terça-feira, 27 de setembro de 2016
5 takeaways from the first presidential debate
5 takeaways from the first presidential debate
Clinton hits him where it hurts, and Trump’s boorish reaction hands her a win.
By GLENN THRUSH 9/27/16, 7:53 AM CET
There were a couple of not-so-very-subtle signals here inside of Hofstra University that Donald Trump lost Monday night’s highly-anticipated debate against Hillary Clinton, and badly.
The first was the audible sound of groaning by some of his supporters (picked up by my attentive colleague Steve Shepard) inside the debate hall as Trump meandered self-defensively through a succession of answers meant to defend himself against a very focused, very energized and very well-rehearsed Hillary Clinton.
Another tell that the night was a dud: After the 90-minute sparring match finished, Clinton’s team practically bounded into the spin room — more in glassy-eyed disbelief than visible elation that things had gone so much better than expected. The Republican nominee’s people, by contrast, dribbled into the media pen like surly seventh-graders headed for homeroom the day before summer vacation. “F—k, let’s do this,” a prominent Trump surrogate said before diving into a scrum.
Trump and his new-ish messaging team have labored mightily to turn the avatar of populist rage into a reasonable facsimile of someone you could see sitting in the Oval Office. But this best-laid plan unraveled on Monday — amid Clinton’s steely assault and the dignified interrogation of NBC’s Lester Holt, who struck a deft balance between facilitator, BS detector and lion tamer.
Within minutes, Clinton’s attacks forced domesticated Donald to go feral — he bellowed, interrupted her repeatedly, grunted, and toward the bedraggled end, became muted and pouty.
“It was bizarre,” said Barack Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe, who seemed visibly relieved. “He was clearly rattled, and clearly focused on defending himself, which I’m told narcissists are prone to do, and he clearly faded at the end. It’s not like she’s going to jump out to a 10-point lead, but this was good.”
Whether or not this reverses Trump’s momentum, or re-establishes her dominance is an open question. Who won is not. Here are five takeaways.
Trump was wimpy on defense. Trump is supposed to be the big meanie but it was Clinton who hit him where it hurt most. It doesn’t take a Jung (or even Dr. Phil after a couple of Bud Lights) to figure out that the Republican nominee — who boasts like a barfly with a winning Lotto ticket — just might be over-compensating for something. Hence, Clinton, who started the debate a little tentatively, quickly launched into a carefully planned program of Freudian mind games, contrasting her own middle-class businessman dad (who had his own issues) with Trump’s imperious, larger-than-life father Fred who launched his son’s business career but also was said to be extremely tough on him.
First she started in with a paean to her father’s toil running a small printing business in Chicago (This might be the first time a candidate has described, in detail, the silk-screen squeegee process on a debate stage) — then pivoting to mocking supposedly self-made Trump’s acceptance of a $14 million loan to start his real estate business. “You know, Donald was very fortunate in his life and that’s all to his benefit. He started his business with $14 million, borrowed from his father,” she said icily.
Trump may have lost the first debate, but he’s proven to be a fast learner.
“My father gave me a very small loan in 1975 and I built it into a company that’s worth many, many billions of dollars,” he responded weakly — and so it went on a range of topics.
Whether it was because Clinton was so well prepped, and Trump was so breezily unprepared — or a simple case of opening night jitters — the bully-boy nominee abandoned his most effective mode of debate combat, answering an attack with a harsher one. She went right for Trump’s ego — questioning his questionable $11 billion net worth, his boastful record on job creation and picking apart his tough talk on fighting ISIL.
In 2007, preparing for a primary race she’d eventually lose, she told me that the key to presidential political campaigns was understanding that the most effective attacks weren’t about exploiting someone’s weaknesses but challenging an opponent’s perceived strengths. When confronted with that assault, Trump wilted and offered a series of meandering answers that had his Republicans wincing. “It was a draw,” former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown said. “But he was on the defensive far too much. That’s a direct result of his inexperience.”
What about the Clinton Foundation? The former secretary of state’s debate team (including longtime aide Philippe Reines, who snapped a pre-debate photo in a Trump circled-finger pose) expected him to savage her on the various questions raised about her family’s foundation. They were worried about it. While he hammered her ever-so-briefly on emails, he was so engaged in self-justification, he flat-out forgot to pursue an attack that could have made the night a lot less lousy.
His ’30 years’ attack worked — and he’ll use it again. Trump may have lost the first debate, but he’s proven to be a fast learner, and is likely to come back stronger in early October for the second debate, a town hall style affair, in St. Louis. And there were a few gold nuggets strewn in the wreckage of Hofstra — the most valuable an assault (demonstrable and fact-checker-friendly) on Clinton’s effectiveness in 25-plus years of public life.
The been-there-not-done-that argument was particularly useful when coupled with his usual slams on Bill Clinton’s passage of the increasingly unpopular NAFTA agreement from the 1990s and Hillary Clinton’s election year flip-flop from TPP booster to opponent.
“But in all fairness to Secretary Clinton, when she started talking about this, it was really very recently,” Trump said of her opposition to the trade deal. “She’s been doing this for 30 years. And why hasn’t she made the agreements better? The NAFTA agreement is defective. Just because of the tax and many other reasons, but just because of the fact.”
When Clinton claimed that she planned to “really work to get new jobs and to get exports that helped to create more new jobs.” He scoffed, and shot back, “But you haven’t done it in 30 years or 26 years.”
Clinton effectively attacked his business career. Trump’s attempt to head off debate-night questions about his five-year campaign promoting the birther slander against Barack Obama was a humbling face-plant. His attempt to pin the origin of the charge against Clinton associate Sid Blumenthal was semi-effective with the political press, but it withered under the insistent interrogation of an African-American moderator determined to extract an apology or reasonable explanation. Trump offered neither — and suggested Obama should actually be grateful he pursued the canard because it’s now been resoundingly put to rest.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary
Politically, his tortured explanation helps energize black voters — who already oppose him in historic numbers. But later in the debate, Clinton plucked the strains of what could be a genuine crossover hit this fall among ever-elusive white working-class voters and independents: Trump’s failure to turn over his tax returns. Clinton went there with a vengeance — engaging in a little Trump-esque fact-free speculation about the motives of the billionaire developer-turned-reality TV star.
“So you’ve got to ask yourself, why won’t he release his tax returns?” Clinton mused, with relish. “And I think there may be a couple of reasons. First, maybe he’s not as rich as he says he is. Second, maybe he’s not as charitable as he claims to be. Third, we don’t know all of his business dealings…. Or maybe he doesn’t want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he’s paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody’s ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn’t pay any federal income tax.”
Clinton launched a merciless attack on his habit of stiffing contractors who have labored on his construction projects over the years.
Trump’s answer did more harm than good:
“That makes me smart,” he said, referring to his business, not his political, acumen.
Her most effective attack — and his worst answer. If the Republican nominee needed any more proof that preparation trumps bombast in a general election debate, he got it when Clinton launched a merciless attack on his habit of stiffing contractors who have labored on his construction projects over the years. Again, Clinton brought it back to her father, describing how bad he would have felt if one of his clients had accepted his work without paying his bill.
“I’ve met dishwashers, painters, architects, marble installers, drapery installers, who you refused to pay when they finished the work you asked them to do,” Clinton said, delivering a carefully scripted attack. “We have an architect in the audience who designed one of your clubhouses at one of your golf courses. It’s a beautiful facility. It immediately was put to use. And you wouldn’t pay what the man needed to be paid, what he was charging you to do.”
This is a particular dangerous issue for a candidate whose entire campaign is rooted in fighting for the working class — and his flippant response, yet again, gave even greater comfort to his enemies.
“Maybe he didn’t do a good job and I was unsatisfied with his work,” Trump quipped.
This story has been updated to correctly spell the name of Clinton aide Philippe Reines.