Pre-debate notes: NPR took a few minutes today to consider Chris Wallace as moderator, which is in its own right a milestone; David Folkenflik’s three minutes and forty-six seconds for All Things Considered is worth the time; it will also make for an interesting reflection when all is said and done:
Fox News’ Chris Wallace is known as a tough interviewer but his role as moderator of Wednesday’s presidential debate has raised questions. Fox has been highly sympathetic to Donald Trump, and Wallace has lavished praise on his former boss, Roger Ailes, who was ousted as Fox News’ chairman after accusations of sexual harassment. Ailes is also serving as an adviser to Donald Trump.
NPR will also feature a live fact check, and, y’know, best of luck to them.
Clinton: A stump response in which the attorney touched on all the right issues of the moment but passed on a chance to advocate the living, dynamic Constitution.
Trump: A stump response that touches conservative talking points, including some of Trump’s salesman rhetoric.
Wallace: Follow-up re: Heller framed according to conservative talking points.
Clinton: Strong response to that context.
Trump: Focusing on Clinton being “upset”?
Wallace: Interesting abortion question; presses Trump well.
Trump: Apparently afraid to come right out and say it.
Clinton: Strong answer. Excellent answer.
Wallace: Interesting follow-up to Clinton.
Clinton: Deftly skilled answer.
Trump: Has no idea what he’s on about; one wonders what doctor would―oh, right. One wonders if Mr. Trump thinks all doctors are like that.
Clinton: Thrashes Trump.
Trump: Nothing but stylistics.
Wallace: Tees up border security for Donald Trump.
Trump: A stump summary that probably would go over better with a delivery that didn’t sound as if Donald Trump was sedated.
Clinton: Strong answer for the general election suggesting compassionate position, showing technical prowess and policy skill.
Trump: Confused attempt to counterpoint; wrangles poorly with moderator Wallace.
Wallace: Excellent intervention.
Clinton: Again provides a general-election response.
Trump: Can’t seem to figure out what he’s on about.
(Comment): The discussion becomes incomprehensible to the point of falling behind, but at least we got the word “bigly”. And Wallace again tees up the conservative talking points in referring to the paid speech.
(Comment): Clinton seems to be destroying Trump at this point; did he just break down to rubber-glue in re Russia? No seriously, what the hell just happened to Donald Trump?
Trump: “And she always will be”?
Clinton: Hillary Clinton is absolutely wrecking Donald Trump.
Trump: Spitting incoherence.
Clinton: Stump, it sounds like.
Trump: It’s a little bit hard to follow this answer; Clinton seems content to let him talk.
Clinton: It seems she followed enough of his answer to touch and tangent with stump points. Reminding people that her policy is more than cutting taxes for the wealthy in hopes that they are somehow altruistic.
Wallace: The questions do seem to inherently cling to the FOX News predisposition for calculated slant as an assertion of independence from a phantom liberal media conspiracy, but Donald Trump seems determined to make the point for him.
Clinton: A strong pitch.
Wallace: Trump’s interruption is like punctuation accenting Wallace’s slant.
Trump: Honestly, I lost track of him on that one.
Clinton: Hits him again with Chinese steel, which did generate headlines last time, but not nearly enough.
Trump: Does not seem to understand how the U.S. government works. And a conspiracy theory?
Clinton: Ouch. (We probably shouldn’t overlook the phrase about bringing Osama bin Laden to justice.)
Trump: Really does not seem to understand how the U.S. government works. Note his bit about running the government like his business. Does Mr. Trump understand that he can’t govern that way from the Oval Office?
[Fitness to be President]
Trump: Straight to conspiracy theories.
Clinton: A measured response because she knows he can’t contain himself, here. And he’s chomping to interrupt. What is perhaps most astounding is how easily she is mastering him; as he calls her “Donald”, and he tries to scold and chide in response, she is utterly wrecking him.
Trump: Again with conspiracy theories.
Clinton: Just repeatedly thrashing him with his own words and behavior; all he can do is lie and deny as she scorches him and asserts, reinforces the idea of behavioral patterns.
Trump: Conspiracy theory.
Wallace: Conservative talking points on the Foundation.
Clinton: Standing up for the Foundation.
Wallace: Pushing on the FOX News talking points.
Clinton: Continues to skewer and scorch―”Who does that?”―as she stands up for the Foundation with pride.
Trump: Somehow manages to bullshit himself into a corner and set Hillary Clinton up for the tax return question …
Clinton: … and (Ouch!) tacks Donald Trump to the shed with immigration nails …
Trump:… then sets her up for another Chinese steel hit, and the audience laughs. Chris Wallace struggles to save Mr. Trump from himself …
(Comment): What happens next is amazing; Mr. Trump is refusing to acknowledge the electoral legitimacy.
Wallace: Trying to make the point about peaceful transitions of power.
Trump: Refuses to acknowledge electoral legitimacy.
Clinton: Devastates Trump with recollection of his loose conspiracist history.
Trump: Digs in deeper.
Wallace: Tries to rescue Trump, transition to next subject.
[International Hot Spots]
Clinton: Measured answer; intelligent, functional, and nondescript in classic Clinton style.
Trump: Something about Mosul the element of surprise, and apparently Mr. Trump thinks one can assemble a force of that size in the middle of a desert without being noticed. A clumsy transition into something about Iran, and then back to Mosul, and Hillary Clinton does well enough to track enough of what he says to comprehend what to respond to.
Clinton: Hillary Clinton might well be scoring so much that it looks like she isn’t, but when Donald Trump stands there grumping, “Wrong … Wrong”, it’s quite clear she is hitting her marks.
Trump: Protesting and interrupting incoherently.
Wallace: Tries interrupting Clinton in order to save Trump.
Trump: “You are the one that’s unfit!”
(Comment): Even Wallace is laughing as he turns the talk toward Aleppo, and now he has to challenge Donald Trump on former statements. The exchange about Bernie Sanders, though, shows how badly Trump is stumbling.
Trump: Really? Petulance? That was awesome.
Wallace: Does he think she will omit diplomacy in establishing the no-fly zone?
Clinton: Can of corn.
Trump: Trump is a disaster.
Wallace: Wallace’s question is ridiculous: “Ignoring”?
Trump: Anyone else understand this answer? It sounds like a, “Trust me, don’t worry”, answer intended to duck the question about debt to GDP.
Clinton: Baits Trump’s ego, comes back to the issue; everything paid and won’t add a penny aren’t great arguments, but they work well enough as a stump pitch, and should be enough after bookending with ego hits; Trump is riled.
Trump: “Finally going to do it right”?
Wallace: Entitlements question pure slant, but it’s hardly the worst thing in the world, especially with Trump allowing Clinton to play the centrist role.
Trump: Largely focuses on PPACA.
Clinton: Riles Trump again with a tax hit in her entitlement response.
Wallace: “End on a positive note”? One-minute pitches are still a good idea, though. Good call.
Clinton: Excellent broad-spectrum appeal; children and families focus, stump promises about corporations and wages.
Trump: Base pitch opens with complaint about Clinton, complains about nation, pretends he gives a damn about minorities, maks her pitch for her, reminding of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Post-event notes: Commentary on msnbc would have the audience focus on Donald Trump’s refusal to support electoral legitimacy. Republican strategist Steve Schmidt just delivered a devastating review of Donald Trump’s performance; Eugene Robinson calls it shocking. It’s always hard to figure what Chris Matthews is thinking, but for whatever reason the Beltway veteran hand turned television host would call this Trump’s strongest performance. Clearly, the Republican nominee was riled.
Hillary Clinton, for her part, ran a centrist appeal because that’s exactly what a candidate in her position ought to do. If Trump gave a red meat performance for the base, it is hard to tell who, other than the internet trolls, he has left. The idea that Hillary Clinton can so easily pitch to Reagan Republicans and so comfortably stick Donald Trump with his attempt to wield Bernie Sanders as some manner of weapon. Brian Williams noted that Clinton played for contested territory, and on that point she did very well. It is perhaps the strangest thing that, lacking some manner of superhuman feat by Hillary Clinton, the story in this election is always about Donald Trump. That is to say, there is no question that Hillary Clinton simply devastated Donald Trump in this debate, yet the headlines tomorrow will very much focus on her opponent’s absurdity.