This week’s presidential debate was a feisty endeavor that provided as much entertainment value as political impact. It put the two candidates side by side for the first time during this campaign and was probably the best comparison of the two that we have had to date.
The results were dramatic. When even Fox News calls it for Clinton you know that it was a wipeout. As expected, Republicans complained about media bias. It is their standard response when they get their butts kicked. Moderator Lester Holt’s attempts to get Trump to actually answer the questions that were posed and to stop interrupting Clinton were almost totally unsuccessful. To Republicans, these attempts were media bias. To the rest of us, it is called moderating a debate.
The specific repartee between the candidates on various issues provided an active, almost exciting, confrontation between the two. There was very little that was actually new (to the general public) other than Clinton’s comment that the timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq was negotiated by George W. Bush. Readers of my previous columns would have been well aware of this but the general public probably was not.
Put side by side, the contrast between the candidates couldn’t have been more obvious, unfortunately for Trump. On the other hand, Clinton shouldn’t gloat about her success. She should be reminded of President Ronald Reagan’s near disastrous first debate that almost knocked him out of the race.
Forgetting for the moment the specific responses and details, I found three general areas of particular interest.These have to do with Iraq, NAFTA and “looks” and will probably make Republicans squirm in their seats.
First, on Iraq. I have to say that I give some credence to Trump’s statement that he was always against the war in Iraq. I’m not convinced by the Democrat line that his saying “Yeah, I guess so” is a ringing endorsement of the war.
What is more important, however, is to put this issue in perspective. The Iraq war was started with false claims by Republican President George W. Bush that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It was also championed by Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and advisor Paul Wolfowitz, who all knowingly lied to the American public and to Congress. The rest of the Republican base jumped on board either by having unfounded faith in our president, out of ignorance or just plain stupidity. At the time, anyone not supporting the invasion of Iraq was considered unpatriotic. As we all know, it turned out to be a disaster.
So what do we have now? Republicans are falling all over themselves trying to support their candidate’s claim that he was against the war from the beginning and more against it than his Democrat opponent. This from a party that unfailingly defended the war up until the arrival of Trump as their candidate. Does this make any sense? No, it doesn’t. If nothing else, it provides proof positive that the war was a mistake perpetrated on the American people by a Republican administration.
The second item is NAFTA. All we hear from Republicans is that President Bill Clinton signed the NAFTA agreement. This is true and President Clinton should be held accountable for it. What is left out of the discussion, however, is the genesis of the agreement. The negotiations for it were started by Republican President George H. W. Bush. It passed the House and Senate with overwhelming support by Republicans. Clinton signed the treaty shortly after taking office in 1993 against the wishes of many Democrats, labor unions and liberal thinkers. It was a Republican program, pure and simple, but you would never know it by the way they (the Republicans) talk about it now.
Finally, there is Trump’s response to the question on his demeaning comment about Hillary Clinton’s looks. He tried to deflect the question by lying and saying that he was talking about stamina. This is 2016, Donald. Doesn’t he know that everything he says in public is recorded, on video no less? For someone who is bald and tries to cover it up with a ridiculous comb over he is not in a position to talk about other people’s “looks.” Clinton blew him off on that and then wiped him out on the “stamina” issue.
It was, overall, a great debate and great theater. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next one.