We’ve all heard the maxim of the five P’s: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. GOP nominee Donald Trump failed to get the memo prior to the first of three scheduled presidential debates with Hillary Clinton, as the Republican nominee was put on the defensive early and kept there by the Democratic candidate’s command of the issues and cool demeanor.
Instead of an equal back-and-forth between the challengers, the debate turned into a 90 minute reveal of Trump’s inability to reach even the minimum bar of qualification expected of a candidate seeking the nation’s highest office. A CNN exit poll showed 62 percent believed Clinton won the debate, with 27 percent favoring Trump’s performance.
Trump started strong, jumping on Clinton about her husband’s passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. She was a tad wobbly as Trump asserted his alpha dog attack persona, but he scored no clean blows, and peaked early at the 30-45 minute mark. Unfortunately for Trump there was quite a ways to go and he went downhill from there.
Clinton steadied herself and returned fire. This is when the sniffling began from Trump. With every attempt to get a word in Trump noticeably began inhaling audibly and often. He was stressed and it showed. Moderator Lester Holt, from NBC News, and Clinton were nervous at the outset as well, same as anyone should be when being broadcast to an audience estimated at 100 million, but both regained their composure. Trump did not.
As the subject turned to national security matters later in the debate, exhaustion gave way to incoherence. “Sarah Palin looked like Henry Kissinger compared to Trump on national security,” said Steve Schmidt, Republican political operative and NBC political analyst.
There were a couple other bright spots for the Republican nominee when he brought up Clinton’s deleted e-mails and the continued Middle East mess under her watch, but these were fleeting moments. Trump lost any control after Clinton put him in a corner on his refusal to show his income tax returns.
Is his net worth greatly less than claimed? Are his charitable donations less than advertised? Clinton raised both possibilities, but it was her insinuation that most likely Trump had skirted paying federal taxes that stung most and had him squirming.
The weeds got tall when the birther issue was raised in the context of a discussion on how to heal race relations in America. The problem being there is no plausible answer for why if President Obama presented his birth certificate years ago, Trump continued to question whether the first African-American president was actually born in America. It only serves to stir the legitimacy question around the Obama administration, and is a wink & nod to white nationalist groups. Given an opportunity to apologize to African-American voters for pushing this bogus agenda, Trump had nothing to offer.
For a week now Republican spinmeisters have tried to explain away Trump’s performance by insinuating his microphone was bad and that Holt asked too many gotcha questions. His microphone may have had issues, but it worked fine, and if anything Holt exhibited a minimalist style of moderating the event. Both candidates were given room to roam on issues and answers, only hearing from Holt if their allotted time expired or they needed to get back to answering the questions at hand.
Trump simply lost his cool. He did not prepare and choked on the big stage. If this had been a prize fight Clinton would have easily won a unanimous decision on points, and late in the contest it’s likely most corners would have thrown in the towel on Trump for his own safety.
The man could not resist taking the bait every time Clinton dangled a morsel under his nose. Perhaps the funniest moment was when Trump suggested it was he that had the better temperament to be president. Those in attendance who were asked to remain silent during the debate couldn’t help but erupt in laughter having spent the last hour plus watching Trump become frustrated and unravel in a most public forum, as he clearly lacked the demeanor, intelligence and temperament necessary to be president.
In the end Trump made a desperate attempt to slam Clinton on her level of fitness and that is right where she wanted him to go. “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate, and yes I did,” said Secretary Clinton. “And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president.”
This cut at the very core of the Trump candidacy. He’s not prepared nor is he interested in learning what is necessary to do the job of president. Trump surrogate and former New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani, said afterward that he would pull out of the next debate if he were running for president.
While that seems extreme, one must weigh the risk of not appearing against the damage Trump will do from trying to debate Clinton twice more. Much of his problems stem from the choices he has made in life and the philosophies, or biases, he encompasses. They are difficult to defend when interviewing for a job that requires the office-holder to represent all equally. Going against a skilled debater like Clinton, Trump ran out of fingers and toes trying to plug all the leaks in his background.
Since the debate Trump stayed in the negative with a steady montage of criticism and Twitter rants about Alicia Machado, a former Miss Universe, who Clinton brought up last Monday. No doubt calling a woman ‘Miss Piggy’ and fat shaming her has not helped Trump’s chauvinistic image, nor signaled to voters on the fence that he is capable of learning a lesson or behaving like an adult. This was followed up by the discovery that Trump lost nearly $1 billion with his company, and proudly has not paid income taxes in decades.
If nothing else Trump is the gift that keeps on giving. With his poor performance and incessant trolling of all supposedly involved with his ineptitude, recent poll numbers for The Donald have slipped. If he keeps up all that good work, the Trumpster will soon find himself blessedly back in the private sector.