than me!"

There is nothing memorable about her platform because she basically embraces the policies of Obama that the electorate appears eager to reject. And since he defeated her in 2008 on the way to becoming our nation's first black president there seems to be no juice behind electing the first woman to the nation's highest office.

Beyond the results of last night's debate is more bad news for the candidate. In spite of throwing everything at Trump but the kitchen sink for months, the race is virtually tied including vital swing states and others that traditionally vote Democratic. Coming down the home stretch she appears to have nothing left in the tank except to keep repeating the same charges of "dangerous," "incompetent," and "unfit" that have grown increasingly stale.

Plus there are two more debates to go. After such extensive prep she probably can't top her performance of last night, but guess who can? And will? Trump has proven throughout the last fourteen months to be an amazingly quick study, so there's no reason to think he won't get better and better.

Then there's the Julian Assange wild card. Mr. WikiLeaks states that he has critically damaging information about Ms. Clinton. Why would he make such a statement if it isn't true? Look for him to dump it shortly before the last debate for maximum impact.

The Ecuadorian owner of a restaurant where we often eat lunch approached our table this afternoon and asked what we thought about the debate. I replied, "A better question is what you thought about it." He said, "It seems like Donald Trump isn't ready to be President of the United States."

Ah, what a year of political surprises. And with six weeks to go, who knows what may happen between now and November 8. But given the current direction of the campaign I told our friend, "Well, he'd better get ready because we very well may be calling him President Trump in January."